5 Best-Case Scenarios for New York Jets in 2014 NFL Draft

Philip Schawillie@@digitaltechguidContributor IIIApril 2, 2014

5 Best-Case Scenarios for New York Jets in 2014 NFL Draft

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    With marquee free-agent signings behind us and the 2014 NFL draft approaching, it's time to turn up the volume on the "hot-stove" conversation. Not only shall we consider who could best help the New York Jets, but we'll explore various strategies for getting them.

    Keep in mind that it's the Jets we're discussing. Too much fancy footwork on draft day often leads to disaster. Think Dewayne Robertson. Think Johnny "Lam" Jones. Think 1984, when the Jets had four selections in the first two rounds. Only one of those picks, offensive lineman Jim Sweeney, made a long-term contribution.

    Trades that reduce a team's number of picks, as the workable scenarios herein depict, are most appropriate for a well-stocked team that is missing one or two pieces to be great. The Jets are not in that category. They need immediate help in the offensive skill positions and the defensive secondary. In fact, they need starter-caliber help. So far, they've found two starters through free agency: wide receiver Eric Decker and right offensive tackle Breno Giacomini. They need more, and the draft may have to provide them.

    That's a major factor in this list's organization. It's almost the only factor. The scenarios that provide the most flexibility get higher rankings. Free agency even plays a role.

    Trading up in the first round has its price. It lets the Jets get a higher-demand player at the cost of missing opportunities in later rounds. That's why the trades on this list rank lowest.

    In that same spirit, a trade that compromises the Jets' drafts in future years is verboten. If John Idzik wants to build through the draft, he needs draft picks, and good ones. He can't afford to mortgage his team's future on a "player du jour." No draft prospect is a sure thing. Some, however, are more sure than others.

    There is another part of each scenario's ranking. It's the scenario's ability to fill three major needs: wide receiver, tight end and cornerback. In most cases, the Jets are going to have to find a diamond in the rough to fill at least one of these needs. The scenarios that make this easiest rank higher.

    As for the draft's lower rounds, we'll leave it to the folks in the Jets' war room to pick the best player on the board. Feel free to make suggestions.

    Those are the ground rules. Now check out the scenarios.



An Unworkable Scenario

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    Before discussing more feasible scenarios, it's important to explore one that would be completely unrealistic and explain why. It concerns the possibility of obtaining a top-five pick to select the draft's best wide receiver prospect, Clemson's Sammy Watkins.

    Only South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney has a higher draft grade than Watkins on NFL.com. Watkins is a legitimate top-five pick. In Watkinss' Pro Player Comparison video, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller calls him similar to Cincinnati's A.J. Green, citing Watkins' explosiveness in space. 

    Here's why the Jets can't have him. They'd have to give up too many picks.

    The draft value chart conceptualizes each pick's relative value. It's a guideline GMs use when trading picks. For example, here's how one transaction from 2013 computed. 

    The St. Louis Rams wanted Tavon Austin, but feared he would be gone by their assigned 16th pick. The Buffalo Bills picked eighth. To make an equitable deal, the Rams didn't just give the Bills their first-round pick. They included their second-round and seventh-round picks as well. The teams exchanged third-round picks like they did the first.

    The Bills gained two extra picks but dropped in position in both the first and third rounds. It served their purposes, as they could still draft E.J. Manuel. 

    That trade worked because the Rams 16th pick had a value of only 400 points less than the Bills eighth pick. Yet they still gave up another high-round pick to make up most of the difference. In the end, the point values of each side's picks were roughly equivalent. They'll rarely match exactly.

    Now take the Jets at No. 18, worth 900 points. To make a similar transaction they would have to target a higher pick worth not much more than 1,300 points, which is the 10th pick. The eighth pick, which is barely feasible, is worth 1,400 points, the fifth pick is worth 1,700 points and the fourth pick is worth 1,800.

    The Jets would have to exhaust their tradeable picks to make up the 800-point difference between the fifth and 16th picks. They'd be left with their No. 8 pick and their four compensatory picks. Alternatively, they could substitute high-round picks from 2015, as this example proposes. 

