It's never too early to start thinking about the NFL Draft, especially if your team looks as dead in the water as the New York Jets.
Although the Jets do have five winnable games in front of them, they have given no indication that they can string together consistently strong play over that time to be able to run the table.
If the Jets slip up just once and endure their eighth loss, that will effectively end their slim playoff hopes and put the fans' primary focus squarely on the draft.
Just in case that happens this week, the following slideshow will give you a starting point when looking at talent that could end up wearing green and white next year.
The list ranks the top five prospects at each position with some weight given to players who would fit the Jets' needs.
Although there are players like Geno Smith and Jarvis Jones who have no chance to fall to the Jets where they are projected to select, they are still listed on the big board at the top of their respective positions.
One final rule is that if a player is listed at one position, it precludes him from being listed at another spot. For example, Damontre Moore is listed as a defensive lineman because that is his primary position.
He also projects as an NFL outside linebacker (and that's where the Jets would use him) but because he was listed as a lineman first, that's the only place you'll find him on this slideshow.
With that being said, here's an early look at the big board for every position as it relates to the Jets 2013 draft class.
1. Geno Smith (West Virginia)
With more and more mobile quarterbacks finding success in the NFL, Smith's skill set vaults him to the top of the 2013 NFL Draft. Unless Woody Johnson demands some kind of massive trade to nab the first pick in the draft, Smith will be long gone by the time the Jets pick.
2. Tyler Wilson (Arkansas)
Wilson's draft status, and his wallet, are benefiting from two things as the NCAA football season winds down. First, in a very shallow class for quarterbacks, Wilson can climb considerably by default. Much like when the Dolphins selected Ryan Tannehill above his projected draft value, a team desperate for a quarterback could jump on Wilson much higher than projected.
Wilson is also benefiting from Matt Barkley's falling stock. Barkley has had a disappointing season as far as health and production are concerned and could fall behind Wilson by draft day. It's unlikely, but if the Jets decided to draft a quarterback in the first round, it will be Wilson or Barkley.
3. Matt Barkley (USC)
As mentioned above, Barkley's draft status has taken a big hit this year. Barkley had mediocre games against Stanford, Washington and Cal and really forced people to wonder if he is the franchise quarterback people thought he'd be. Throw in the injury concerns and that could put the one-time projected top overall pick right into the Jets' laps.
Barkley is listed at 6'2" and 230 pounds, which are basically the same dimensions as Mark Sanchez. Barkley however has more experience than Sanchez coming into the NFL and has shown decent accuracy.
He doesn't have any eye-popping physical tools and his similarities to Sanchez would lead to a lot of grumbling from Jets fans. However, fans who want to look on the bright side would point to a wildly successful junior year.
4. E.J. Manuel (Florida State)
At this point, Manuel is the most interesting quarterback prospect in a weak class. He has tremendous physical tools and is likely to climb even higher as those tools figure to translate well in the combine. At 6'5" and 240 pounds, he is bigger than Geno Smith and when he's at his best, he simply looks like a man among boys playing at Florida State.
On the downside, Manuel really struggles with the mental aspect of the game. Although he has completed 67.4 percent of his passes and has consistently been in that range throughout his career, scouts still question the decisions Manuel makes at times.
Manuel is going to be a huge hit-or-miss prospect with the potential for a big upside and downside. There are likely going to be a few teams who fall in love with him and will take that leap of faith. Because of their tendency to make a splash, if Manuel is still there in the second round, the Jets could very well take a chance on him.
5. Landry Jones (Oklahoma)
Jones may not be the No. 5 overall quarterback prospect on the NFL big board, but based on the type of quarterback he is, the Jets could value him more than others. The redshirt senior has a ton of experience playing for a winning program over the past four seasons. He holds a number of passing records at Oklahoma and could translate to the NFL much the way Sam Bradford has.
