The New York Jets have several key needs on both sides of the ball this offseason. A majority of their pivotal positional needs could be satisfied with successful draft efforts. At No. 18 overall, the Jets won't be able to fulfill multiple voids on offense and defense at once, but they can take a big step in the right direction.
As general manager John Idzik and his crew of dedicated personnel scouts begin to assemble a big board before the combine, it's time to examine which players the Jets should consider in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft:
Johnny Manziel (QB) - Texas A&M:
At 6'1'' and 200 pounds, Manziel is touted as an undersized quarterback that possesses an incomparable skill set. The Jets would have to trade-up in order to acquire the future NFL highlight reel, but he remains a lock in the top tier of their big board, regardless. Manziel is an incredible talent that boasts bust potential and would be impossible for the Jets to ignore if he somehow dropped to No. 18 overall. But that would take a miracle.
Teddy Bridgewater (QB) - Louisville:
Bridgewater is arguably the best quarterback of this year's draft class. He's a potential franchise-changing signal-caller. The Jets are supposedly intrigued by the idea of adding another QB to compete with Geno Smith this offseason. It's unlikely for them to add another rookie, though, unless a high-caliber player dramatically falls into their lap. Bridgewater completed 71 percent of his pass attempts in 2013, racking up 31 touchdowns. He's a big-time talent that ranks near the top of most big boards.
Anthony Barr (OLB) - UCLA:
The Jets need to greatly improve upon their exterior pass rushing skills if they expect to assert themselves as the fiercest defense in the NFL next season. Barr projects as a top-10 draft choice in several mocks, but would be a tremendous addition to the Jets' front seven, regardless. Barr possesses enormous strength and speed at 6'4'' and 248 pounds. He's also a supreme run defender. Barr racked up 62 total tackles, including 20 for loss, 10 sacks and five forced fumbles in 2013.
Sammy Watkins (WR) - Clemson:
Watkins is regarded as the best receiver in this year's draft. He registered ridiculous numbers on the stat sheet in 2013, reeling in 101 receptions for 1,464 and 12 touchdowns during his final collegiate season. The Jets are desperate for talent at receiver, where they currently feature the worst group of so-called "playmakers" in the NFL. Watkins grades as a top-10 pick, but is certainly near the top of the Jets' big board.
Mike Evans (WR) - Texas A&M:
Evans' success at the collegiate level was largely impacted by Manziel, who constantly fed the ball to the 6'5'' receiving target. Evans is a big-bodied receiver who possesses game-changing ability. He doesn't showcase outstanding speed, but has exceptional pass-catching skills. He frequently makes difficult catches over the top of tight coverage. He presents a serious mismatch against most defensive backs because of his size and body control. Evans racked up 82 receptions for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns last season. He would be a solid addition to the Jets' band of receivers.
Khalil Mack (OLB) - Buffalo:
Mack is a ruthless linebacker that possesses downhill speed and sheer toughness. He registered 100 tackles, including 19 for loss, 10.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and seven passes defended in his final collegiate season. The Jets recorded just 41.0 sacks in 2013 and need a fresh talent to help rush the quarterback, like Mack. He's a playmaker on defense and an undeniable talent. He's could be the best player at his position in this year's draft.
Justin Gilbert (CB) - Oklahoma State:
The Jets are expected to give current lead cornerback Antonio Cromartie his outright release at some point this offseason, creating a glaring need to acquire an additional defensive back. Gilbert is a true ball hawk on defense, recording seven interceptions and seven passes defended in 2013. He also registered 42 tackles and a kick return for a touchdown. Gilbert doesn't feature a leveraging brand of size at 6'0'' and 194 pounds, but has solid ball skills and reacts well in coverage. The Jets will likely prioritize other positions in the first round of the draft, but Gilbert is a decent fall back option if available at No. 18.
C.J. Mosley (ILB) - Alabama:
Mosley is a solid interior pass rusher that could supply the Jets with an immediate big impact presence in their revamped front seven. Mosley showcases above average speed at his position. He can cover the entire field, a trait exemplified on the stat sheet. Mosley racked up 102 tackles, including nine for loss, and five passes defended in 2013. At 6'2'' and 232 pounds, Mosley needs to tack on some mass in order to effectively produce in head coach Rex Ryan's 3-4 base defense. He's a raw talent that demonstrates key intangibles the Jets could use, though.