    Such a trade is theoretically possible, but it seems to be contrary to the draft-oriented philosophy that general manager John Idzik espouses. That's what makes this scenario unworkable in the Jets' current culture.

    The Jets may work a trade in the 2014 draft. It won't get them a top-five pick. It won't get them Sammy Watkins.

5. Trade for Eighth Pick

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    If the Jets are determined to draft either North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron or Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans, they will have to explore the possibility of trading up in the first round. 

    As of March 31, mock drafts by Daniel Jeremiah, Charles Davis, Bucky Brooks and Mike Huguemn of NFL.com project that the earliest either might go would be in pick nine to the Buffalo Bills. If the Jets could swing a trade with Minnesota for the No. 8 pick, they might have a shot at one of them. 

    Minnesota may not want to trade, especially if they're hunting quarterbacks. But if they want to pursue other needs, the deal has a chance. We won't know until draft day. 

    The transaction itself is workable. The simplest way would have the Jets add their 2014 second-round and their second fourth-round pick to the deal. They'd still have 10 picks, including the eighth. The downsides are that half of those picks would reside in the sixth and seventh rounds and that their search for a cornerback would probably wait until the fourth round.

    This scenario works best if the Jets select Ebron. Wide receiver is a deeper prospect pool than tight end in the 2014 draft and the Jets would need to find one in the third round.

    They could definitely find a starting receiver. The question is if he'd be the best fit for their needs. The best remaining prospects might be guys such as Penn State's Allen Robinson, LSU's Jarvis Landry or Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews. Their profiles suggest they would be great as No. 2 or slot receivers. That's not what the Jets need as they already have Jeremy Kerley in the slot and Eric Decker as (ideally) a No. 2. 

    NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah is more optimistic about their chances to select someone such as USC's Marqise Lee, whose injury and recent performance history might push him out of the first round. Oregon State's Brandin Cooks could also be available.

    The Jets' real offensive need isn't specific to tight end or wide receiver. They need game-changers, regardless of which position they play. Whether that asset comes from tight end in the person of Ebron or from wide receiver in the person of Evans is not as big an issue as that it comes from someone. 

    That leaves the question of cornerback. 

    There's an intriguing possibility who's projected to be a fourth round selection: Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste. He's got the size at 6'3" and 218 pounds to compete with bigger receivers, but would be a project in terms of upgrading his football knowledge to the NFL level. Still, diamonds in the rough are often necessary gambles in the middle to late rounds. 

    But this scenario leaves the Jets little choice. The next trade scenario provides more options.

4. Trade for 10th Pick

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    A more flexible alternative to obtaining the eighth pick would be to let the Bills have their choice of Ebron or Evans, then trade with the Lions for the 10th pick. The NFL.com mock drafts from the last slide indicate that the Lions' first-round pick will be defensive. They're not competing foreither  Ebron or Evans.

    This scenario gives the Jets more options. They can either confine their loss to one additional pick or keep their second-round pick at the cost of four picks in rounds three through five. Their compensatory picks let them keep a minimum of eight. 

    Quantity Over Quality

    In this version of the trade the Jets complete it by adding their second-round pick to pick 18. The value of those two picks is 1,310 points against the eighth pick's 1,300.

    If they use the pick to draft Evans, they might have to wait until the fourth round to select a tight end. Candidates such as Notre Dame's Troy Niklas, Texas, Tech's Jace Amaro and Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins will most likely go in the second round.

    Draft profiles indicate a significant drop in quality between those three,  and the remaining prospects. That's not based on grades as much as projected selection round. They could try someone such as Oregon's Colt Lyerla. His combination of physical talent and difficult past may keep him available. 

    In the third round, the Jets would fill their cornerback need by selecting someone such as Virginia Tech's IAntone Exum or Ohio's Travis Carrie.

    The Jets would retain 11 picks in this version of the trade and be present in all rounds but the second.

