Faced with the need to add playmaker at either wide receiver or tight end with an early-round pick in the NFL Draft, the New York Jets were widely criticized by a number of draft experts for selecting Missouri defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson with the No. 13 pick.
Last year at this time, the Jets used a first-round pick on former North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, a pass rusher with a similar skill-set as Richardson. A week later, however, the selection of Richardson appears to have made more sense. Following a strong rookie season, Coples will be moved from defensive end to outside linebacker according to Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.
Despite appearing in only 50.6 percent of the Jets' defensive snaps (516 of 1019), Coples led the team with 5.5 snaps. Coples arguably outperformed Chargers' outside linebacker Melvin Ingram, another pass rusher the Jets reportedly considered with the No. 16 pick in the 2012 draft. While appearing primarily as an edge rusher on the outside, Ingram finished with two sacks in 475 snaps. As an interior rusher, Coples had fewer opportunities than Ingram to pressure the quarterback.
Coples (6-6, 290) may have to drop some weight as he makes the transition to outside linebacker. Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace, the Jets' starting outside linebackers in 2012, were both listed at 265 pounds last season. A trimmed down Coples could be in better shape to drop into pass coverage in Rex Ryan's 3-4 scheme. While Coples rarely covered opposing tight ends in his rookie season, he was asked to drop into coverage some in his final year at North Carolina.
In 2012, the Jets ranked 24th in the league in sacks per pass attempt. Richardson could provide immediate help to the Jets' interior defensive line. When Richardson (6-4, 295) faced an Alabama offensive line last October that featured three linemen taken in the first 120 picks of the draft, he turned in perhaps his best performance of the season with 14 tackles and a sack.
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