The 2013 NFL draft is arguably the most pivotal in franchise history for the New York Jets. New general manager John Idzik is staring down a difficult task: rebuilding a team that faltered in nearly every facet of the game last season.
New York faces a daunting salary cap situation, which means Idzik and crew can't fix a roster devoid of talent through free agency. Instead, they'll be heavily reliant on boosting the depth chart's talent pool through the draft.
The Jets' most glaring need is at quarterback, although this season's crop of QB prospects seemingly doesn't feature legitimate franchise-caliber players immediately capable of flipping an ineffective offense into an efficient, touchdown-scoring machine.
The Jets need several upgrades across the board, specifically at offensive guard, outside linebacker, safety, running back and wide receiver, in addition to quarterback.
The following is a seven-round mock draft for the Jets that features prospects who solidified their value with solid performances in the annual scouting combine:
*All combine results are courtesy of NFL.com.
Syracuse safety Sharmarko Thomas is a physical, run-stopping defender that appropriately fits Ryan's defensive game scheme.
Thomas is a project and has serious size limitations, though. His coverage ability is suspect at 5'10'' and 208 pounds, although he had a solid performance in the annual East-West shrine game, showcasing an aggressive style of pass coverage.
Thomas flaunted his game skills in the shrine game, and flashed undying speed and athleticism in the scouting combine.
40 Time: 4.42 Reps: 28 Vertical: 40.5'' Broad: 133.0'' Shuffle: 4.26
Thomas is the reckless type of player that mirrors the style of current Jets' cornerback Antonio Cromartie, minus the size. He tallied 88 tackles, three forced fumbles and two interceptions in his final college season. He's a hard-hitting defender that has swift ability to maneuver through traffic in coverage.
He possesses a unique skill set that would aptly fit Ryan's defense and would be an optimal selection in the seventh round.
Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg is a talented asset with strong potential, but entered the combine with limited draft value because he missed eight games in his red-shirt senior season. He checks in at 6'3'' and 236 pounds.
Gragg is a nimble tight end and moves smoothly downfield. He's a sharp route-runner with good footwork and his receiving abilities are above-average. He has long extension and does a solid job of making catches in stride. His strength enables him to plow should-be tacklers and gain extra yards after the catch.
He's a tremendous athlete with huge upside and performed well in the scouting combine.
40 Time: 4.56 Vertical: 37.5'' Broad: 125'' Three-cone: 7.08 Shuffle: 4.51
He needs to improve his blocking technique if he's going to succeed in the NFL, but concern over his ability to stay on the field is the biggest red flag factoring into when Gragg will be drafted.
He missed the entire 2009 season with a dislocated ankle and suffered a devastating leg injury last year, crippling his chances to showcase his talents in the SEC last season.
Gragg showcased an impressive display of strength and athleticism at the combine, but teams will be weary to draft the powerful tight end because of injury issues.
The Jets shouldn't be one of those teams if Gragg falls into their lap in the sixth round.
Illinois offensive guard Hugh Thornton is a battle-tested individual that possesses an NFL build, checking in at 6'3'' and 320 pounds.
Thornton has been touted as an engaging blocker that possesses exceptional footwork and swift lateral agility. His quick footwork enables him to cover the edge when the pocket collapses. He's explosive from the point and is able to grapple defenders and dictate their direction.
Thornton solidified his draft value with a solid scouting combine performance.
40 Time: 5.11 Reps: 27 Three-cone: 7.45 Shuffle: 4.63
His most impressive vital couldn't be quantified through the combine, though.
Thornton is a fighter, and his life experience is incomparable. He's been forced to overcome physical abuse from his father as a child, and the murders of his mother and sister as a 12-year-old.
His determination on the football field encompass his personal strife. Thornton utilizes his athletic ability to gain leverage in the trenches. He's aggressive and powerful, enabling him to push defenders off their heels, according to Derek Stephens of CBS Sports.
Thornton finishes blocks by barreling defenders into the ground. He's a hard-nosed interior-lineman with good footwork and enormous upper-body strength. The Jets need to add at least one offensive guard this offseason and Thornton would be a suitable option in the fifth round.
UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin has the cut-back ability the Jets need to complement the strength of Bilal Powell in the backfield next season.
