2012 NFL Draft: New York Jets Need Positions and Players to Target

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IJanuary 4, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: New York Jets Need Positions and Players to Target

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    After a disappointing season that fell well short of the franchise's Super Bowl expectations, the Jets enter the offseason looking to upgrade at many positions.

    New York has traded many of its draft picks in recent years in deals for established NFL stars. This has prevented Gang Green from providing depth and young talent to the roster.

    This year, the Jets must keep their picks and select college stars that have the ability to excel at a professional level.

    Here are the New York need positions and players they should target in this year's draft. 

Outside Linebacker

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    The Jets have struggled to find a capable pass-rusher since the loss of John Abraham several years ago.

    This year's NFL draft is weak on pass-rushers, so New York will have to pull the trigger early if they are to claim a high-end prospect with sky-high potential.

    Among the finest outside linebacker options is Alabama star Courtney Upshaw. Upshaw has emerged as one of the most dangerous pass-rushers in college football, and he has terrific athleticism and speed. He would adjust nicely to the professional style of play.

    Whitney Mercilus out of Illinois is a risky option, due to his one-year wonder status. The junior recorded a staggering 16 sacks in 2011, as he improved dramatically in all departments. Mercilus is suited to play the 3-4, so he would fit perfectly into the Jets system. He possesses good size and strength, but average speed. 

    Another solid first-round selection would be North Carolina star Zach Brown. Brown was a backup for the Tar Heels for most of his college career, but has has emerged as one of the best players in the ACC. The senior does not boast good size or strength, but he has amazing speed for a linebacker. His speed will make him a solid pass-rusher in the NFL, and a sure-fire first-round pick. 

Right Tackle

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    After surely selecting a pass-rushing outside linebacker in the first round, the Jets will have to wait 64 picks until their next selection.

    With their third-round pick, the Jets will most likely claim a left tackle who can be an immediate starter in the NFL. Wayne Hunter was a mess this season, and he needs to be replaced as soon as possible by a capable youngster.

    The most intriguing option is Auburn tackle Brandon Mosley. Mosley is a solid pass-protector, and after playing in the SEC, will adapt well to NFL style pass-rushers. 

    Mike Adams is one of the most complete prospects at the left tackle position, and he is capable of adjusting to the right tackle with the correct coaching. Adams has the talent to be an early pick, but his off-the-field issues, including his involvement in the Ohio State tattoo scandal, send him down draft boards. He is a terrific athlete that excels in pass blocking, and he will be desired by the Jets on draft day. 

    Tony Bergstem is a natural athlete who excelled in his senior season at Utah. He did not allow a single sack throughout the regular season, and has emerged as one of 2012 class' most promising pass blockers. 

Safety

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    The Jets are a mess at both safety positions, as Jim Leonhard is injury-plagued and is a free agent, while Eric Smith and Brodney Pool are not capable starters. 

    New York will most likely spend their fourth- or fifth-round pick on a young safety who possesses a lot of potential, and can finally clear up the Jets' interior pass defense.

    Boise State senior George Illoka is an interesting option. He is a strong player with good size for a free safety. He has the athleticism to cover some of the game's best tight ends, including divisional threat Rob Gronkowski. Illoka is a sound tackler, superb cover man and a decent pass-rusher. He would be a solid pickup for the Jets midway through the draft. 

    Harrison Smith would also be a nice selection. The Notre Dame senior has had a terrific college career, and he has emerged as one of the top strong safeties in this year's draft class. Smith is an excellent pass defender, and has impressive tackling ability. He is a complete athlete who could add a lot of depth to the Jets roster. 

    Virginia Tech senior Eddie Whitley is another intriguing name, as he could bring a lot of depth into the Jets roster. Whitley can play both safety positions, cornerback and even the nickel package. He lacks big play ability, but he is a nice cover man and fantastic tackler. Whitley has good size and terrific on-field smarts. He would emerge as a locker room leader in the NFL. 

Wide Receiver

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    Plaxico Burress will not return next season, and Santonio Holmes disappears at times and is a clubhouse cancer. Wide receiver is quickly emerging as one of Gang Green's need positions.

    While New York might try free agency to pick up a big time wideout, drafting one would also be a good idea. The Jets need a deep threat that can open up the field and give the Jets offense more versatility. 

    Arkansas senior Jarius Wright is a very good late-round option this year. Wright has glistening speed, and he is a very dangerous deep threat. He is a scoring machine, who ranked 12th in college football in touchdowns this season. Wright would be a difference-maker for the Jets immediately. 

    Although Jeff Fuller has battled injuries and inconsistency, he is still one of the best wide receivers of this year's class. The Aggies senior has NFL lineage, who is used to playing in a West Coast offense at Texas A&M. Fuller has great size and athleticism, and could emerge as a dangerous weapon for the Jets if he can keep his mind on the field. 

    Ryan Broyles has the ability to be an NFL star, but he should be a late-round selection due to off-the-field issues. The Oklahoma star put up unbelievable numbers on the college level, and he has superb speed off the snap and consistently great hands. He is a diverse wide receiver, who can play in the slot, as well as go across the middle and down the sideline. Broyles would be an amazing addition in the Jets passing game.