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2012 NFL Draft: 9 Prospects the New York Jets Should Target in the Early Rounds

Chris Dela RosaContributor IApril 25, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: 9 Prospects the New York Jets Should Target in the Early Rounds

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    With the 2012 NFL Draft set to take place at Radio City Music Hall in New York City Thursday evening, it is time to take a look at some of the guys the New York Jets might consider when it is their turn to draft in the early rounds.  In the first round, they will have the 16th pick, in the second round they will have 15th pick (47th overall) and in the third round they will have the 14th pick (77th overall).

    Before the season ended there were already murmurs as to who the Jets were going to draft, considering the needs they were going to have going into the 2012 season.  Since then, mock drafts have constantly included an array of names as to who the Jets are going to draft, especially with their 16th overall pick on Thursday night.

    Something else that has not really been made clear is whether or not general manager Mike Tannenbaum and the Jets will draft out of need or are going to take the best available player, which does not narrow down the slew of players they could draft.

    With that, let's take a look at some of the players the Jets will want to target in the first three rounds (Thursday and Friday night) of this year's draft.

    As always, feedback is welcome.  Enjoy!

1) Courtney Upshaw, Alabama, Outside Linebacker (Round 1)

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    The New York Jets and Alabama's Courtney Upshaw have been linked together for quite some time now.  Here's why.

    Upshaw might be Rex Ryan's dream at outside linebacker.  The 6'1", 272-pound outside linebacker is very versatile and could work well in the Rex Ryan-Mike Pettine defensive system.  He knows how to be an elite pass rusher by using his power against offensive lineman, while showing that he has the ability to drop back in coverage when needed.

    Right now the Jets need a versatile and durable guy like Upshaw that can come and step in from day one at outside linebacker and produce.  He is number one on my list and hopefully for the Jets he is number one on theirs.

2) Mark Barron, Alabama, Safety (Round 1)

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    With the loss of Jim Leonhard in December and below-average play by Eric Smith, Mark Barron has been a name in and around the Jets camp for a while on account that safety is another big weakness in their defense.  

    It is unclear what the Jets are going to do about Leonhard, but we all know that Smith will be staying.  On top of keeping Smith, the Jets acquired LaRon Landry for a year and have been taking an interest in former Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell.

    One of the weaknesses with the Jets' safeties is their inability to cover tight ends.  In 2011, they let guys like Brent Celek and Rob Gronkowski kill them all game long.  With a guy like Barron who plays quickly while packing a punch, they will be able worry less about spotlighting the other team's talented tight end while trying to contain their other offensive weapons.

    Look for Barron to go to the Jets if he is the best available player at that point of the draft or if things do not work out with the Jets trying to get a top-tier outside linebacker.

3) David DeCastro, Stanford, Guard (Round 1)

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    This one is a bit of a stretch considering the player's talent level and the needs of teams ahead of the Jets, but if David DeCastro drops and the Jets are sitting at No. 16, expect them to take him; he will most likely be the best available player at the time.

    On offense, a big weakness for Gang Green was at right tackle with Wayne Hunter.  Hunter who filled in at the end of the 2010 season for an injured Damien Woody won the starting job going into the 2011 season; he was atrocious.  If the Jets were to draft DeCastro, they will look to convert him to a tackle and have him fill in at Hunter's current position as they try to have better offensive line performance in 2012.

4) Dontari Poe, Memphis, Defensive Tackle (Round 1)

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    As of late, Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe has been a name thrown into the mix of potential first-round picks for the Jets.  Those of you who payed attention to the combine may remember Poe from his outstanding performance that surprised quite a few.  He ran a 4.98 40-yard dash and bench-pressed 44 times (this year's combine high), all while being a massive 6'3" 346-pound mammoth.  

    As a defensive tackle, Poe could cause a lot of mayhem, as he has the ability to take on a double team, blow up gaps and collapse the pocket, which are great qualities for a defensive lineman.

