11 Names Every New York Jets Fan Should Know Ahead of 2014 NFL Draft
Before the February 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, USC's Marqise Lee was supposed to be the New York Jets' consensus first-round pick. Other wide receivers such as Texas A&M's Mike Evans, LSU's Odell Beckham, Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin and Oklahoma State's Brandin Cooks have drawn the favorable attention of draft analysts and Jets officials.
With roughly a month to go before the draft, the Jets' draft picture grows murkier. It's no longer a matter of which wide receiver they'll pick. With cornerback now a critical need, ESPN New York's Rich Cimini reports that the Jets are looking at first-round cornerback prospects too.
With all the changes going on, it's probably a good idea to check out a group of possible draft picks with whom you may be unfamiliar. Some are third-day prospects; the majority will be off the board after Round 2.
This list isn't comprehensive. You won't see wide receivers such as Clemson's Sammy Watkins, Lee or Evans. You won't see leading tight end prospect Eric Ebron of North Carolina. You won't see leading cornerback prospects Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State or Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State.
That doesn't mean the Jets aren't interested in them. They've visited most of these players' pro days, scheduled individual visits or in most cases done both.
But the NFL combine drew attention to other players whom you should meet. They're the ones who are putting the speculation back into the Jets' draft-day plans. Not only are they making us question the choice among wide receiver, tight end or cornerback, but they're also making us debate which wide receiver, which tight end and which cornerback.
Players most likely to be part of these debates occupy positions one through eight on this list.
But don't discount the potential of the prospective late picks or undrafted free agents you'll meet. Remember that in 2013, seventh-round pick Tommy Bohanon became the team's starting fullback after Lex Hilliard got hurt. Safety Antonio Allen, a seventh-round pick in 2012, is steadily increasing his contribution to the Jets pass defense. One of this list's lower-ranked players may join them.
A combination of mock-draft placements, team interest as evidenced by pro-day attendance and scheduled visits, and NFL.com profile grading influences this ranking. I'm assuming that the Jets will select one of the three tight ends in the second round and either a cornerback or wide receiver in the first without trading picks.
Now that all of the ground rules are perfectly clear, let's meet a few of the players on the Jets' 2014 draft board.
- NFL draft profiles and grades: NFL.com draft tracker
- Scouting profiles come from NFL.com's draft tracker and Bleacher Report's Pro Player Comparison videos. When these sources disagree on a player's height and weight, I cite the figures from NFL.com.
Before you check out the rankings, take a look at some prospects at other positions whom the Jets might consider. Wide receiver, tight end and cornerback may be their greatest needs, but they're not their only needs. Safety, both outside and inside linebacker and the offensive line are other places they'll look to fill with their 12 picks.
ILB Devekeyan "DeDe" Lattimore, University of South Florida (USF)
Inside linebacker isn't one of the Jets' commonly cited needs, but if they don't re-sign free agent Josh Mauga, that position will need more depth.
Lattimore's run defense reminds Bleacher Report's Matt Miller in the video above of San Diego's Donald Butler. However, Miller cites the 6'0", 237-pound linebacker's lack of size and speed as obstacles to his playing every down.
OLB Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
If he's around by the third or early fourth round, the 6'3", 252-pound Attaochu might be the edge-rusher Rex Ryan has sought since becoming the Jets head coach in 2009. Attaochu had 10.5 sacks in his last six games in 2013 and earned second-team All-ACC and third-team All-American honors. He has played both defensive end and linebacker.
FS Ed Reynolds, Stanford
This two-time first-team All-Pac-12 selection intercepted six passes in his senior year, returning three for touchdowns. A defense striving to increase takeaways might benefit from his ability to focus on the quarterback and play the ball, especially if the 6'1", 207-pound Reynolds overcomes his tendency to stare at the passer and improves his open-field tackling.
SS Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama
This 5'11", 210-pound safety intercepted two passes and returned them for touchdowns before ending his season with a torn ACL. He's the son of Florida State defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri, which has helped him develop a football intelligence that accentuates his physical gifts. He could play a backup safety role while building his main niche on special teams.
