New York Jets' Initial 2014 Round-by-Round NFL Draft Big Board
With the Senior Bowl in the rearview mirror, NFL teams can start to put together the early projections of their draft boards in preparation for the upcoming NFL Combine.
This Jets-specific draft board will be unlike a standard "big board" in that the players listed in each round will take into account both the team's needs as well as the likelihood of them being available when they select. For example, while the Jets would love to add Jadeveon Clowney, it is a virtual impossibility that he winds up on the Jets.
Here is a seven-round draft board for the Jets, specific to the team needs and fits.
There is no doubt that the Jets will be prioritizing skill position players (specifically, a wide receiver or a tight end) in the early rounds given their massive needs at the positions.
However, that does not rule out the possibility of the Jets selecting a quarterback or a defensive player, as it all will depend who is on the board when the Jets make their first pick at 18 (barring a trade).
1. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
When taking into account the free agents they may lose and the overall talent level at the position, the tight end group is the worst position on the roster, making North Carolina product Eric Ebron the top player on the Jets' draft board.
Ebron is not the most polished player in the draft, but he has tremendous size and athleticism that gives him a ton of potential as both a blocker and a receiver. Even if he is a bit raw, he is a massive upgrade over anyone the Jets have or had on the roster a year ago.
2. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
There are a handful of excellent wide receiver prospects in the class, and USC's Marqise Lee may be the most underrated. An injury-plagued 2013 season at USC, combined with some mediocre quarterback play, has led to Lee's status as an elite prospect evaporate.
However, while there are some questions regarding Lee's ability to make plays on passes further down the field, there is no denying his explosion and ability after the catch when he is healthy. If Lee manages to fall to 18, the Jets should not hesitate to snap him up.
3. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
The Jets have been looking for a star player at the safety position ever since they traded Kerry Rhodes at the end of the 2009 season, and they can finally add a dynamic player in the back end of their defense with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
A fluid athlete with good ball skills, Clinton-Dix can do it all as a ball hawk and an enforcer against the run. Adding Clinton-Dix will also allow Antonio Allen to move into his more natural position at strong safety.
4. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Odell Beckham Jr. has come on as one of the top receivers in the country thanks in part to some quality quarterbacking from Zach Mettenberger, but he has as much to do with LSU's success in the passing game as his quarterback.
Beckham has tremendous athleticism, body control and hands that make him one of the most underrated prospects at his position. As the draft process wears on, his stock will only rise as coaches get a look at what he is capable of.
5. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
There is some concern regarding whether or not Evans' somewhat one-dimensional game will translate to the NFL, but he could wind up being everything the Jets were hoping Stephen Hill would become.
Mike Evans won't "wow" with his ability to separate or get yards after the catch. Instead, Evans makes a ton of plays on contested catches, which is becoming more and more of a desired trait in today's NFL that features a lot of man-to-man coverage.
6. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
This is more of a contingency plan than anything else but in case Darqueze Dennard slips to the second half of the first round, the Jets should think long and hard about drafting him.
Dennard is a fluid athlete that is capable of playing in both man and zone. Combined with his above-average length, Dennard has the potential to be a star in the NFL.
The Jets' approach in Round 2 will likely be similiar to what they do in Round 1. No matter who they draft, skill position players will be at the forefront in addition to some defensive prospects who could wind up as steals when all is said and done.
1. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Based on his stellar showing during the week of Senior Bowl practices, it is starting to become less and less of a possibility that Jordan Matthews will be available when the Jets pick in the second round. If he is, however, the Jets should sprint with their card to the podium.
While he is a bit rough around the edges as a route-runner, Matthews' good size, athleticism and hands, to go along with a competitive attitude, will mean coaches will fall in love with him.
2. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
Kyle Van Noy is the ideal "do-it-all" linebacker. He has the athleticism to play in coverage and the instincts to sniff out run plays quickly.
However, he is very underdeveloped as a pass-rusher, usually relying on his mediocre bull rush to get pressure. If he can learn and develop an array of moves to polish his pass-rushing skills, he could wind up as the most complete outside linebacker in this class.
3. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Bradley Roby never quite met expectations to become the best cornerback in college football, but there is no denying that he has a talented skill set that may make him a better professional than a college player.
With tremendous size and athleticism, Roby could turn out to be a tremendous cover corner that is capable of playing in a variety of schemes.
4. Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
One of the more physical safeties in the draft, Calvin Pryor would be a perfect replacement for Dawan Landry without having to spend a first-round pick or a ton of money in free agency.
Not only is Pryor an enforcer as the last line of defense, he played a lot of Cover 1 at Louisville, a commonality in Rex Ryan's defense.
5. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
One of the more polarizing prospects in this year's class, Benjamin is a true high-risk, high-reward player on the field. While he tends to make a few maddening drops on routine catches every week, his size and underrated speed make him a potentially explosive player in the NFL.
