With two first-round picks, John Idzik's initial draft as general manager of the Jets produced no shortage of intrigue. Now, we will have to wait and see if cornerback Dee Milliner and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardsoncan prove to be impact players.
Amid rumors they would trade back from one of their two first-round picks, the Jets stood pat as they began their rebuilding process, even if the names weren’t necessarily the high-profile prospects Jets fans were salivating over. With West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin and North Carolina guard John Cooper already off the board, the Jets eschewed popular names such as West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith in selecting Milliner and Richardson.
“We selected two of the top four players on our board, period,” Idzik said. “And we’re extremely thrilled to have that. We were in a very unique position that way, especially considering this draft.”
Milliner, considered the best cover corner in the draft, impressed during his three years at Alabama and is solid in press coverage. He is a physical cornerback who should fit well into the Jets' 3-4 scheme. But Milliner also comes as damaged goods, with recent shoulder surgery in addition to a rod in his tibia and a knee scope on his medical history.
His multiple trips under the knife didn’t scare off the Jets.
“We’re comfortable with the medical. He’s had a few things. He’s a very physical player; he doesn’t miss time. He played through the injuries,” Idzik said.
“Dee just loves football. He just does not miss practice, he does not miss games. And that was really important to us. In short, we were comfortable with his medical.”
Head coach Rex Ryan called him a “complete player.”
“He’s a great tackler,” Ryan said. “He’s physical.”
The Jets owned the No. 9 pick by virtue of their 6-10 record last season and acquired the No. 13 pick from the Buccaneers as part of the Darrelle Revis trade earlier this week. The trade made the Jets the only teams with two selections in the first 15 picks of the draft and it also made Milliner a pick that fit a need.
“[The trade] had nothing to do with this. It was based purely on the player. It might be perceived that way but the reality is [that] Dee was one of our highest-ranked players on our board, regardless of position.”
Rather than trading back at No. 13, the Jets went defense again with the selection of Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. With the Tigers, Richardson had 70 tackles and is the ideal three-technique for a team that lacked a pass rush last year.
Richardson represents the third straight year the Jets used a first-round pick on a defensive lineman, having taken Muhammad Wilkerson two years ago and Quinton Coples last year.
“I think he can compete right way. When you say we got two players in our top four, that tells you what the New York Jets think about him,” Ryan said.
The Jets looked away from addressing their multiple needs on offense, in particular at wide receiver and left guard and went defense in the first round for a fourth straight year.
“This draft is deep,” Idzik said with a smile.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.