Franklin dominated his senior season, rushing for 1,734 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He doesn't feature a ton of durability at 5'10'' and 205 pounds, but he's a physical runner with breakaway speed.
He was wildly impressive at the scouting combine, where he was a top performer.
40 Time: 4.49 Vertical: 31.5'' Broad: 115'' Three-cone: 6.89 Shuffle: 4.31
Franklin has steadily increased his draft value since the start of his senior season. His biggest eye-opening performance happened in the Pac-12 Championship Game, when he pounded Stanford's run-stuffing defense for 194 rushing yards on just 19 carries.
Franklin has the proven ability to hit the hole fast and break through traffic for big gains. He's been criticized for his methods of ball security, but his speed and receiving prowess should make him enticing to the Jets.
He recorded 33 catches for 323 yards and two touchdowns as a senior. New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg likes to utilize running backs in the passing game, which makes Franklin a potential fit in the Jets' new-look offense.
Franklin lacks the size necessary to be an every-down back in the NFL, but his speed and ability to quickly shift direction make him a playmaker capable of being an immediate difference-maker.
Oklahoma wide receiver Kenny Stills is the brand of big-play threat that the Jets need in their passing game. He's a fast receiver that has tremendous leaping ability.
Stills is considered to be undersized at 6'1'' and 190 pounds. He has the skill set necessary to develop into a consistent vertical threat in the passing game, but needs to bulk-up to be a durable receiver in the NFL.
Stills demonstrated explosive speed in the annual scouting combine.
40 Time: 4.38 Reps: 16 Vertical: 33.5'' Broad: 124'' Shuffle: 4.35
Stills showcased high-caliber speed throughout his junior season when he pulled down 82 catches for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He possesses strong awareness and is able to use his quickness to react in coverage to make plays. He's a physical route-runner but isn't imposing against defenders in coverage because of his size.
His skill set suits the Jets' glaring need for a game-changing receiver, despite size concerns. His electric play-making ability is a rare commodity. Stills will most likely be on the board when the Jets are on the clock in the third round, but might not last until the fourth.
Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel has the size and versatility necessary to succeed in a pro-style offense. He's attracted mixed reviews from draft experts, but is arguably the most intriguing quarterback prospect in 2013.
The Jets are desperate for revival at quarterback. Their cash-strapped situation boils the quarterback dilemma into a limited field of prospects that aren't considered to be franchise-changing players, and Mark Sanchez.
Manuel could have the skill set to be a potential difference-maker. His performance at the combine was solid.
40 Time: 4.65 Vertical: 34'' Broad: 188'' Three-cone: 7.08 Shuffle: 4.21
Manuel was also impressive at the Senior Bowl, leading the South to a win while throwing for a touchdown and running for another. His performance earned him Most Outstanding Player, a feat that ignited his confidence to a point bordering on arrogance.
He could translate into a dual-threat quarterback in the NFL, given the right situation. Jets' QB coach David Lee introduced the wildcat offense to the NFL in 2008, but is he capable of transforming Manuel into an offensive weapon at the next level?
Manuel dubbed himself the best QB in this season's draft class. Now, he has to prove it.
The Jets need a quarterback with premium athletic ability. They need an upgrade over Sanchez and would be hard-pressed not to draft Manuel if he falls to them in the second round.
LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo is destined to be an intimidating pass-rushing phenomenon in the NFL. He's fast off the edge and should transform into an effective outside linebacker in the 3-4 base defense as a pro.
He has a huge frame at 6'4'' and the potential to add significant muscle mass over the offseason. He weighed in at just 241 pounds before displaying his powerful athletic ability at the scouting combine.
In addition to quarterback-wrecking speed, Mingo showcased his explosiveness and lower body strength.
40 Time: 4.58 Vertical: 37'' Broad: 128''
Mingo possesses a combination of speed and athletic ability that would immediately translate well in the Jets' defensive scheme.
He's explosive off the line of scrimmage and is a constant force in the back field, but also sustains acute awareness in coverage. His long arms enable him to wreak constant havoc on quarterbacks, even if he succumbs to a block.
The Jets need a pass-rushing threat like Mingo that can revitalize a blitz-heavy defense that was mostly ineffective last season.