PLAYER: Muhammad Wilkerson
POSITION: Defensive end
What it means: This is a value and need pick for the Jets. Wilkerson, from Linden, N.J., projects as a defensive end in the Jets’ 3-4 scheme. They chose him over OLB Akeem Ayers, OLB Brooks Reed and DE Da’Quan Bowers, a top-10 talent who slipped because of serious concerns about a surgically repaired knee. In some mock drafts, Wilkerson was picked to go as high as 18. He’s intriguing because of his versatility. For the second straight year, the Jets chose a New Jersey product. CB Kyle Wilson, of Piscataway, was their No. 1 pick last season.
Wilkerson (9 ½ sacks last season) was a highly productive player, but he did it at a lower level of competition. Another question: Why take a 3-4 defensive end in the first round? Traditionally, it’s not a value pick because most of the time they’re used only on first and second down to stop the run. Wilkerson will be worth it only if he plays all three downs.
How he fits in the defensive scheme: Wilkerson will be the heir apparent to Shaun Ellis, an unrestricted free agent. He has the ability to start at end in the 3-4, and he can slide inside on nickel downs. With his size, Wilkerson could even play some nose tackle. Rex Ryan sees him as another Haloti Ngata, a massive lineman that can play anywhere. Wilkerson has an 85-inch wing span. He gets lazy at times, according to scouts, but he’s strong and athletic.
Projected impact: The Jets’ defensive line is getting old, and it needed an infusion of youth. If he’s not an immediate starter, he’ll be in the rotation, along with Mike DeVito, Marcus Dixon and Ropati Pitoitua. This doesn’t bode well for Ellis, the longest-tenured Jet. The Jets may let him walk in free agency.