With just four starters acquired via the draft the last three years, the Jets are in the challenging position of drafting for need as well as depth.
Coach Rex Ryan will be looking for players who can help the Jets return to the ground-and-pound, defense-first approach that catapulted the green and white to consecutive AFC championship games in his first two years at the helm. Offensive line help is a necessity after quarterback Mark Sanchez was sacked 39 times last season, which makes tackles Cordy Glenn, Riley Reiff and Jonathan Martin a trio of potentially interesting first-round targets.
The additional offensive line help will also be necessary to allow the Jets to re-emphasize the running game after falling to 22nd in the league in rushing last year, down from fourth in 2010 and first in 2009. A running back with big-play capabilities, both as a rusher and a receiver, would be an ideal 1A to grind-it-out starter Shonn Greene, and there should be ample opportunity to draft that player on the second day.
Finding immediate help at safety is also essential for the Jets, who are very thin behind question-mark starters LaRon Landry and Eric Smith. Linebacker and wide receiver are less glaring short-term needs for the Jets, though they'd be thrilled to land the eventual replacements for the likes of Calvin Pace and/or Bart Scott and find someone who could push Santonio Holmes as the No. 1 receiver.
The idea of the Jets trading up or down to land the player(s) they want can't be discounted. General manager Mike Tannenbaum made the biggest deals of the 2009 draft when he traded two picks and three players to the Browns in exchange for the No. 6 overall pick, which he used on Sanchez, and later dealt three picks to the Lions to move up and grab Greene in the third round.
Offensive line: Not only were Sanchez' 39 sacks just 14 fewer than he absorbed in his first two seasons combined, but the Jets need to enhance their personnel in the trenches in order to dominate with the ground game.
Safety: Jim Leonhard has suffered serious, season-ending leg injuries each of the last two seasons and the Jets' current starters are injury-prone LaRon Landry and the aging Eric Smith.
Running back: Shonn Greene is solid if unspectacular, but if the Jets are to return to their ground-heavy ways, they'll need a big-play complement to Greene who is more reliable than the inconsistent Joe McKnight and the barely tested Bilal Powell.
Linebacker: The Jets may have found a big-time player in Aaron Maybin, the one-time Bills bust who had six sacks in a situational role last year and is still just 24, but Calvin Pace and Bart Scott are each on the wrong side of 30 and showing the wear and tear of a combined 21 NFL seasons.
Wide receiver: Santonio Holmes is being paid as a true no. 1 receiver, but he sure didn't play or act like it last season. There is little depth behind Holmes and second-year player Jeremy Kerley, the latter of whom has plenty of upside.