10 Draft Prospects Every Jets Fan Should Know About After the Scouting Combine
Like watching the draft prospects run the 40-yard dash, the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine came and went in a blur.
The New York Jets certainly had a vested interest in the goings-on in Indianapolis, holding the No. 9 overall pick as a chip to either take a top-notch player or to earn further draft capital to improve the team.
If they hold any sort of value for the combine, however, they may find it mighty tough to part ways with that pick.
That being said, we can't focus solely on the top pick. The Jets have all seven of their original picks, which means seven chances to improve their team. Which directions could they be looking after the combine?
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
There were a lot of questions about Ansah's hunger for football, but there was never any doubt about his athletic ability. He displayed it all at the combine with top-10 finishes in the 40-yard dash (4.63), the vertical jump (34.5 inches) and the broad jump (118 inches). That should give you an idea of just how explosive he can be.
That being said, his draft stock is based on his potential more than the present product. Ansah has played football for just three years, and had just one standout season at BYU with 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks as a senior.
My good friend John Sarmento of 2MugsFF.com had the Jets picking Ansah in his latest mock draft, and had this to say about the BYU DE:
Ziggy Ansah remains in my top 10. Why you ask? Freakish ability and upside. That's the earmark of this draft. A whole lot of "what can be," and I think Ansah can be a great one.
NFL.com agrees, giving him a first-round grade of 89.5, which qualifies him as an "immediate starter."
It is amazing how far Ansah’s technique has come in such a short amount of time, not to mention how much he has transformed his body to fit the role coaches want him to play. That sizable frame coupled with outstanding closing speed and natural power will captivate many, making a top-20 selection possible. Ansah is rough around the edges, but the number of height/weight/speed athletes with positional versatility selected in that area in recent years point to a rise up draft boards.
Some might say that all this talk of freakish athleticism reminds them of Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, but NFL.com compared his game to a different Giants D-lineman, Justin Tuck. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller went with Bears defensive end Julius Peppers for his comparison of Ansah.
Either way, the Jets could be sure to address their desperate need for an edge rusher with the athletic Ansah at No. 9.
Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Jordan is quickly becoming a draft binky of sorts for Jets fans. Why not? He's one of the best players in the nation at a position of need for the Jets.
Jordan has earned rave reviews from commentators, his former head coach Chip Kelly and others, and now, he'll be earning more praise from scouts who are gawking at his combine numbers. His 4.6-second 40-yard dash tied for the third-best time at his position, and his 122-inch broad jump tied for fifth-best.
His stock was that of a top 10 pick before the draft, and remains that way now.
Although he didn't have the top-notch numbers some people crave, the Jets will love his abilities in coverage, as they have sorely lacked anyone capable of covering tight ends of late.
So, the Jets got a look at two top 10 defensive ends at the combine. That being said, between Ansah and Jordan, who would be the better pick? I asked B/R's Matt Miller that very question via Twitter, and he told me, "I like Jordan's game better, but Ansah's physical strengths are amazing. Both scare me in terms of bust potential."
Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn
Lemonier had a breakout sophomore campaign with 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks, but saw those numbers dip by eight and four respectively in 2012. Can he return to the glory he enjoyed in his sophomore season? That's the question that most scouts had in their minds entering the combine.
He couldn't possibly answer those questions at the combine, but he at least proved his potential.
There were some questions about a lack of an explosive first step, but his 4.6 40-yard dash was one of the top five times at his position at the combine. He also finished in the top 10 in the broad jump at 119 inches and registered respectable numbers in the vertical jump (33 inches) and bench press (27 reps). His showing at the combine gave scouts a reason to go back to the tape and see if they can settle their concerns.
NFL.com has a second- to third-round grade on Lemonier, and Bleacher Report's Sigmund Bloom called him "a top 50 pick" early on in the 2012 season based on his game tape.
Adding a player like Lemonier would help address the gap at outside linebacker left by Calvin Pace, and potentially Bryan Thomas to follow. He's more of a pass-rusher than those guys, but he's not as good against the run. He could serve the Jets well as a sub package pass-rusher for the time being, and wouldn't be worth a pick any higher than the Jets' second-round pick from this perspective.
Giovani Bernard, RB, UNC
For two years, Giovani Bernard has proven his versatility on the football field. During the combine, he proved his versatility in shorts.
Bernard's 40-yard dash (4.53 seconds) and broad jump (122 inches) were both in the top 10 at his position at the combine, and his 20-yard shuttle (4.12 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (11.41) were both in the top five.
He ripped up the ACC in 2011 and 2012 as a top-five back in rushing attempts, rushing yards and yards per attempt both years. He finished second in the conference in rushing touchdowns both years as well, and was the conference's leading rusher in 2012. He's also adept in the passing game, having hauled in at least 45 passes in each of the past two seasons and notching five receiving touchdowns in 2012.
B/R's Matt Miller compared him to Bills running back C.J. Spiller for his open-field explosiveness and ability in the return game, but his 5'8", 202-pound frame is sure to draw comparisons to Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew and Ravens running back Ray Rice. He is as versatile as both players, and maybe just as dynamic.
There are question marks about his consistency because he chose to come out as a sophomore, but he is currently being projected as a second-round pick, and with backs losing value, his stock isn't likely to get much higher. Bernard only has 423 career carries, so his odometer is still low, which could actually help him come April.
Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
We talk a lot about the players whose explosiveness on tape doesn't match up with the product in shorts. There are times, however, when the two intersect.
Oregon running back Kenjon Barner is the latest example. He recorded legitimate numbers across the board with top-five finishes in the vertical jump (35.5 inches), three-cone drill (6.87 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (11.33 seconds) while finishing in the top 10 in the 40-yard dash (4.52) and the broad jump (122 inches).
