7 NFL Draft Prospects New York Jets Can't Afford to Pass Up

John Shea@real_johnsheaContributor IIIMarch 25, 2014

7 NFL Draft Prospects New York Jets Can't Afford to Pass Up

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The New York Jets' relative inactivity in NFL free agency has increased the importance of the upcoming draft. The Jets could hold 12 picks, which means they could fill multiple glaring voids on their roster with the acquisition of rookie talent.

    General manager John Idzik holds a deliberate approach in trying to construct a formidable 53-man roster that is capable of contending for a playoff berth in 2014. The draft is a big component of his long-term plan for success. This means it's vital for the Jets to select players who can make an immediate impact at the next level.

    The Jets are at a crossroads. They boast one of the best front sevens in the NFL but suddenly possess arguably the worst secondary in the league. As the free-agent market begins to dwindle, the Jets are seemingly out of options.

    New York must acquire a cornerback who can excel in press coverage, a safety who can prevent big plays, a legitimate starting-caliber tight end, a speed-oriented wideout and potentially a pass-catching running back in order to satisfy their biggest needs this offseason.

    The draft is flush with several potential difference-makers at numerous positions for the Jets. Idzik's brain trust is under the limelight. As he and his staff work to make the Jets contenders next season, the draft is suddenly on the horizon.

    The following slideshow examines seven prospects the Jets can't afford to pass up in the first three rounds of the draft.

    (All NFL Scouting Combine information is courtesy of NFL.com)

7. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona

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    Carey is an explosive running back who has the combination of speed and strength that is needed to thrive in the NFL. At 5'9'' and 207 pounds, he is elusive and capable of shaking defenders and slashing defenses for big chunks of yardage. He was tremendous in two full years as the lead back for Arizona, racking up more than 1,800 rushing yards in consecutive seasons.

    Running back isn't a crucial need for the Jets this offseason, but they need a back who can develop into a premier player. The depth chart features Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, Mike Goodson and Alex Green. Depth isn't a concern, although playmaking ability certainly is.

    The Jets struggled to pound the ball into the end zone with their backs in 2013. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was frequently forced to use creative personnel packages in order to run the ball into paydirt for points. Don't be fooled—Sheldon Richardson isn't a long-term solution for the Jets at the goal line. They need someone who can score, like Carey.

    Carey totaled 20 touchdowns from scrimmage in his final collegiate season. He also led the nation in plays from scrimmage in 2013, touching the ball a whopping 375 times. 

    What makes him dynamic is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He averaged a solid 8.8 yards per reception on 77 career catches in college. Adding a player like him to the roster would enhance the Jets' ability to move the chains and rack up points.

6. Jeremiah Attaochu, DE/OLB, Georgia Tech

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    The Jets need to shore up their pass rush in order to solidify their front seven as one of the most formidable units in the NFL. New York isn't desperate for help in this area, but solidifying the pass rush must be high on head coach Rex Ryan's wish list.

    The Jets ranked as an average pass-rushing team in 2013, recording 41.0 sacks and 242 yards for loss. Those numbers aren't atrocious, but they also don't explode off the stat sheet.

    New York needs to draft a player with the natural ability to penetrate the backfield from the stance, in part because Quinton Coples failed to effectively transition into an edge-rushing role as an outside linebacker last season.

    Even though he managed to start 13 games in 2013, injury derailed his season. He registered 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble but didn't excel in the manner that the Jets had hoped. They would be wise to add depth to their linebacking corps by drafting a player like Attaochu.

    He's an explosive edge-rusher who can blast through the offensive front and reach the backfield. He registered 45 tackles, including 16 for loss, and 12.5 sacks in his senior season, showcasing the ability to track down opposing ball-carriers in space. He'd be a solid addition to the Jets' edge-rushing scheme and could prove to be a worthy successor of returning veteran Calvin Pace.

5. Craig Loston, S, LSU

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    The Jets desperately need to add a safety to the current crop of defensive backstops. The stopgap tandem of Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen didn't cut it in 2013. The Jets were noticeably vulnerable over the top, surrendering several crucial big plays throughout the season.

    As a team, they ranked 22nd in passing yards allowed, enabling opposing quarterbacks to rack up nearly 4,000 yards through the air. They also allowed 26 touchdown passes while registering just 13 interceptions. New York must improve its viability in the secondary if it's going to compete for a playoff berth next season.

    Former LSU safety Craig Loston is rated as the third best player at his position in this year's draft, according to CBSSports.com. He played four seasons at the collegiate level, improving on a season-to-season basis. He recorded 57 total tackles, including four for loss, three passes defended and three picks in his senior season.