Jones has thrown for 16,124 yards in his four season at Oklahoma with 120 touchdowns. He solidly completes over 60 percent of his passes and possesses all the cerebral necessities to be successful in the NFL.
At 6'4" and 220 pounds, Jones has good size and his arm strength is above average.
The main thing keeping Jones from breaking into the top of the ranks in a weak quarterback class is that most believe Jones has reached his ceiling for development. He has never developed into a great downfield passer and doesn't project to grow much more physically.
Jones doesn't project to be a big-time elite NFL quarterback, but at his best could grow into a fine game manager. At worst, Jones won't be able to adjust to the speed of the NFL and will be relegated to career backup.
The next three: Aaron Murray* (Georgia), Tyler Bray* (Tennessee), Zac Dysert (Miami, OH)
Mid-to-late-round gem: Matt Scott (Arizona)
1. Giovani Bernard* (North Carolina)
The redshirt sophomore is the consensus top prospect in a weak running back crop. The Jets are in dire need of a primary running back and depending on where the Jets pick in the second round, Bernard could be the answer.
Bernard is 5'10" and 210 pounds, and has the ideal measurables for an NFL running back. He can run with speed, power and shiftiness and has play-breaking ability. He plays faster than his 4.57 40-yard dash time would indicate and is effective in the passing game as well.
Bernard has been incredibly productive in his two seasons in Chapel Hill. He has rushed for 2,481 yards on an average of 5.86 yards per carry and is the first Tar Heel running back to rush for back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons since Natrone Means did so 20 years ago.
2. Joseph Randle* (Oklahoma State)
Some draft prognosticators will have Randle rated as the top running back in the draft if the junior decides to declare. At 6'0" and 200 pounds, he might not have the body to carry the load of a "bell-cow" running back, but could be extremely effective in a rotation.
The Jets are facing the fact that Shonn Greene is a free agent and that there doesn't appear to be any dominant running backs in the 2013 draft. Randle could fit into a rotation with Bilal Powell and another veteran to give the Jets a deep group at running back.
Randle plays in a pass-first offense and that has helped him develop his skills as a blocker. The ability to work as a blocker and runner is something that Rex Ryan values and could make Randle a target of the Jets on draft day.
3. Le'Veon Bell* (Michigan State)
If the Jets wanted to go in the opposite direction of Randle and seek a runner who can carry the load, they should look no further than Bell. The Big Ten's leading rusher is an absolute load at 6'2" and 244 pounds, and clearly has the body to carry the ball 20 or more times a game.
The problem Jets fans would have with Bell are his similarities to Shonn Greene. Bell doesn't have breakaway speed or shiftiness and would play a style very similar to Greene's. Bell isn't going to create on his own, and that's something the Jets need.
4. Eddie Lacy* (Alabama)
Lacy is the 2013 running back version of Stephen Hill. He seems to have all the tools to succeed in the NFL, but has had a limited body of work in college, so he projects as a work-in-progress.
At 6'0" and 220 pounds, Lacy has an NFL body for sure and coming out of Alabama you know he will be well-coached in the intricacies of the position. Although Lacy could have a bigger upside than most running backs in this year's class, another offensive project would be a hard sell to Jets fans.
5. Mike Gillislee (Florida)
If this year was a better one for running backs, Gillislee wouldn't be anywhere near the top five. However, because this isn't one of those years, his name has to come up for any team considering adding a top running back via the draft.
Gillislee has had a good year for the Gators to be sure, but there are plenty of questions about his future. The senior has had just one season as a feature back in college after being a part-timer the previous three years.
Even in a productive year, there are some alarms that go off when you look at some of his performances. Gillislee had five 100-yard games this year, but two of them came against Bowling Green and Jacksonville State. In a game against South Carolina, he averaged just 1.9 yards per carry and had just 45 yards on 14 carries against Louisiana-Lafayette.
