Playmakers the New York Jets Must Add in the 2013 NFL Draft
The New York Jets have made headlines with their recent trade of cornerback Darrelle Revis, but what is being overlooked is the team's need for true offensive playmakers.
The Jets were one of the least explosive offenses in the NFL last season, ranking 12th in rushing yards and 30th in passing yards. There are holes everywhere on this offense, but there is light on the immediate horizon.
There are plenty of talented playmakers ripe for the choosing early in the 2013 draft. New York needs players who can immediately step onto the field and have an impact. Running back Shonn Greene is gone, tight end Dustin Keller is gone and the receiving corps lacks legitimate depth.
It truly is a "pick-your-poison" scenario for new general manager John Idzik, so he will have to be smart with his selections. There are guys at every major offensive skill position who the Jets would be smart to draft.
Projects and guys with potential are great, but sometimes you need real playmakers to add to your roster. Let's look at some players who Idzik could add in the draft to fit New York's offensive scheme and help the team win games this season.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Dustin Keller's importance to the Jets' offense was often overshadowed by just how bad Mark Sanchez is at finding his weapons in space. Still, Keller found ways to be productive and offered a sure set of hands to get the ball to.
He averaged 11.9 yards per reception in his time with Gang Green, but all hope is not lost, now that he has moved on to the Miami Dolphins. This draft features two stud tight ends who should both go in the first round, starting with Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert.
Eifert is a big, athletic 6'6", 250-pound player with an amazing skill set. He can catch the ball over the top of defenders in traffic and even on deep routes. He caught 50 passes for 685 yards last season and showed his potential.
Eifert could step onto the field for the Jets and be a consistent starter for the next decade and has the potential to be a perennial Pro Bowler.
Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
If Eifert is off the board at No. 9 or No. 13 or if New York simply determines he is not the right guy, then perhaps Zach Ertz could fit the mold. The Stanford tight end does not have Eifert's impressive athletic range or abilities, but he is every bit as consistent and sure-handed.
Ertz is the player you turn to on third down, and never doubt that he will find a way to make the catch. He runs crisp routes and always has his body in proper position to haul in receptions. In fact, he brought in 69 catches for 898 yards and six touchdowns last season.
Ertz is not going to get open in space or burn past defenders, but he could also be useful in an H-back role or as a potential Wildcat personnel member. New York may put the Wildcat to rest heading into this year, but it is still nice to know there are versatile players on the roster.
Again, New York needs a tight end after losing Keller. Eifert is the more enticing pick, but Ertz could prove safer. Will the Jets look to one of them with a first-round selection? It seems likely, but the team could also look towards...
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
...a wide receiver.
It is no secret that the Jets could use some weapons who can stretch the field vertically. Granted, it is debatable whether or not QB Mark Sanchez is capable of getting the ball downfield to an open receiver, but the wideouts need to at least be able to get separation.
Cordarrelle Patterson is a first-round prospect who could fit into what virtually any team is attempting to do offensively. He can line up in the slot, on the outside or anywhere else where a team can craft out a role for him.
New York has Stephen Hill developing nicely, Jeremy Kerley is a decent slot option and Santonio Holmes is good when healthy, but that unit is not terrifying anyone right now. Patterson is a guy who could come in and provide some punch to the offense.
His versatility means that he could be used in a variety of scenarios, and his top-end speed would stretch the field vertically and horizontally. Patterson is raw, having played just one season of Division I football, but he is 6'2", 216 pounds and excelled in that one season.
New York cannot afford to miss with either of its first two picks. Patterson is a risk, but he may be too talented to avoid.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
And yet even with all that praise being heaped upon Patterson, he may not be the receiver of choice for New York. The Jets may decide to press their luck and hope one of the fringe first-rounders falls to them in the second.
DeAndre Hopkins is the best of that group of players. He exploded last season to the tune of 82 catches for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns. He is a physical specimen at 6'1", 214 pounds, and he can make virtually any play on the field.
The problem is that it's hard to imagine Hopkins slipping past picks 30-35. He is rising up draft boards fast, and teams are recognizing that he is NFL-ready. Hopkins' knock has been that he is not one of the fastest receivers in the country, but he plays like one.
He runs routes with precision, constantly using agile moves to get past defenders and get open for his quarterback. Once in space, he is rarely caught, and his 18 touchdowns from last season show that he clearly knows how to find the end zone.
New York needs a receiver who demands constant attention from the defense, and Hopkins would be that guy.
Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
From one green jersey to another, the New York Jets would be smart to bring in Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell. He is a 6'1", 230-pound bulldozer of a running back with surprising athleticism.
New York has a clear need at the running back position, but there are much more serious issues that the team has to deal with at earlier points in the draft. Bell can be a mid-round selection and still step onto the field right away in an important role.
Bell rushed for 1,793 yards last season and averaged 4.7 yards per carry. He is a strong downhill runner who could fill the void left by Greene. He can handle a heavy workload, as he carried the ball 382 times last season.
Finding value in the middle rounds has always been a mixed bag for the Jets, but Greene is someone with very little bust potential. He is consistent, smart and fits the run-first philosophy of the Jets. Should New York truly stick with QB Mark Sanchez moving forward, then Bell could be a great option to hand the ball off to.
E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
Finally, we will look at the unlikely but plausible scenario.
Maybe, just maybe, the Jets realize that Sanchez is not panning out as a franchise QB. He has completed just 55.1 percent of the passes attempted in his career and has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns.
If that does magically happen, E.J. Manuel is a name that could shock the draft audience and also spark optimism. The 2013 class is often criticized for being short on QB talent at the top, but Manuel is a dual-threat weapon with a strong arm and the right skill set to succeed at the next level.
Manuel is 6'5", 240 pounds. He completed 68 percent of his passes last season, and he threw 23 touchdowns as opposed to 10 interceptions. Manuel is comfortable in the pocket but is fully capable of making electrifying plays with his feet, as he accounted for 310 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground last season.
New York has not showed any inclination that quarterback is on the the radar in this draft, but the position really should be. Manuel would be the perfect remedy to some of the team's problems and be an exciting player to watch grow and develop.
In other words, he is everything that Sanchez is not.