OT Matt Patchan, Boston College
The 6'6", 302-pound Patchan may be an undrafted free agent (UDFA) because he only has one full year of collegiate experience. In that year, he was part of a line that blocked for 2,177-yard rusher Andre Williams and earned second-team All-ACC honors. His physique is more appropriate for guard, but he'll need time in the weight room to develop the necessary strength.
He might be worth a spot on the practice squad if the Jets are looking toward 2015's offensive line needs.
11. WR Mike Campanaro, Wake Forest
Wake Forest is one of five schools with three players on the Jets' active roster. Wide receiver Mike Campanaro would like to be the fourth.
The 5'9", 192-pound Campanaro is Wake Forest's all-time leading receiver with 229 receptions, including 67 catches for 803 yards and six touchdowns in 2013 and 73 catches in 2011. That year, Campanaro teamed with Chris Givens to form Wake Forest's all-time receiving duo with 156 catches between them. Campanaro is a two-time second-team All-ACC selection.
He's good at getting open in short and intermediate routes. He adjusts to balls well and is a tough, confident competitor. But he's probably not high on anyone's draft board.
That's because he has limited range, size and strength. He's the type of player who makes catches he shouldn't and drops easier ones. His lack of strength, combined with lack of speed, means that he'll have difficulty both going deep himself and blocking for others. He also has a history of injury.
Still, he had a formal meeting with Jets personnel during the combine. That in itself guarantees nothing, It may simply mean that Campanaro is under consideration for coming to the Jets' camp as either a late-round draft pick or UDFA.
10. WR Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley
A Division II standout, Saginaw State wide receiver Jeff Janis has drawn the attention of Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller as a candidate for a wide receiver position on the Jets.
The 6'3", 219-pound Janis has enjoyed a distinguished career that earned him two Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Offensive Back of the Year awards and two first-team AP Little All-American selections. He accumulated over 4,000 receiving yards from 2011 to 2013.
Janis has great size and leaping ability. He achieves separation either vertically or underneath coverage. In short, he's a great target all over the field, including the red zone. Scouts praise his work ethic and devotion to the game.
The questions scouts have about Janis concern his hands and his response to contact. He tends to compensate for small hands by pulling balls into his body to control them. He also gives the impression that he avoids contact or crowds, not contesting for balls in the air or fighting through contact for extra yardage. That may be because he hasn't had to do so to compile impressive numbers at his competitive level.
Janis' physical attributes are enough to entice teams to take a chance on him in the middle to late rounds. If he has the love of the game his profile suggests, he may learn that to continue playing the game he loves, he must develop a new level of aggressiveness both in making catches and in gaining every possible yard.
If Janis makes that transformation, he could become a surprise of the 2014 season.
9. CB Phillip Gaines, Rice
One surprise in Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller's April 4 mock draft is his third-round pick for the New York Jets: 6'0", 193-pound cornerback Phillip Gaines. Granted, Miller's introduction to this draft makes a significant point: "This isn't a mock draft that attempts to be accurate regarding exactly what will happen on May 8; it is based upon what teams should do on draft day."
Nevertheless, this selection hints that Gaines' stock may be rising.
You wouldn't guess that Gaines would merit such a high pick from his NFL.com profile. A major critique is, "Not equipped to handle man-to-man responsibility." That sounds like enough to eliminate Gaines from consideration as a Rex Ryan cornerback.
A second profile observation seems to fly in the face of the facts. It says that Gaines "lacks desirable speed." However, the profile also displays Gaines' combine numbers, which place him among the leaders in the 40-yard dash, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. That's from a man who lacks speed?
In the above Pro Player Comparison video, Matt Miller sides with the numbers. Miller says that Gaines has the "length, speed and upside" of a "developmental cornerback." That might be how Gaines fits in with the Jets.
That development had better be quick to warrant a third-round pick.
8. TE Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
It's possible that the last three slides introduced you to players who will all be at the Jets' rookie camp this spring. Starting with this slide, things change. You won't see more than two of the next eight players with the Jets.