The next three: Andre Ellington (Clemson), Stepfan Taylor (Stanford), Montee Ball (Wisconsin)
Mid-to-late-round gem: Kenjon Barner (Oregon)
1. Keenan Allen* (California)
At this early juncture, Allen stands as the consensus top wide receiver in the draft. However, that doesn't necessarily mean he will be a top-10 pick. Allen could very well end up being slotted right around where the Jets pick and he would have to be seriously considered if he is there.
Allen had a breakout season last year at Cal when he caught 98 passes for 1,343 yards. At 6'3" and 210 pounds, he would provide a big target and, if Stephen Hill develops, could provide the Jets with two receivers who are incredibly difficult to deal with.
He missed the final three games of the 2012 season with a knee injury, so that is a situation worth monitoring.
2. Justin Hunter* (Tennessee)
Hunter has the best size of any of the top receiving prospects in the nation at 6'4", but his 2011 torn ACL presents a major red flag.
Before his injury, Hunter had breakaway speed to go with his perfect frame. While he is back and healthy in 2012, Hunter has had some problems producing against better opponents. Hunter has four 100-yard games this season, but they have all come against sub-par opponents. Two of them came against Georgia State and Akron, who are combined 2-21.
Still, Hunter has the size and pedigree of a top NFL receiver and that will make him a first-round target of many teams and somebody the Jets will have to take a close look at.
3. Tavon Austin (West Virginia)
The Jets clearly need game breakers on offense and Austin could be just that for them. Although he is just 5'9", he is getting first-round consideration in most early mock drafts due mostly to his sub-4.4 speed.
Austin has been remarkably productive the past two seasons, catching 207 passes for 2,335 yards and 20 touchdowns. Adding Austin to a group that also features Santonio Holmes and a developing Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill could make for an interesting set of receivers for the future.
4. Terrance Williams (Baylor)
Terrance Williams could give Mark Sanchez what he is severely lacking this year: a legitimate red-zone weapon. Williams is a strong target at 6'3" with good leaping ability and could project as the weapon inside the 20 that Stephen Hill was supposed to be.
Williams isn't a burner, but does have the speed necessary to get himself downfield in the NFL. He wasn't a top prospect out of high school and is a late bloomer, so his ceiling could even be higher than it appears.
5. Da'Rick Rogers* (Tennessee Tech)
The main question about Rogers is his checkered past. He was kicked out of Tennessee due to a failed drug test and landed at Tennessee Tech this year. Rogers has 67 catches for 1,040 yards this season with nine touchdowns. He is 6'3" and would be a steal if he lasted to the Jets in the third round.
The next three: DeAndre Hopkins* (Clemson), Robert Woods (USC), Cordarrelle Patterson* (Tennessee)
Mid-to-late-round gem: Marquess Wilson (Washington State)
1. Tyler Eifert* (Notre Dame)
Tight end doesn't seem like a position the Jets will address in the upper rounds of the draft, so it is unlikely Eifert will be on their radar. It's probable the 6'5" Eifert will go in the bottom of the first round to a team that doesn't have too many holes to fill elsewhere.
2. Zach Ertz (Stanford)
The 6'6", 250-pound Ertz is Stanford's leading receiver this year and projects well as a pro-style tight end. Ertz has the frame and athletic ability to be extremely productive in the pros. He runs well and is adept at using his body to shield receivers.
Although picking a tight end might not be a popular move with the fans, Ertz does have the potential to be a dangerous weapon, especially in the red zone where the Jets need help. He could be a surprise pick in Round 2 for the Jets.
3. Jordan Reed* (Florida)
While the consensus top two tight ends in the draft have great size, Reed is more of an Aaron Hernandez-type. In fact, Reed has been under the tutelage of Hernandez, a fellow Gator himself.
Reed is a valuable part of the Gators offense, but is too similar to Dustin Keller for the Jets to seriously consider. That is, unless the Jets let Keller walk during free agency.