    I would advise the Jets not to use their first-round pick on Poe, or any defensive tackle for that matter.  Their needs at other positions (i.e. outside linebacker) outweigh their need at defensive tackle now that they were able to re-sign Sione Pouha and have Kenrick Ellis as a backup.  With that, you never know what might happen on draft day, so keep your eye on Mr. Poe.

5) Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame (Round 1)

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    When looking at the New York Jets receivers, only two names really stand out as starters: Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley.  It is unlikely that the Jets will re-sign Plaxico Burress after his one year stint in green and white, and with guys who are best at running short and quick routes like Holmes and Kerley, they are going to need someone who will be able to stretch the field for them.  

    Michael Floyd could be that guy if they decide to pull the trigger on him in the first round.  He is tall receiver with good speed for his size, has great hands, can make plays downfield and is not afraid of going over the middle for a ball.  With Floyd, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano could have a similar setup to what he had in Miami.  He could have two quick receivers with a deep threat along with an offense that can also produce on the ground.

    Luckily for the Jets, if they do not want to use such an early pick on a guy like Floyd, this draft is deep when it comes to receivers, and I'm sure they can find another type of a guy in the later rounds.

6) Andre Branch, Outside Linebacker/Defensive End, Clemson (Round 2)

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    If the Jets do not go with Upshaw in the first round, they will definitely try to get a pass rusher in the second round.  So much of Rex Ryan's defensive scheme is based off getting pressure on the quarterback.  One player that could work in Ryan's 34 scheme at outside linebacker is Clemson's Andre Branch.

    While Branch may not be able to get as much pressure on opposing quarterbacks as Upshaw, he is still able to create havoc.  If his effective club move cannot get him or the opposing offensive tackle into the backfield, he makes sure to get his hands up in an attempt to disrupt the play.  While he may need some work, Andre Branch would be a solid pick in the second round for the Jets, as it wouldn't take him very long to improve and make an impact.

7) Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, South Carolina (Round 2)

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    Like Michael Floyd, Alshon Jeffery is another receiver that can stretch the field for the New York Jets.  Even though he is a bit slower than Floyd, Jeffery is just as good when it comes to how he plays the ball.  

    Jeffrey is a good fit with quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, who have trouble throwing accurately and sometimes rely on the receiver to get the ball.  He stands tall at 6'2", only an eighth of an inch away from being 6'3".  If you do not believe that this guy has great catching abilities, check out what he did during this year's Capitol One Bowl.

8) Mike Martin, Defensive Tackle, Michigan (Round 3)

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    Despite having players like Sione Pouha and Kenrick Ellis, Mike Tannenbaum and the New York Jets will likely draft a defensive tackle.  Hopefully, they wait until the third round or later to draft one, so they can address more urgent needs like outside linebacker or wide receiver.

    If the Jets were to wait until their 14th pick in the third round (77th overall) to draft a defensive tackle, a guy worth drafting is Michigan's Mike Martin.  At the nose tackle position, the Jets have always been interested in guys that can get to the quarterback, but the priority has always been to have a run-stopper.  It was that way when they had big Kris Jenkins and is still true now with Sione Pouha.  Martin is best at stopping the run with his great ability to find the ball.  However, he is average when pass rushing, as he may not always be able to track down the quarterback.

    Martin will not be the kind of guy to make an immediate impact, but his frame and skill set indicate he could make a difference after one or two years.

9) Brian Quick, Wide Receiver, Appalachian State (Round 3)

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    As I've said before, when it comes to receivers, this draft is deep.  Another good pick for the New York Jets would be Appalachian State's Brian Quick.  

    First off, don't let his name lead you on too much.  While Brian is actually pretty quick, what will make him an asset on next year's Jets team is his height and ability to go after the deep ball.  Quick stands tall at 6'3", and his best attribute is being able to take nice long strides that add to his speed.

    While Quick is a talented young man, there is a reason he could be a third-round pick.  Brian's major weakness is that he tends to have trouble reeling in routine throws.  He lets the ball hit his body, which will either cause it to drop or force him to double-catch it.

    Even with his flaw, Quick is a steal as a third rounder.  If the Jets choose to hold out on a receiver until later in the draft, Quick should definitely be on their list.


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