Jets Draft Stock Watch: 10 Players Rising and Falling Down New York's Board
With the bulk of free agency in the rearview mirror, NFL rosters and holes within them are starting to become more defined. As a result, all 32 teams can adjust their draft boards with more confidence based on their individual needs.
There won't be drastic shifts up and down draft boards, but the results from pro days and the NFL combine, will make teams shuffle players around in accordance with their post-free-agency roster.
Here are 10 players who have changed their position on the Jets draft board.
Combine numbers provided by NFL.com.
Rising: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Among the array of receivers set to be available for the Jets in the first round, USC's Marqise Lee is starting to emerge as the most logical choice for the Jets with the 18th-overall pick.
Despite a hefty drop in production from his outstanding 2012 season, Lee brings a lot to the table as a fluid athlete who can turn a short hitch route into a long gain—a la Santonio Holmes. With Eric Decker specializing in tracking the deep ball, Lee would be an ideal complement on the opposite side.
The connection between Lee and the Jets has grown stronger as the draft process as gone on. The Jets' brass (including offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg) had a strong presence at USC's pro day, spending the majority of their time getting accumulated with Lee, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News:
There is a very real chance that Lee will be scooped up before the Jets have a chance to take him in the second half of the first round. Nonetheless, the Jets seem to be as interested in Lee as any other receiver in the draft.
Falling: Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
The Robin or Odell Beckham Jr. Batman, Jarvis Landry's stock has taken a severe blow since disappointing at the combine.
Once viewed as a second-round prospect, Landry has a lot of work to do in order to reclaim his former status. His 4.77 40-yard dash, 12 reps in the bench and 28.5-inch vertical jump have put just about every aspect of his athleticism into question.
Working on LSU WR Jarvis Landry. His measurables from the Combine are arguably the worst of any player at the WR position in the past 10 yrs— Shawn Zobel (@ShawnZobel) March 23, 2014
The only thing Landry has going for him is the fact that he game never centered around great measureables. His specialization as a "Z" receiver who can work underneath routes may make him a fit on some teams, but not the Jets.
After signing Eric Decker, a prototypical "Z" receiver, the Jets have little use for a receiver with limited speed and explosion, especially as early as the second day of the draft. The only way Landry should end up in green and white is if he plummets so far in the draft that he provides too much value to pass up.
Rising: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Odell Beckham Jr. has separated himself even further as the top LSU receiver in this year's draft.
While his teammate, Jarvis Landry, struggled at the combine, Beckham Jr. flourished. His 4.43 40-yard dash all but erased any concerns about his speed. He does have a somewhat smaller frame at 5'11", but his combination of supreme body control, hands and athleticism is off the charts.
As a result, there is no doubt that Beckham is in consideration for the Jets at No. 18. The problem is, Beckham has been so good in his workouts that there is a growing chance that he will be gone before the Jets will even have to make such a decision.
Falling: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
As the process leading up to the draft wears on, it looks less and less that Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin will have his name called before Round 3.
Benjamin is known for his great size and ability to make a spectacular catch, but he does not offer much else. A poor route-runner with erratic concentration (which is ironic considering that he is capable of making difficult catches), Benjamin may be too much of a project for a team like the Jets who need immediate help at the position.
According to Rob Rang of CBSSports.com, Benjamin did not even attempt to improve upon his average combine numbers (4.61 in the 40).
Benjamin was projected to be a second-round pick by many prior to the draft because of his measurables. The fact that his numbers have been average and that he is content to let them stand will turn off many teams.
Rising: Antone Exum, DB, Virginia Tech
Needing a ton of help in their stripped-down secondary, expect the Jets to become more and more attracted to Virginia Tech product Antone Exum as the draft approaches.
Exum is a physical and instinctive player with limited speed, making him an ideal candidate to make the conversion to safety—a position where the Jets could use an infusion of young talent.
However, the biggest question surrounding Exum is the ACL injury he suffered last offseason that sidelined him for most of 2013. Still, that didn't keep Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman from taking a close look at Exum at his pro day, according to Tony Pauline of WalterFootball.com
Thurman stated that Exum will be "fine" coming back from his injury and that he was impressed by Exum's tape.
Exum's stock is already at an all-time low because of his injury, but the Jets may not be afraid to take a chance on him if the price is right.
