The New York Jets have been rumored all over the place leading up to the NFL draft. While it is likely they will stand pat at number 18, there remains the possibility of a trade into the top 10. The team has needs on both sides of the ball, and has done a good job of drafting in the first round in recent years. Here are five prospects they should target in round one of the draft.
Odell Beckham Jr. (Wide Receiver, LSU)
The Jets, even after the addition of Eric Decker, need more weapons on offense. This is true no matter which quarterback is starting. Geno Smith needs more talent around him to aid his development, and Michael Vick needs other play-makers on the field to help open running room.
Beckham Jr. is not a a gigantic target at 5’11” but he does have good reach and great speed. He would be a strong complement to Decker, and would give the Jets the first legitimate downfield target they have had since Santana Moss left town. His speed and open field ability would really help space the field.
Marqise Lee (Wide Receiver, USC)
There are a lot of strong wide receiver prospects in this drafts, and while more than likely Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans will be off the board, there is a good shot the Jets will be able to snag Beckham Jr. or Lee. While pre-draft reports are about as murky as it gets, most seem to think Beckham Jr. is who the Jets would like. If he is off the board before their pick, Lee is the next best thing.
Lee’s detractors will point out that he is not as fast as some of the other wide receiver prospects in the draft. However, he plays bigger than his 5’11” frame, has fantastic leaping ability, and is a very smart football player. He was very productive in college, and should be a safe bet in the draft.
Bradley Roby (Cornerback, Ohio St.)
Assuming Oklahome State corner Justin Gilbert is already gone, the Jets could address another need. While they have gone cornerback in the first round of two of the last four drafts, including taking Dee Milliner last year, the Jets still need help in the secondary. After the trade of Darrelle Revis last off-season, the Jets also lost Antonio Cromartie this year. Their signing of Dimitri Patterson somewhat mitigates the need for a corner, but Patterson has only played in 77 out of a possible 128 games during his career.
Roby brings an enormous amount of physical talent to the field, running a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at the combine, while also showing good strength for his position. Roby will be around when the Jets choose for several reasons. One is a suspension on his record as a result of an arrest and charges of misdemeanor battery last July. The other is he lacks discipline in coverage, and needs some coaching up on his technique. He is a high-upside player who will likely not be an immediate starter, but the Jets do not need him to be.
Darqueze Dennard (Cornerback, Michigan St.)
Dennard is a very well-rounded prospect who can cover and assist on the run. He is a player the Jets’ defense would love to have, as Rex Ryan makes great use out of versatile defenders. He could very well be the first corner off the board, but the Jets should have their eyes set on him if he is available.
Dennard is a smart player with good instincts. If Jet fans are looking for a new Revis, they can note the similarity in smarts, instincts, and work ethic, though Dennard does not quite have the same physical fluidity. Dennard can be used as a blitzer, and showed big play ability with 3.5 tackles for loss to go along with his four interceptions.
Eric Ebron (Tight End, North Carolina)
There are not many first round tight-end prospects in this year’s NFL draft, and in fact Ebron could end up as the only first round choice. The smart draft strategy for teams is usually to forego drafting for need, and simply pick the best player available. For the Jets, Ebron could be both. A few other squads are likely eyeing him in the 10-20 range, such as the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, and New York Giants.
Ebron does not fit the mold of a tight end from 20 years ago. He is the modern version, a pass catcher first and a blocker only when needed. Unfortunately, in spite of his top-10 talent, Ebron has trouble securing catches, with the worst drop rate of all tight ends in the draft. That could cause Ebron to fall further than he should, but seeing a 250 pound player run a 4.6 40-yard dash is a tempting enough reason to draft him.
Commentary by Brian Moore