4. Dion Sims* (Michigan State)
Sims is an interesting case and is someone the Jets could consider if they can pick him in a high-value spot. Sims is 6'5" and 285 pounds and has strong blocking and pass-catching abilities. Think of him as a bigger and better version of Jeff Cumberland.
5. Joseph Fauria (UCLA)
At 6'7" and 255 pounds, Fauria is the physical specimen of this year's tight end class. He is the nephew of former NFL star Christian Fauria and presents the obvious matchup problems for any defense he faces.
Fauria had just nine career starts coming into this season, so he is still developing. However, his physical tools are hard to ignore.
The next three: Michael Williams (Arizona), Chris Gragg (Arkansas), Jake Stoneburner (Ohio State)
Mid-to-late-round gem: Matt Furstenburg (Maryland)
1. Luke Joeckel, OT* (Texas A&M)
The 6'6", 310-pound mammoth might just be the best overall prospect in the entire draft. Barring a total collapse or a blockbuster trade, the Jets likely won't be picking high enough to nab Joeckel. If they do though, they'd be getting someone who was a dominant pass blocker for Ryan Tannehill and then was just as dominant blocking for the run-first style of Johnny Manziel.
2. Taylor Lewan, OT* (Michigan)
As with Joeckel, the Jets would probably need a top-10 pick to secure the services of Lewan. Many of the teams that will be picking in the top of the draft need considerable help along the offensive line. Because of the shortage of game-breakers at the top of the first round, bad teams have a golden opportunity to shore up their lines.
Lewan is a 6'7" mountain who has protected Denard Robinson's blind side during his time at Michigan. He has all the tools to be a dominant player right from the start.
3. Chance Warmack, G (Alabama)
The Jets' guard situation is one that hasn't gotten a lot of attention, but could be a real problem this offseason. Both Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore are free agents and could draw attention around the league in a thin free agent market. Although Vladimir Ducasse has shown improvement this year with increased playing time, guard has to be on the short list of positions the Jets need to address high in the draft.
Because guards typically aren't drafted considerably high, the Jets could have a legitimate shot at drafting Warmack, who is the consensus top guard in the draft. Warmack is 6'3" and 320 pounds, and has incredible athleticism for his size. By drafting Warmack, the Jets could sign the cheaper option between Slauson and Moore and plug in Warmack, who is projected to be a Pro Bowl-level guard.
4. Jake Matthews, OT* (Texas A&M)
The Jets are going to have to take a long look at Jake Matthews, as their situation at tackle also needs adjusting. Jason Smith's contract will cause him to be cut and the Jets could use an upgrade over Austin Howard. If the Jets landed Matthews, they could slide Howard into Smith's role and plug in Matthews, who is projected to be a productive mainstay in the NFL.
The son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, Jake is a fundamentally sound bull who is equally adept at blocking in the running and passing games. At 6'5" and 305 pounds, Matthews has the frame to add bulk in the pros.
5. Eric Fisher, OT (Central Michigan)
Fisher might not be the slam-dunk prospect that Joeckel or Matthews is, but at 6'7" and 305 pounds, he merits consideration right along with them. Like Matthews, pro teams will look to add bulk to Fisher's frame. However, even if Fisher doesn't add weight, he still can hold his own physically.
The next three: D.J. Fluker*, OT (Alabama), Dallas Thomas, G (Tennessee), Brennan Williams OT (North Carolina)
Mid-to-late-round gem: Seantrel Henderson* OT (Miami, FL)
1. Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah)
Lotulelei is a probable top-five pick, so barring an all-time horrific collapse, he will be long gone by the time the Jets pick. Whoever does take him will be getting a massive, 6'3", 320-pound load to put in the middle of their defensive line.
2. Damontre Moore*, DE (Texas A&M)
Moore's draft status is up in the air because he recently said he was leaning towards returning to Texas A&M for his senior year. If he comes out and is available when the Jets draft, he could be somebody that draws serious consideration.
