The Jets may have had the most fun watching the quarterback frenzy in the first round of Thursday night’s NFL draft. As teams like Tennessee and Minnesota reached for amateur arms, Rex Ryan relaxed in the war room.
The Jets were able to patiently wait out the process and get not just the best player available, but also drafted to fill a need with the No. 30 selection.
A pretty big need at that.
Mammoth defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson out of Temple will provide the Jets with much needed cover along the defensive line. At 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, Wilkerson is an ideally sized end in head coach Rex Ryan’s 3-4 defensive alignment.
“I think Muhammad really [fits] what we want to do defensively – a guy that can play head-up on a tackle and kick back in passing situations over guards and centers and things like that,” Ryan said. “Really, he is an outstanding fit for what we do defensively.”
Part of that is that Wilkerson has the body of a nose tackle but the motor and gumption of a defensive end, meaning that he can help stuff the run but can also create pressure in the backfield. Ninth in the nation in sacks last year for the Owls, he also boasts and 85-inch wingspan, something that the Jets hope means he can help limit opposing running back at the line.
His versatility to play inside and outside – Ryan went so far as to call him a potential “three-down” player – adds immediate depth to a depleted Jets defensive line. As reported by Metro earlier this month, nose tackle Kris Jenkins does not plan on re-signing with the team after being cut in late February. Defensive end Shaun Ellis is a free agent and his production has slipped and Trevor Pryce is mulling retirement.
Wilkerson has the chance to make an instant contribution in green and white.
“Our depth has been dwindling a little bit on our defensive line. This is going to be a young man that I think can really help us, come in and play tackle or inside,” Ryan said. “He was an excellent player in college and I think he has more to give. I’m just excited to see this guy.”