The two selections will probably include one of the three tight ends you'll meet. But be warned. None of them should last beyond the second round. In scenarios where the Jets pick a cornerback and wide receiver in the first two rounds, these guys will probably go elsewhere.
Meet Troy Niklas. He ranks lowest here because there's been no reason to link him with the Jets. That's no reflection on his talent. NFL.com ranks him behind only North Carolina's Eric Ebron among tight end prospects. However, the Jets have yet to schedule a visit or workout with him.
One reason for the Jets' apparent lack of interest in the 6'6", 270-pound Niklas is that he is not a polished blocker, an essential skill for a tight end of his size. Niklas is a recent convert to tight end, having only played the position for two years and as a full-time starter for one. He accomplished enough in that year (2013) to earn a place as a first-team All-Independent tight end and to be a John Mackey Award semifinalist.
Whoever drafts Niklas will get a tight end whose receiving skills have grown more quickly than his blocking. The Jets have lived with tight ends who could either catch passes or block, but not do both. Niklas presents them with a prospect whose physique and quick transition at least present hope of mastering all parts of the job and becoming their own all-world tight end.
7. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
Although NFL.com's draft profile ranks Notre Dame's Troy Niklas as the slightly better prospect, Austin Seferian-Jenkins' career accomplishments account for his higher ranking here. Seferian-Jenkins comes to the 2014 NFL draft as the reigning John Mackey Award winner, the nation's top tight end.
The 6'5", 262-pound tight end holds several school records for his position, including career totals of 146 receptions, 1,840 yards and 21 touchdowns. He was the first Washington athlete to letter in both football and basketball since Nate Robinson, who played football in 2002 and basketball from 2003 to 2005.
Seferian-Jenkins has many of the same characteristics as Niklas. Despite their similar sizes, both are better receivers than blockers.
But Seferian-Jenkins has one distinguishing trait, according to ESPN New York's Rich Cimini, that may set him apart. In his last two seasons, he has been targeted 149 times and has but three drops. That's a drop percentage of less than 2 percent. What also impressed Cimini was that out of 10 red-zone targets, Seferian-Jenkins scored eight touchdowns. His fellow Washington receivers were 3-of-9.
In the Pro Player Comparison video above, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller compares Seferian-Jenkins to Jacksonville's Marcedes Lewis. Miller thinks more highly of Seferian-Jenkins as a blocker than does NFL.com. On the other hand, Miller would have liked to see Seferian-Jenkins involved in fewer contested catches, because if he couldn't get separation in college, he isn't likely to do so in the faster NFL.
The bottom line with Seferian-Jenkins is this: If he learns to achieve separation against faster NFL defenders, he has the physical tools to be a No. 1 tight end.
6. TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
So far, Texas Tech's Jace Amaro is the only tight end in this list who will visit the Jets.
Amaro's 2013 performance earned him first-team All-American and first-team All-Big-Ten awards, and he was a semifinalist for both the John Mackey and Biletnikoff Awards after catching 106 passes and setting a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) record for tight ends with 1,352 receiving yards.
The 6'5", 265-pound Amaro is similar in size to tight ends Troy Niklas and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Yet, according to his NFL.com profile, his frame will accommodate additional bulk. This is important for gaining the strength that's necessary to neutralize NFL defensive ends when either blocking or running inside routes.
In Amaro's Pro Player Comparison video above, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller states that Amaro has "instant star" potential because of his "pro-level route running," athleticism and hands. Miller provides examples of Amaro selling a blocking role only to run a pattern and of his disciplined athleticism in the red zone.
That may be all he needs to earn a job wearing green and white in 2014.
That's all for tight ends and possible second-round picks. It's time to meet some possible first-round picks, beginning with cornerbacks.
5. CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
The next five slides may include the Jets' first-round draft pick of 2014. It may be one of the two cornerbacks you're about to meet. If so, that will be the third time in the last four years that the Jets selected that position. It no longer seems as improbable as it did at season's end.