    According to Rob Rang of CBSSports.com, Loston compares to former college teammate Eric Reid, who was a first-round pick in last year's draft. Loston is touted as having solid instincts, excelling in open-field tackling. He's the type of player that the Jets need in order to prevent big plays downfield. His quickness in the secondary is an asset that should translate well at the next level.

4. Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State

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    The Jets' receiving corps improved by acquiring former Denver Broncos' wideout Eric Decker. New York will have the chance to add more playmaking talent to the offense via the draft, which features an impressive number of potential impact receivers.

    At 6'2'' and 220 pounds, Robinson possesses the vitals needed to excel in the NFL. His size would create a dual mismatch for opposing cornerbacks, considering Decker's 6'3'' stature. Robinson is perhaps the most undervalued wideout in this receiver-rich draft class. He's a viable downfield target who could be had in the second round.

    He registered impressive numbers in his final collegiate season, racking up 1,432 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 97 catches. He showcased his natural athletic ability at the combine, demonstrating an effective combination of speed and agility. He ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash and also reached top performer status in the broad jump, leaping 127 inches.

    The Jets could potentially look to draft Robinson with their second pick if they opt to fill a void other than receiver in the first round. It's a legitimate possibility, considering gaping holes at several key positions.

3. Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

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    The Jets are in dire need of a legitimate starting-caliber tight end. Jeff Cumberland, who was retained earlier this offseason, will supply depth and serve as the No. 2 tight end, but he isn't a game-changer. This year's draft class features a few potential difference-makers at tight end. The Jets must take notice.

    Amaro is graded as an early second-round pick in several mock drafts, but the Jets should take a hard look at taking him at No. 18 overall. That is, if they're actually serious about increasing their playmaking ability on offense. Some would argue that given their plethora of needs, it would be wise to simply draft the best available player on the board with their first-round selection, but they must at least take a flier on Amaro.

    According to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, Idzik was among representatives from 20 teams at Texas Tech's pro day, specifically to check out Amaro.

    At 6'5'' and 265 pounds, he is a big-bodied downfield target. He was dominant in his final collegiate season, recording 106 receptions for 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns. He features uncanny explosiveness off the snap for a player his size, which is a product of his athletic ability. He put forth perhaps the most impressive performance among all skill position players at the combine, registering top performer status in six drills.

    Amaro showcases an elite combination of size, speed and strength. He possesses an NFL build for a tight end and features the pass-catching skills needed to develop into a premier player at the position. He could be the Jets' best option at tight end, given the likelihood of North Carolina's Eric Ebron already being off the board at No. 18 overall.

2. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

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    The Jets' inability to sign a free-agent cornerback has perpetuated the need for them to fill that void through the draft. Opting to draft a cornerback in the first round might not appear flashy, but it's a position that they desperately need to upgrade.

    At 5'11'' and 200 pounds, Dennard doesn't boast leveraging size against taller receivers, but his ability to excel in press coverage makes him elite at his position. According to CBSSports.com, he is the best cornerback available in this year's draft, although it's highly possible for former Oklahoma State defensive back Justin Gilbert to be taken ahead of him.

    Drafting Dennard would mark the second straight season the Jets have taken a cornerback in the first round. They have a knack for taking players of the same position in the first round of consecutive drafts. In fact, they've taken a defensive lineman in the first round of each of the previous three drafts. Go figure.

    According to Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com, the Jets will take Dennard with the 18th overall selection. Prisco's colleague Rob Rang dubs Dennard a physical defender who excels in man-to-man coverage on the perimeter. While he's not considered a great athlete, he features excellent body control and solid instincts. He recorded 62 total tackles, including 3.5 for loss, 10 passes defended and four interceptions in his senior season.

    He's a ball hawk on defense. The Jets need a guy like that.

1. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

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    The Jets' best option at receiver in the first round could be former Oregon State standout Brandin Cooks, who lit up the combine with an electric 4.33-second 40-yard dash. He clocked the fastest time among all players at his position, demonstrating an impressive speed burst.

    He would supply the Jets with the type of speed their offense has been lacking for several seasons. Drafting Cooks in the first round would create a solid tandem of size and speed in plugging him opposite Decker.

    At 5'10'' and 190 pounds, he is elusive. He registered more receiving yards than any other wideout in his final collegiate season, racking up 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns on 128 catches. Cooks is dynamic and capable of gaining big chunks of yardage on end-around plays. He recorded 217 rushing yards on 32 attempts in 2013, averaging 6.8 yards per carry.

    The Jets were very interested in drafting dynamic speed threat Tavon Austin in the first round of last year's draft. Cooks showcases similar intrigue. He's a natural playmaker who flaunts outstanding athletic ability. He would greatly improve the Jets offense, which ranked 31st in passing yards in 2013.


    Note: Combine results courtesy of NFL.com.