Marqise Lee (WR) - Southern California:
Lee is one of the best available receivers in this year's draft. After suffering a midseason knee injury and being forced to deal with below average quarterback play, Lee fell out of the limelight in college football. As a junior, Lee caught 57 passes for 791 yards and four touchdowns. His numbers weren't outrageously impressive, but his ball skills and vertical speed make him an intriguing draft prospect. Lee is expected to be the third receiver taken in this year's draft. He'd be a solid fit with the Jets.
Eric Ebron (TE) - North Carolina:
Ebron is a legitimate playmaking tight end that features an excellent combination of size, speed and strength. He's probably the fastest player at his position in this year's draft class. He recorded 40 receptions for 625 yards and four touchdowns in his final collegiate season. Ebron is a seemingly unstoppable red zone target at 6'4'' and 245 pounds. His physical presence makes him difficult to cover, especially considering his quickness. Ebron needs to develop into a more efficient run blocker, but has all the tools needed to become an immediate impact player as a pass-catching tight end for the Jets.
Zach Martin (OT/G) - Notre Dame:
According to Manish Mehta of the NY Daily News, the Jets would like to bring back second-year starter Austin Howard to anchor the right side of their offensive line for the foreseeable future. But the team could be prompted to acquire a new starting right guard if veteran Willie Colon isn't retained. Martin was noticeably dominant in the Senior Bowl, demonstrating elite strength despite boasting short arms. He played extensively as a tackle on Notre Dame's vaunted O-line in 2013, but projects as a stud guard in the NFL.
HaHa Clinton-Dix (S) - Alabama:
Clinton-Dix is arguably the most talented safety in this year's draft. At 6'1'' and 209 pounds, he embodies a combination of fluid speed in coverage and brute force. Clinton-Dix can cover a lot of ground. He's fast and possesses the ball skills needed to complement his instincts. He recorded 50 tackles, four passes defended and two interceptions in his final collegiate season. The Jets desperately need a true talent at safety. Clinton-Dix would fill that void for Gang Green.
Calvin Pryor (S) - Louisville:
The Jets will likely draft a highly touted safety at some juncture of the 2014 draft, which makes Pryor an obvious candidate on their big board. At 6'2'' and 208 pounds, Pryor features similar size to Clinton-Dix. He registered 75 tackles, four passes defended and three interceptions in 2013. He was immensely productive for a Cardinals' defense that ranked among the best in the nation. The Jets need to hit the restart button at safety, where their current tandem of Antonio Allen and Dawan Landry simply isn't good enough.
Kelvin Benjamin (WR) - Florida State:
Benjamin exploded into the limelight after a stellar performance in the final BCS National Championship Game in January. He had an outstanding season in 2013, racking up 54 receptions for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns. Benjamin is difficult for defensive backs to cover because of his size. At 6'5'' and 234 pounds, he presents a major mismatch for defenses. He also features the vertical speed needed to gain separation. The Jets need a legitimate threat on the outside. Benjamin could be that guy.
Darqueze Dennard (CB) - Michigan State:
Dennard could be the next great shutdown cornerback in the NFL. At 5'11'' and 188 pounds, Dennard doesn't feature a leveraging brand of size, but his speed and toughness effectively complement his skill set. He racked up 62 tackles, 10 passes defended and four interceptions in 2013. He was a contributing proponent of a Spartans' defense that led the nation in several key categories. The First-Team All-Big Ten selection was instrumental in helping his team upset Stanford in the 100th addition of the Rose Bowl. He's a big-time player, despite being somewhat undersized.
Marcus Roberson (CB) - Florida:
Roberson is a top-notch coverage cornerback, despite missing five games with a knee injury in the 2013 season. He checks in at 6'0'' and 184 pounds, boasting an average combination of size and speed. He performs exceptionally well in man coverage, frequently blanketing receivers. Roberson doesn't pop on the stat sheet, specifically because he was rarely tested by opposing quarterbacks. His natural ability would bode well for the Jets, who's secondary failed to bounce back after trading All-Pro Darrelle Revis last offseason.