NFL.com analyst Bryan Fischer's April 1 mock draft makes the 6'0", 190-pound cornerback the Jets' first-round selection. It's a rare exception to the prevailing view, which has the Jets thinking offense despite their failure to sign a leading free-agent cornerback to replace Antonio Cromartie.
Fischer's analysis reads, "Fuller's toughness and versatility fit what Rex Ryan needs from a cornerback in this division."
New York Post draft analyst Steve Serby likes Fuller as well. His mock draft also makes Fuller the Jets' first-round pick. Serby writes of Fuller:
A four-year starter whose senior season was interrupted by a sports hernia. His stock is on the rise, and [John] Idzik and coach Rex Ryan crave a bookend for Dee Milliner, and this is a 6-foot, 190-pounder with 4.49 speed. Patriots QB Tom Brady hasn't gone anywhere, Darrelle Revis isn't coming back home, so build a Legion of Boom East first and get QBs Geno Smith/Michael Vick another weapon in the second round.
There's room for argument here. Fuller's draft profile suggests the opposite of Serby's view. It acknowledges Fuller's skill in breaking up passes, tackling for losses and being a leader. It highlights his NFL pedigree, which consists of two brothers: six-year Tennessee Titans veteran Vincent Fuller and Detroit Lions practice-squad member Corey Fuller.
But the profile acknowledges one fatal flaw for a cornerback who plays in a Rex Ryan defense: "man-cover limitations." It maintains that Fuller lacks both the strength and speed he would need to succeed as a top man-to-man cornerback.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller describes another obstacle to Fuller's immediate success: injuries.
In Fuller's Pro Player Comparison video above, Miller blames injuries for slowing Fuller's development. He stresses how important it is for a young cornerback to stay healthy as his career begins. Getting as many snaps as possible allows a young cornerback to refine his ability to turn and run with NFL-caliber receivers. Miller sees Fuller as an eventual starter, but not until his second year.
That's not what the Jets need from a first-round pick. Nevertheless, according to ESPN New York's Rich Cimini, they've scheduled a visit with Fuller. Who knows? If they like Fuller's long-term potential, they may try to get by with Darrin Walls, Kyle Wilson and Dimitri Patterson in the No. 2 spot until he is ready.
But if their first-round pick is a cornerback, they'll expect him to begin contributing at some point in his first year. The available player who is most likely to do so will be the player they select.
4. CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
So far, according to ESPN New York's Rich Cimini, four cornerbacks will visit the Jets this offseason:
- Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard
- Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller
- Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, the best cornerback prospect in the draft, according to NFL.com
- Ohio State's Bradley Roby, No. 2 on the NFL.com list
A one-game suspension and an ejection marred Roby's 2013 season. In 2012, though, Roby earned first-team All-Big Ten honors, second-team All-American honors and was a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award.
Roby, 5'11" and 194 pounds, is shorter than the 6'0" Gilbert. That will work to his disadvantage against big receivers and running backs, but for the most part, Roby outplays his size. He is aggressive, nimble and fast, capable of matching receivers move for move and defending routes all over the field. In addition to his aggressiveness in tackling, he has defended 35 passes over two years.
Roby is a skilled blitzer as well as a pass defender. He can also contribute on special teams as a kick-block rusher and gunner.
Both NFL.com and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller (in the above video) see Roby as a potential starter. NFL.com is more limiting, viewing Roby as being a prospective No. 2 corneback.
That's fine as far as the Jets are concerned, if Dee Milliner delivers on being No. 1.
That concludes your introduction to first-round cornerback prospects. It's time to end the introductions with some wide receivers.
3. WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Despite the concern about cornerback, the Jets may still select a wide receiver with their first-round pick. None of their offseason signings, including Eric Decker, has made a career of beating the NFL's leading cornerbacks.
The 5'10", 189-pound Cooks ran a blazing 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine and followed that performance with a 10.72-second time in the 60-yard shuttle.
Cooks won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver in 2013. He earned first-team All-Pac-12 and All-American honors as well. He set single-season Pac-12 records with 128 catches for 1,730 yards.