    Quality Over Quantity

    To preserve their second-round pick the Jets must give up every non-compensatory pick from the third through fifth rounds. Those four picks are worth 397 points. That makes the Jets' offer worth 1,297 points, roughly equivalent to the No. 8 pick's 1,300.

    Thanks to compensatory picks in the fourth and sixth rounds, the Jets would retain eight picks overall. They'd be absent from the third and fifth rounds.

    If they used the No. 8 pick to select Evans, they might have a chance at a tight end like Niklas, Amaro or Seferian-Jenkins in the second round. Their chance at a cornerback would have to wait until their fourth-round compensatory pick. As in the trade for the eighth pick, Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste might provide the answer.

    By now you should have a grasp of the pros and cons of trading picks. The team that trades up usually gives up more picks than it gains. The team trading down loses position in at least one round, but gains more picks overall. The strategy has its place, but the 2014 draft may not be the right place for the Jets. They need too much help in too many places.

3. Leave Things the Way They Are and Pick Cornerback First

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    In this scenario the Jets neither trade for picks nor make a significant free-agent acquisition. They enter the draft with the same set of needs they had at the end of March. 

    I haven't looked at every mock draft that's out there. But those I've seen have consistently predicted the Jets to pick a wide receiver.

    Suppose that doesn't happen. What if they pick a defensive player for the seventh time in eight years? 

    It would result from the failure to re-sign Antonio Cromartie or obtain a free-agent replacement. As it stands today, the Jets would probably start  Darrin Walls opposite Dee Milliner, with Kyle Wilson in the slot. At the moment, Rex Ryan sings their praises, but he doesn't have much choice.

    Reported pro day visits focus on wide receivers and tight ends. That doesn't mean the Jets couldn't draft a cornerback, but it seems less improbable.

    The occasional draft expert, such as CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco, flirts with the idea. So says Jets' reporter Charlie Frankel in his piece, "One Website, 5 Different No. 1 Picks for Jets":

    Pete Prisco projects the Jets to go with a player at a position that we at newyorkjets.com have not come across in any other first-round mock drafts to date: cornerback.

    “Take a look what they have now. There isn’t much,” Prisco writes. For that reason, the Jets would make Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard their second rookie cornerback taken in the first round in as many years.

    The 5’11”, 199-pound Jim Thorpe Award winner is widely regarded as the top defensive back in this year’s draft class, although Prisco has Alabama safety Hasean Clinton-Dix and Oklahoma State corner Justin Gilbert off the board, to the Bears at No. 14 and Steelers at 15 respectively. Dennard earned All-Big Ten first-team honors in each of his two most recent seasons and ran a 4.51 40-yard dash during February’s combine.

    There's no evidence of that idea in Prisco's current mock draft, which has the Jets picking wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

    For argument's sake, let's say Rex Ryan gets to pick a first-round cornerback for the second consecutive year. His choice would probably be between Gilbert, Dennard, Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller and Ohio State's Bradley Roby. He'd get his blue-chip corner. Where do the Jets go next?

    They need a No. 1 wide receiver or speed receiver to return Eric Decker to his proper role. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah is optimistic about their chances. Jeremiah believes that potential starters at wide receiver exist through the middle rounds. He mentions USC's Marqise Lee as someone whose injury and recent performance history might push him out of the first round. Jeremiah thinks Oregon State's Brandin Cooks could also be available.

    Tight end is another story. The pickings thin out after North Carolina's Eric Ebron, Texas Tech's Jace Amaro, Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Notre Dame's Troy Niklas. The Jets might hold off on tight end until the fourth round, where they could take someone such as Oregon's Colt Lyerla. whose combination of physical talent and difficult past might keep him on the draft board. The Jets could use the third round to address another need such as safety.

    Obtaining a top-flight cornerback could let Rex Ryan run the Jets' defense as he prefers. However, even a first-round cornerback would experience rookie growing pains, so the Jets might not reap the benefits immediately. Meanwhile, the offense would risk obtaining a less talented wide receiver and tight end.