He has ranked in the top five in the Pac-12 in yards per attempt each of the past three years. He was asked to carry a much heavier load in 2012 after LaMichael James left for the NFL, but he answered the bell with an uptick of 126 carries from 2011 to 2012. Even with the significantly heavier load, his YPA didn't dip—in fact, it went up by 0.2. He ranked second in the conference in rushing.
Unlike Bernard, Barner has carried a heavy workload over the past three years of his career especially. His 582 career carries could have some head coaches and GMs concerned with how long he can suit up in the NFL before he breaks down. That's especially troublesome for a back who relies as much on quickness and speed as Barner does.
If the Jets are less than satisfied with what they've gotten from running back Joe McKnight over the years, Barner could be a good replacement. He offers much the same skill set—in fact, NFL.com compared Barner to McKnight in their scouting analysis—but Barner could be a little more effective as a between-the-tackles runner. The Jets should look to get him the ball on the perimeter and on runs off tackle if they want him to play a role in their offense.
Vance McDonald, TE, Rice
Are Dustin Keller and Jeff Cumberland good enough for the Jets at tight end? Will Keller even be around in 2013? Those are both questions that have to be flying through GM John Idzik's head right now, and if his head's in the right place, he's looking to a solid group of draftable tight ends in this year's class.
People will surely be talking about Rice tight end Vance McDonald after he put up solid numbers across the board at the combine. With top five finishes in the bench press (31 reps), broad jump (119 inches), three-cone drill (7.08) and 60-yard shuttle (11.63) and the sixth-best 40-yard dash (4.69), McDonald showed off a ton of athletic ability in Indianapolis.
McDonald doesn't have the name recognition of some other tight ends, having played in Conference USA, but he ranks second in school history among tight ends in receptions and receiving yards behind Texans tight end James Casey.
McDonald has a similar skill set to Casey, as a solid H-back type of tight end who can play in different spots in the formation. His stock has him anywhere from a late second- to an early third-round pick.
Khaseem Greene, ILB, Rutgers
The Jets have question marks all over the defense, and although they just drafted linebacker Demario Davis in the third round in 2012, they could still use another young linebacker inside to rotate with David Harris, perhaps even to replace him one day.
Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene is not the biggest linebacker in the world at 6'1" and 242 pounds, but has great athletic ability to match up with the new age of receiving tight ends. He showed off his speed at the combine, as he tied for the 10th-fastest time at the combine at inside linebacker, running a 4.71. He also showed off some quickness with a 4.2 20-yard shuttle and 11.87 60-yard shuttle, finishing both in the top five at the combine.
He played outside linebacker as a senior but would move inside in the 3-4. He also played defensive back in his first three years, so he has experience dropping into coverage which would help him out against the likes of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, who have given the Jets fits of late.
Greene is being talked about as a mid-to-late second-round pick.
Josh Evans, S, Florida
Florida safety Matt Elam is garnering a lot of attention as a potential first-round pick, but according to CBS Sports, Josh Evans's ability to cover over the top may have been the reason Elam had so many opportunities to make big plays.
That ability in Cover 1 is something that's been missing from the Jets defense since Jim Leonhard left the team, and possibly even before that. Evans didn't blow it up at the combine, but a respectable 4.58 40-yard dash showed off the speed that makes him capable in that role. CBS Sports compares him to Reshad Jones, who is great in deep coverage and is developing into a top-10 safety in the NFL.
Evans' experience in the SEC will do nothing but help him in his transition to the NFL. He has improved statistically in each of his four years at Florida, and finished 2012 with 83 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and three interceptions.
Evans is projected to go anywhere from the fourth to the fifth round, so while he may not be had at a high price, he could fill a major need for the Jets, and do it well.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The New York Jets drew a lot of connections to Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson this weekend because ex-GM Mike Tannenbaum picked Patterson to go to the Jets in his first-ever mock draft.
Of course, the Tanny stamp of approval could be enough on its own to send some Jets fans screaming and running the other direction.
It was hard not to notice Patterson at the combine on the field; his 4.42-second 40-yard dash was the sixth-fastest time for any wide receiver at the combine, and his 37-inch vertical jump ranked him in the top five. Add in his 6'2", 216-pound frame and we're left with little doubt that his measurables are off the charts.
Then, we're left with two questions. As a one-year wonder, some might say there's a red flag in terms of his production, but that one year saw him rank sixth in the SEC in yards per reception at a 16.9 clip.
The other question is what he brings off the field. Russ Lande of NationalFootballPost.com reported this weekend that his private meetings didn't go well, and if teams are concerned he can't pick up a playbook, they may shy away.
Judging by the physical talent we've seen on the field, though, chances of that happening seem slim.
David Amerson, CB, NC State
If the Jets do plan on moving on from cornerback Darrelle Revis anytime soon, they should be scouting cornerbacks for the draft.
Amerson's stock has plummeted since the end of the 2011 season. He was projected to be one of the top cornerbacks in the 2013 draft after recording 13 interceptions in '11, but he had a disastrous 2012. He explained some of those struggles by saying he spent the season chasing the record for interceptions, instead of just playing sound fundamental football, but no less, the season put serious doubts around his stock.
He didn't erase those doubts with mind-blowing numbers at the combine, but he certainly didn't add to the doubts, either. He finished with a respectable 4.44-second 40-yard dash, 35.5-inch vertical jump and a 127-inch broad jump. That being said, his measurements at the combine (6'1", 194 pounds) weren't quite as freakish as previously listed (6'3", 205 pounds).
Amerson is projected as a third-rounder, which sounds like reasonable value for a player who has shown as much upside yet has as many question marks as Amerson.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.