Rising: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Forget the fact that he dropped a few passes at his pro day (h/t NFL.com): Eric Ebron remains at the throne as the top tight end in the draft.
For a team with one (somewhat) proven tight end on the roster in Jeff Cumberland, Ebron's rare combination of size, speed and athleticism would finally quench the Jets' thirst for a dynamic playmaker at the position. His combine numbers put himself in another tier relative to the only other potential first-round picks at the combine, including Jace Amaro:
Top 40 times for TEs: A.C. Leonard 4.50, Eric Ebron 4.60, Colt Lyeria 4.61, Trey Burton 4.62, Jace Amaro 4.74. #NFLCombine— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) February 23, 2014
The only real downside to Ebron is despite his incredible athleticism, he does have some issues with concentration—which was on display at his pro day. However, even if he does drop the occasional "gimmie," his presence alone opens up more opportunities for other players on the field.
The problem for the Jets is that Ebron will likely go much higher than the Jets' selection at 18. If general manger John Idzik wants Ebron, he will probably have to pay a premium to trade up.
Falling: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Jordan Matthews has not done anything to hurt his draft stock this spring. In fact, his strong Senior Bowl and combine (4.46 40-yard dash) will have only helped his stock.
The obstacle standing in the way of a Matthews-Jets marriage is his style of play. While Matthews is not a slow player, he relies on his physicality and body control to reel in contested catches—just like the recently signed Eric Decker.
Matthews would still be an upgrade over what the Jets currently have set to line up opposite Decker, but the offense is in need of a speedy "X" receiver who will stretch the field—hence the reason the team has been linked to trade rumors involving DeSean Jackson (h/t Ian Rapoport of NFL Network).
With so many other faster receivers available throughout the draft, look for the Jets to target a different type of receiver, especially in the early rounds where they are looking for immediate contributors.
Rising: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
While players like Jarvis Landry have taken a step back in the draft process, athletic freaks like Oregon State's Brandin Cooks have stolen the spotlight.
Once regarded by many to be a third-round prospect, Cooks' combination of speed and hands has been impossible to ignore. His blazing 4.33 40-yard dash at the combine suggests that he is even faster than what he showed on tape.
Cooks is known as being a bit raw as a route-runner and will need some work to fine-tune his game and beat NFL cornerback, but he has shown noticeable improvement in this area, even prompting legendary evaluator and NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt to compare Cooks to Wes Welker.
Nonetheless, his speed will be more than welcome on a Jets offense that deploys a bunch of slower receivers and needs someone to be able to stretch the field.
If the Jets are forced to use their first-round pick on a cornerback, Cooks could be an exceptional option in the second round.
Falling: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
As much as Marcus Roberson would seem like the perfect fit in Rex Ryan's aggressive defense with his ability to play physical, press-man coverage, the Jets should be very cautious about using an early pick on him, if only because of his poor workouts.
Specifically, Roberson's speed has become a major issue. According to Rob Rang of CBSSports.com, one scout had clocked Roberson's 40-yard dash at his pro day at a 4.71—slower than most tight ends.
To be fair, the poor conditions at the workout may have contributed to the slow times across the board at Florida's pro day. As we have seen over and over again, recorded times do not always equate to "game speed."
Roberson still offers a lot in terms of his ability to play press coverage, and he has shown an ability to change directions quickly. But a Jets team that needs a viable starter right away would be reaching to take a player in the first round who has tested so poorly leading up to the draft.
Rising: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
After missing out on the opportunity to sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Jets may be forced to use their first-round pick on a cornerback, as Rex Ryan needs a talent upgrade there to run his high-pressure defense.
As a result, the Jets will be taking a hard look at some of the low-end first-round talent available, starting with Kyle Fuller.
Fuller has everything a team could want in a man-to-man cornerback. Physical, athletic and technically sound, Fuller is at least as, if not more, "pro ready" as Dee Milliner was when he came out of Alabama. At the combine, Fuller checked off all of the boxes by easing concerns about his speed with a 4.49 40-yard dash.
However, because Fuller has had such a strong spring, there is a growing chance that one of the teams picking before the Jets will take him earlier than expected. Given New York's extreme need at the position, trading up to ensure that it lands Fuller (or another cornerback the front office likes) is not out of the realm of possibility.