While he misses some of the easier catches, he actually excels at making tough, contested catches. If a team can figure out how to clean up his concentration issues on routine plays, Benjamin may turn out to be a tremendous professional.
Round 3 should be the same approach as the first round, except the Jets must be willing to take a few more risks on prospects with glaring holes in their game. At this stage of the draft, risk-reward is a common theme.
1. Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
Landry has many of the traits his teammate, Odell Beckham Jr., possesses—great hands, body control and smooth athleticism. However, Landry is a bit more limited as a prospect because of his lesser frame and speed, but he is well worth the selection at this point in the draft. He has the potential to be a starter on the receiver-needy Jets.
2. Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
At this stage of the draft, the Jets would be thrilled to get themselves a startling-caliber receiver, which is exactly what Davante Adams is capable of becoming. While he does not have the elite speed scouts look for, he has good size (6'2") and a wide catching radius that make him a perfect candidate to be a No. 2 receiver at the next level.
3. Jeremiah Attaochu, DE, Georgia Tech
Despite his tremendous production in 2013 (10 sacks) Attaochu is the prototypical risk-reward player. At a lean 252 pounds, Attaochu is a tremendous pass-rusher with great burst, length and closing speed.
The question surrounding Attaochu is whether or not he has the size and ability to hold up against the run at the NFL level given his size and how much he struggled with it in college. If he can, Attaochu can wind up being a steal; otherwise, he will be nothing more than a situational player in the NFL.
4. Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas
Chris Smith has everything coaches are looking for in a pass-rusher: good burst, lateral agility and underrated strength that makes him a versatile rusher off the edge. He is also a strong tackler with good closing speed. At 266 pounds, he should be able to make a seamless transition to the 3-4 outside linebacker position.
However, the issue for Smith is that while he is a versatile rusher, he is not elite in any one area. His upside is a bit limited, but he could be a perfect Calvin Pace-type replacement as a jack-of-all trades linebacker.
5. Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
The Jets need to prepare for life without Dawan Landry, who will be a free agent in 2015. Ahmad Dixon does not offer much as a man-to-man cover safety, but he excels in the box and lining up deep in a Cover 1 system—almost identical to Landry's current role with the Jets.
Dixon will fall in the draft because the positional value of strong safeties is decreasing, but he would be well worth it for the Jets at this point.
On the third day of the draft, depth players and developmental projects start to take the forefront. If any of these players are major contributors as rookies, it would be considered a bonus.
1. C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
In an era in which true "two-way" tight ends are becoming extinct, C.J. Fiedorowicz is a refreshing reminder that the lost art of playing both aspects of the tight end position is not yet dead.
While he may not be the fastest player, he has tremendous strength that is evident in the blocking game and the way he can make contested catches. With good hands and body control, comparisons to Jason Witten are inevitable.
2. Terrance Brooks, S, Florida State
Despite being a bit shorter than scouts would prefer (5'11"), Terrance Brooks has plenty of athletic traits that would make him a starting-caliber free safety in the NFL. With good burst, straight-line speed and agility, Brooks can cover tight ends and slot cornerbacks when asked to (he was a formerly a cornerback).
Brooks also has above-average instincts and has the aggressiveness coaches will fall in love with. If he were a few inches taller, Brooks would be taken about two rounds earlier.
3. Devin Street, WR, Pittsburgh
At 6'3" and possessing good hands, Devin Street is the ideal red-zone target that is capable of getting to many jump balls many defensive backs cannot get to. His lack of elite speed prevents him from being a top prospect, but he will have a role in the NFL with his combination of size and athleticism.
4. Chris Davis, CB, Auburn
Chris Davis will forever be known for his epic touchdown return in the 2013 SEC Championship, but he has the makings of a decent slot cornerback as well. He lacks the ideal height for the outside cornerback position (5'10"), but he is a smooth athlete with good quickness that will allow him to keep up with some of the quicker slot receivers in the NFL.
5. Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia
The Jets are certainly on the lookout for playmakers at the tight end position, but they are also in desperate need for some who excel as blockers. Lynch is not going to scare many defenses with his ability in the open field, but he can bulldoze defenders in the run game and has good enough hands to be a reliable target when called upon.
Rounds 4 and 5 are similar in the caliber of players available. In this particular case, there are a handful of players with character and injury questions that would be worth rolling the dice on this late in the draft.
1. Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech
Cornerback is not the biggest need on the Jets' roster, but Exum is too good of a player to pass up if he is still available at this point in the draft. While he is not the fastest defensive back in this class, he is extremely physical and excels in press-man coverage.
The reason for Exum's fall down draft boards is his ongoing recovery from an ACL tear in the spring of 2013, causing him to miss the vast majority of the 2013 season. He is a bit of a risk, but at this point in the draft, the risk is well worth the possible reward.
2. Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami
If Austin Howard departs in free agency, the Jets must add some depth at the right tackle position to give them some insurance.
