The 2009 draft finds the New York Jets in an uncomfortable predicament. They have spent the last two years spending on free agents to put many aspects of a contending team into place. That's a big part of the reason why they started last season 8-3, and briefly had Jets fans thinking that big things were in store for their team. But a strong running game, sound defense and dangerous special teams are being undermined by an invisible passing attack.
The lack of such an attack was the primary reason they missed the playoffs. Part of the problem was Brett Favre's interception fetish, but the lack of a strong receiving corps also caught up with them as the season wound down. They haven't done enough to address either position this offseason and their first draft pick will almost surely take care of one or the other. Neither one will be an instant fix for the most troubling facet of the team, though.
If G.M. Mike Tannenbaum had joined Eric Mangini on the unemployment line after the 1-4 finish to the 2008 season, there'd be no doubt that the Jets would be taking a quarterback in the first round. He didn't, though, and his job security isn't great enough to wait for a quarterback like Josh Freeman to develop into a winning starter. That's what makes Jeremy Maclin of Missouri the ideal pick for this year's Jets.
Maclin's success turning short routes into big gains is perfect for an offense that figures to keep things simple for Kellen Clemens or Brett Ratliff. His vertical explosiveness is also a good fit for the play-action that will get mixed in off what should continue to be a strong running game. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is fond of using players in a variety of roles and Maclin would be an asset on screens, reverses and other forms of trickery that will help from putting too much on the shoulders of whichever inexperienced quarterback wins the job.
If Maclin doesn't make it, Darrius Heyward-Bey of Maryland would be a good Plan B. He's got ideal speed and size, if not Maclin's ability to beat you in a variety of ways, including the return game.
The Jets may pick up a quarterback later in the draft, but they're more likely to go after a defensive end to join the rotation up front. Jarron Gilbert is an intriguing prospect from San Jose State -- and head coach Rex Ryan ran his workout -- while Mitch King could follow in the footsteps of other Iowa defensive linemen and become a productive player.
A running back wouldn't be a bad idea, either. Thomas Jones is 31, griping about his contract and probably gone after this year no matter how all that plays out. Leon Washington is a weapon, but one that must be deployed judiciously, which would make Rashad Jennings of Liberty an interesting choice at some point.
To make the draft a truly perfect one, the Jets would add another big-play threat at receiver (Johnny Knox of Abilene Christian, perhaps), a strong blocking tight end (Anthony Hill of North Carolina State is a bruiser) and a little more depth in the secondary. Getting the passing game going is the key, though.