Jace Amaro (TE) - Texas Tech:
Amaro was a dominant force for the Red Raiders in 2013, racking up a ridiculous total of 106 receptions for 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns. His explosive quickness off the snap is a product of his sheer athleticism. Amaro is a big downfield target at 6'5'' and 260 pounds. He needs to improve his run-blocking technique in the trenches, but has the frame needed to make an immediate impact at his position for the Jets.
Odell Beckham (WR) - Louisiana State:
Beckham could climb draft charts after a solid showing in the upcoming combine. He has outstanding vertical speed and possesses game-changing ability. He registered 59 catches for 1,152 yards and eight touchdowns in his final collegiate season. Beckham doesn't leverage his size to gain an advantage against defenders at 6'0'' and 187 pounds, but he effectively uses his speed to beat defensive backs downfield. The Jets need playmakers and Beckham fits the bill.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE) - Washington:
Seferian-Jenkins is a beastly pass-catching tight end that boasts enormous big-play potential. At 6'6'' and 258 pounds, Seferian-Jenkins is extremely difficult for defensive backs to cover. He recorded 36 receptions for 450 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013. His numbers weren't outrageously impressive in his final collegiate season, but his skill set makes him intriguing from a draft standpoint. Seferian-Jenkins would be an ideal second-round pick for the Jets, but could be snatched off their big board well before that.
Kyle Fuller (CB) - Virginia Tech:
Fuller doesn't project as a first-round draft choice, but is an underrated prospect that boasts big-time upside, regardless. At 6'1'' and 181 pounds, Fuller doesn't embody the elite size of an NFL cornerback, but he does feature an appropriated balance of speed and power. Fuller showcased an ability to shut down high-caliber receivers in 2013. He recorded 52 tackles, five passes defended and two interceptions on the stat sheet. Fuller ranks near the bottom of the Jets' big board, but could develop into a solid defensive back in the NFL.
Ryan Shazier (OLB) - Ohio State:
Shazier posted bombastic numbers for the Buckeyes in 2013, recording 143 total tackles, including 22.5 for loss, six sacks and four forced fumbles. He grades as a second-round draft pick, but could gain some first round consideration with an impressive showing the at the combine. Shazier doesn't excel in coverage and needs to enhance his technique as an outside linebacker in order to become a formidable player at his position. The Jets should keep an eye on Shazier.
Carlos Hyde (RB) - Ohio State:
Hyde is a brutal, downhill style of running back that has the size and strength needed to plow through should-be tacklers. At 6'0'' and 242 pounds, Hyde is massively difficult for defenders to tackle. He averaged 7.8 yards per carry in the 2013, racking up 1,290 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. He also showcased an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, hauling in 13 passes for 107 yards and an additional two scores. Hyde would be a versatile weapon for the Jets in the red zone, where they struggled to score in 2013.
Ka'Deem Carey (RB) - Arizona:
Carey burst onto the scene as one of the most explosive running backs in college football last season, averaging 5.4 yards per carry while rushing for 1,885 yards and 19 scores for the Wildcats. He also caught 26 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. The Jets' backfield managed to rank sixth in total yards gained in 2013, but need a player capable of completely changing the complexion of a game. Carey could be that guy. He grades as a second-round pick at the moment, but might climb teams' big boards after the combine, especially if he's able to tack 10 pounds of muscle.
Jordan Matthews (WR) - Vanderbilt:
Matthews was absurdly unstoppable for the Commodores in 2013, registering 112 receptions for 1,477 yards and seven touchdowns. At 6'3'' and 200 pounds, Matthews possesses an elite combination of size and speed. His ball skills are arguably the best among his position in this year's draft class. Matthews is the type of receiver the Jets need on offense because of his playmaking ability. He'd be an excellent second-round selection, but could be off the board by the time the Jets take over the clock at No. 49 overall.
David Yankey (G/OT) - Stanford:
Yankey demonstrated a supreme ability to man the interior of Stanford's offensive line in 2013. He anchored the Cardinal's heralded ground game, frequently creating holes for lead running back Tyler Gaffney. Yankey was a bully on the football field, pummeling his counterpart in the trenches. At 6'5'' and 301 pounds, Yankey embodies a versatile physique. He has college experience as both a guard and tackle. He excelled at both positions. The Jets could be in the market for a new starting right guard this offseason. Yankey wouldn't be a bad choice to fill that gap.