Although the Jets have Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, the Jets could add someone like Moore to their defense by using him in Calvin Pace's role. Moore is a beastly pass rusher who has done extremely well against some very good offensive lines in the SEC. Moore has been at or near the top of the SEC in sacks all season long.
3. Sam Montgomery*, DE (LSU)
Montgomery pairs with Barkevious Mingo to give LSU two absolutely fearful pass rushers. Montgomery stands at 6'5" and 260 pounds, and is big enough to give even the best tackles fits. He has freakish athletic ability and makes a living in the opposition's backfield.
4. Johnathan Hankins*, DT (Ohio State)
With Kenrick Ellis and Sione Pouha likely to remain on the roster next year, the Jets don't necessarily need another defensive tackle at this point in the draft. However, if the team is purely drafting the best player available, Hankins might come under consideration.
Hankins is a load at 6'3" and 320 pounds, but has the versatility and experience to play at different positions along the line. Rex Ryan loves players that can play multiple roles, so the Jets may value Hankins more than some other teams.
The one alarm around Hankins is that he doesn't have the high motor of some of the other top prospects. There are concerns about his conditioning and effort, and that could cause him to fall considerably. He could be the 2013 version of Quinton Coples as far as talent evaluation is concerned.
5. Dion Jordan, DE (Oregon)
Jordan is a 6'7", 240-pound freak that fits right into Ryan's plans as a defensive mad scientist. Jordan has the height to present a matchup problem anywhere on the defense. Jordan needs to fill out his frame to be able to play more of a power game. However, if he stays around 240 pounds, he will able to maintain the speed that makes blocking a nightmare.
Jordan may not be a true defensive end or a true outside linebacker, but a creative defensive mind like Ryan could find the most effective way to use him.
The next three: Bjoern Werner*, DE (Florida State), John Jenkins, DT (Georgia), Alex Okafor, DE (Texas)
Mid-to-late-round gem: Devin Taylor, DE (South Carolina)
1. Jarvis Jones*, OLB (Georgia)
As it stands right now, having Jones on the Jets is a long shot at best. In most places, Jones is considered the best defensive player in the draft. To understand the impact Jones could have on a game, just look at what he did in Georgia's big win over Florida this year. He had 13 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He's that disruptive.
2. C.J. Mosley*, OLB (Alabama)
Mosley has taken the baton from Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower as the leader of the Alabama defense and has developed into a better pro prospect than both of them ever were. Mosley is 6'2" and 230 pounds, and has the quickness that could invigorate the Jets' plodding linebacker corps.
Most mock drafts don't agree on Mosley's draft spot just yet, as some have him as high as a top-five pick while others have him down near the bottom of the first round. His slot will begin to solidify itself after the combine and then fans will know if the Jets have a legitimate shot at him.
3. Manti Te'o, ILB (Notre Dame)
Te'o has seen his stock rise with the success of Notre Dame and he could make a serious push to become a solid top-10 pick with a big performance in the national title game. Te'o is one of the most physically gifted players in the draft and the clear choice as the top middle linebacker available.
The only things keeping Te'o as a possibility for the Jets is that middle linebackers typically aren't top-10 picks and the fact that there are so many elite pass rushers that will rank in the top 10.
Te'o would be the perfect fit for the Jets as they have to start considering the end of David Harris' tenure on the team. Harris' contract will keep him on the team in 2013, but a middle linebacking group of Te'o, Harris and Demario Davis would be a strength of the defense. Beyond that, Davis and Te'o could take over the position going forward.
Te'o is the type of high-motor player the Jets need and should remind people of Harris when he was playing at his peak with better pass coverage skills.
4. Barkevious Mingo, OLB (LSU)
Mingo is in a similar situation as Alabama's Mosley as mock drafts have him slotted all over the place. At one point, he was considered the top defensive player in the draft, but his declining production and the play of Jones has taken care of that idea.