Cooks' speed is undeniable. However, he may be undersized to be a No. 1 outside receiver. In his Pro Player Comparison video above, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller praised Cooks' ability to get off the line of scrimmage and make plays after the catch but questioned his ability to handle press coverage. In fairness to both Miller and Cooks, Miller conceded he had not seen Cooks in that situation.
If the Jets draft a cornerback in the first round, Cooks may be the best wide receiver available when their turn comes again.
He's supposed to visit the Jets in April, according to NFL.com's Bryan Fischer.
2. WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
If the Jets have their hearts set on Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans but either can't or won't trade up in picks to get him, Kelvin Benjamin presents a similarly sized alternative.
NFL.com ranks the 6'5", 240-pound Benjamin ahead of Evans and second only to Clemson's Sammy Watkins among 2014's crop of wide receivers. However, Evans may possess more raw physical talent. His vertical jump of 37.0 inches at the combine exceeded Benjamin's by 4.5 inches.
Yet, the Jets' interest in Benjamin is strong. Both general manager John Idzik and head coach Rex Ryan attended Benjamin's March 18 pro day.
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News followed up with this report (h/t NFL.com's College Football 24/7):
Jets are very intrigued by Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin, per team source. He'll be visiting #NYJ. "You can't teach 6-5," I was told.— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) April 3, 2014
It's true that you can't teach size. But the Jets already have size in their receiving corps in Eric Decker, Stephen Hill and tight end Jeff Cumberland. What they need more from a No. 1 receiver is speed, the ability to gain separation and avoid contested catches. That's where Benjamin falls short, as his 40-yard dash time at the combine trailed Evans by approximately 0.1 seconds.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller echoes the case against Benjamin in his April 4 mock draft, writing that Benjamin "is impressive but comes into the NFL very raw as a route-runner and lacks deep speed." In Benjamin's Pro Player Comparison video above, Miller adds that Benjamin tends to drop easy throws and must improve his concentration. That's a sentiment with which his NFL.com profile agrees.
If Benjamin can clean up his concentration issues and route running, he might provide the alternative to Evans that a team needing a No. 1 receiver seeks. However, the next player is probably a better alternative for the Jets' specific needs.
1. WR Odell Beckham, LSU
It's time to meet the wide receiver who many consider the best post-combine fit for the New York Jets: 5'11", 198-pound Odell Beckham from LSU.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller likens Beckham to Washginton's DeSean Jackson in this Pro Player Comparison video. Could that be why the Jets passed on Jackson?
Maybe. What's interesting about Beckham is his collegiate designation as an "all-purpose player." That's the role in which he won first-team All-SEC and third-team All-American honors as well as the Paul Hornung Award. He's LSU's all-time leader in single-season all-purpose yards with 2,315.
It sounds like you can expect Beckham to line up in a variety of positions. That would suit offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg just fine, as confronting opponents with multiple offensive looks seemed to be a Jets offensive trademark in 2013.
Beckham plays bigger than his height. Miller compares him to a power forward. His vertical jump of 38.5 inches at the NFL combine beat Kelvin Benjamin's jump by six inches. That goes a long way toward offsetting the six-inch difference in height between Beckham and the 6'5" Benjamin.
Beckham's weaknesses, according to NFL.com, concern his lack of size, speed and strength. He might be willing, but he is sometimes not able to perform well in contested situations, an issue of size and strength.
The Jets are interested enough to see for themselves. NFL.com's Albert Breer reported that both Rex Ryan and Marty Mornhinweg attended LSU's pro day:
Some HCs here at LSU: Sean Payton, Mike Tomlin, Rex Ryan, Mike Zimmer. And GMs: Jerry Reese, John Idzik, Rick Spielman, Kevin Colbert.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 9, 2014
According to NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt, Beckham may have visited the team by the time you read this:
From here on, the speculation will continue to mount until the pick announcements are over. That's one of two predictions I can safely make. The other is that the Jets will find a way to surprise us. They often do.
Follow Philip Schawillie on Twitter: @digitaltechguid.