Henderson had a rocky career at Miami in which he was suspended three times and never lived up to expectations. However, he has a lot of natural ability and athleticism for a man his size and the tools to develop into a quality tackle. The question for Henderson is whether is can finally harness those tools with NFL coaching.
3. James White, RB, Wisconsin
The Jets were fortunate that they were able to get through the season with two (relatively) healthy running backs, but with Mike Goodson coming off an ACL injury and Chris Ivory carrying a sketchy injury history, adding depth at the position is never a bad idea.
White is a bit small for most scouts' liking, but he is a physical runner with good vision that make him a perfect depth player who can carry the load when called upon.
4. Jon Halapio, OG, Florida
With 33 starts for the Florida Gators under his belt, Jon Halapio is an excellent run-blocker who can pull and finishes plays as well as anyone. However, Halapio struggles with his balance in the passing game largely because of some technique issues. Some proper NFL coaching may be able to turn Halapio into a starting-caliber guard.
5. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Logan Thomas is one of the most polarizing prospects in this year's class, but at this point in the draft, he makes a lot of sense for the Jets. His inconsistencies as a passer have been well documented, but he has excellent size and physical tools that scouts salivate over. He is also a bit of a better thrower than his reputation would suggest.
If quarterback does not work out for Thomas, there is always the option of him making the transition to tight end—he was recruited to play the position at Virginia Tech before switching back to quarterback.
At this point, most of these players are either total scheme misfits or massive projects. These players will be fighting for special teams work in camp this year.
1. James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech
Gayle does not have any specific traits that stand out, but he is above-average in a lot of categories, including strength and flexibility, allowing him to bend around the edge. At 255 pounds, he can make the transition to outside linebacker.
He needs to be a bit quicker off the snap, but Gayle has a lot of tools to work with that make him well worth the selection at this point in the draft.
2. Michael Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest
Michael Campanaro is a bit of a unique prospect in that he plays like a player who is much bigger than his 5'10" would categorize him as. He does not have great speed or acceleration, but he possesses tremendous hands and underrated strength.
He won't fit into the typical mold of any receiver position, but his ability to make plays on contested footballs despite his size are tough to ignore.
3. Marcus Martin, C, USC
The Jets do not have an immediate need at center, but they cannot continue to rely on Nick Mangold to stay healthy season-in and season-out. The first-team All-Pac-12 selection has the size and ability to be a starting center in the NFL in due time.
With Mangold holding down the starting job for the immediate future, the Jets have a prospect in the wings in case his performance starts to decline.
4. De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
The Jets have two starting runners in place, but they need an electric presence that can be a mismatch for linebackers in coverage and give their special teams a jolt in the return game.
DeAnthony is a bit small to be considered a top prospect (170 pounds), but he would be a huge upgrade as an all-purpose player the Jets were hoping Joe McKnight would become.
5. Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida
The Notre Dame transfer never quite had the college production many expected from him, but he has enough tools to be considered at this point in the draft. Lynch has a mean streak that can get him in trouble at times with over-aggressiveness and he struggled to play at his new weight of 240 pounds.
However, Lynch can be an explosive edge-rusher at times. With proper coaching, he may finally be able to turn his talent into production at the NFL level.
The seventh round is essentially the first round of undrafted free agent signings. In fact, many players would prefer to go undrafted so they have a choice of which team they would like to sign to (at a higher contract total).
1. Silas Redd, RB, USC
Silas Redd never quite lived up to expectations following his transfer from Penn State, but he has a skill set that could be a perfect fit for the Jets' need of a fourth running back. Redd has a smaller frame and doesn't have any elite skills, but he could be the perfect depth player who can do just about everything.
2. Jake Murphy, TE, Utah
Jake Murphy has a great frame to work with at this position (6'4", 252 pounds), which is all you can really ask for at this point in the draft. Murphy also has good hands and body control that allow him to make contested catches.
Where Murphy struggles is with his blocking. He is a willing blocker, but he does not know how to use his weight well. Murphy would be an ideal "project" to stash on the bottom of a depth chart.
3. Hakeem Smith, S, Louisville
While he is not as dynamic as his teammate, Calvin Pryor, Hakeem Smith would be the perfect third safety that could be an excellent special teams player early in his career. He was mostly an "in-the-box" player at Louisville, but he steadily improved his coverage over the course of the past year, increasing his versatility.
4. Spencer Long, OG, Nebraska
A longtime starter on Nebraska's offensive line, Long is at his best when he is in space and is a more than capable puller. He won't maul players over in the run game, but he seals blocks well and does enough to get the job done, even if he won't open up huge running lanes on his own.
5. Charles Sawyer, CB, Ole Miss
Charley Sawyer does not have the size that scouts are looking for in cornerbacks that play on the perimeter at just 5'10", but his skill set makes him a perfect dime cornerback than can excel on special teams. He has quick feet and fluid hips that allow him to run with just about anyone in a short space.
Sawyer does have a DUI arrest to his name, but he is well worth the risk this late in the draft.