Mingo is 6'4" and 240 pounds, and reminds people of Jason Pierre-Paul. That kind of comparison is what made Rex Ryan fall in love with Quinton Coples and the same can happen here with Mingo. Mingo isn't as polished as some of the other highly-rated pass rushers in the draft, but conversely could have a higher ceiling if he continues to develop.
As everything stands right now, there is a very good chance a number of factors will line up and land Mingo on the Jets next season.
5. Chase Thomas, OLB (Stanford)
The gap between Thomas and the other four linebackers listed in this side is considerable. There are a number of hybrid linebacker/defensive ends the Jets would rate ahead of Thomas, but because they were listed with the defensive linemen, Thomas slides in here.
Thomas doesn't have the physical traits of a Jones or a Mingo, but at 6'4" and 250 pounds, he isn't far behind. Thomas plays with a high motor and has been a constant force for Stanford.
Thomas would be a big reach for the Jets in the first round and probably won't be around when they pick in the second round. It appears that Thomas will be a very good piece added to a good team drafting in the bottom of the first round.
The next three: Corey Lemonier*, OLB (Auburn), John Simon, OLB (Ohio State), Morgan Breslin*, OLB (USC)
Mid-to-late-round gem: Kiko Alonso, ILB (Oregon)
1. Dee Milliner*, CB (Alabama)
Jets fans can skip right past this. Milliner is a likely top-five pick and by far and away the best cornerback in the draft. If the Jets are picking this high, they are going to pick somebody that fills a bigger need than cornerback. Milliner is a sublime talent who is this year's version of "the next Darrelle Revis".
2. Johnthan Banks, CB (Mississippi State)
Banks is another highly talented cornerback who only has a minimal chance of ending up on the Jets next year. The Jets will be drafting too high to reach for Banks in the first round and barring something unforeseen happening with Banks, he won't be there when the Jets pick in Round 2.
Banks is a 6'1" corner with tremendous instincts. His intangibles and size are what separate him from others. He has 16 career interceptions and has returned three of them for touchdowns. The four-year starter will come into the NFL polished and with great experience.
3. Eric Reid*, FS (LSU)
The Jets are facing the same situation with Reid as they are with Banks. It simply doesn't look like the Jets will be choosing where Reid will be picked. If they are however, he has to be somebody they consider. The Jets don't have a true free safety on the current roster and the future of Eric Smith, Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry is very much up in the air.
Reid is the top safety in the draft and, at 6'2" and 215 pounds, is a vicious hitter. He also has the athleticism to succeed in pass coverage and has tremendous instincts.
Last year the Buccaneers made Mark Barron the No. 7 overall pick in a little bit of a surprise. Although Reid doesn't currently project at the top of the draft, he will be coming into the NFL a more complete player than Barron was.
4. Xavier Rhodes*, CB (Florida State)
At 6'1" and 217 pounds, Rhodes is a big physical cornerback and the type of cover man Rex Ryan values. Rhodes is a willing tackler in the running game and plays physical from whistle to whistle.
Rhodes is another player who projects to the bottom of the first round or early second round, so the Jets may not have a chance at him either.
5. Kenny Vaccaro, FS (Texas)
Depending on how many high-level underclassmen declare for the draft, Vaccaro could get pushed down to the Jets in the second round. If that happens, the Jets seriously have to consider him as a long-term solution at safety.
Vaccaro is 6'1" and 220 pounds, and throws his weight around aggressively in the secondary. Vaccaro is very similar to LSU's Reid, but just a little less polished and experienced. The Jets have a lot of holes all over and there will be a number of good prospects to choose from in the second round. They may choose to address the safety position later on, which would make more sense.
The next three: David Amerson* CB, (North Carolina State), Matt Elam*, SS (Florida), Jordan Poyer, CB (Oregon State)
Mid-to-late-round gem: Micah Hyde, CB (Iowa)