2. Leave Things the Way They Are; Focus on Offense First

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    This is the second scenario in which the Jets neither trade for picks nor make a significant free-agent acquisition. They enter the draft with the same set of needs they had at the end of March. However, instead of throwing the draft experts a curve by selecting a cornerback, the Jets do what everyone expects. They put offense first.

    They will probably not get the chance to draft such prospects as North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron or Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans. But this draft leaves other good options with which to address their offensive needs with some pretty good options. 

    Wide Receiver

    In Jeff Cumberland and Eric Decker, the Jets already have size at tight end and wide receiver. They need to add speed, someone who can both generate yards after the catch and beat defenders deep. 

    Marqise Lee has been the front-runner for the Jets' first-round pick. He lost ground after his disappointing 4.52-second time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Faster alternatives include Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, LSU's Odell Beckham and Mississippi's Donte Moncrief. 

    Of these four, Jets' representatives have attended the pro days of Lee and Cooks. 

    Tght End

    If the Jets don't trade for a higher pick, the consensus No. 1 prospect at tight end Eric Ebron may very well be gone. Alternatives exist in the second round, of whom the Jets have visited one, Texas Tech's Jace Amaro. 

    Other second-round possibilities are Notre Dame's Troy Niklas and Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

    One of those should be a viable tight end for the Jets. That leaves the third of their top needs, cornerback.


     Top cornerback prospects would be gone by the third round. Players such as Virginia Tech's Antone Exum or Ohio's Travis Carrie might be the best Rex Ryan can get. He may have to take a corner whose forte isn't man-to-man coverage. It's not the way Ryan would prefer to play defense, but redesigning his secondary schemes to suit his personnel would provide him a chance to raise his defensive genius to another level. It's a challenge he should relish.

1.Find Free-Agent Solution to One Key Need and Leave Things the Way They Are

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    In this scenario, the Jets clear their upper-round logjam by signing a leading free agent to fill a need such as wide receiver, tight end or cornerback. They address the other needs in the draft.

    It won't be easy. The cream of the free-agent crop is gone for all practical purposes. That means the Jets would have to snap up another team's cut, with all the baggage that might go with him.

    As of Sunday, March 30, the best way they have to accomplish this scenario is to sign former Philadelphia Eagles' wide receiver DeSean Jackson. He is a Pro Bowl wide receiver who would address a major team need, but who, as the videio indicates, carry more baggage than missing the occasional team meeting.

    Washington and Oakland might be leading the Jackson sweepstakes. NFL.com writer Chris Wesseling reports that Jackson will have visited Washington on March 31. He initiated contact with the Raiders even before his release. 

    ProFootballTalk reported that Jackson and Washington all but reached a deal. As of the evening of April 1 there has been no official confirmation.   

    Meanwhile the Jets are still brainstorming the best approach. According to ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini, new Jets' quarterback Micheal Vick and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who both worked with Jackson in Philadelphia, have endorsed his joining the Jets. As of Saturday, March 29, general manager John Idzik had yet to approach Jackson's agent.

    Let's say that lightning strikes and the Jets sign Jackson. That would complete the upgrade of both starting wide receivers. They could spend the early picks monitoring the board. Most likely North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron will be gone by pick 18. But a top cornerback prospects such as Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, Ohio State's Bradley Roby or Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard should remain.

    The Jets could select a tight end such as Notre Dame's Troy Niklas, Texas Tech's Jace Amaro or Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round. Perhaps a free safety such as Wyoming's Marqueston Huff or a strong safety such as LSU's Craig Loston will be available in the third. From there it will be a case of taking the best player available. 

     Jackson's next team may well be known by the time you read this. Regardless, it's the kind of opportunity the Jets must exploit between now and the draft. Otherwise, they'll have to find hidden treasures in the lower rounds with which to fill their major holes.

    NOTE: On April 1, the Jets signed cornerback Dimitri Patterson and wide receiver Jacoby Ford. These players aren't established starters and don't fit this scenario.

    Follow Philip Schawillie on Twitter: @digitaltechguid.