Who Are Experts Predicting New York Jets to Take in First Round of NFL Draft?

Ryan AlfieriCorrespondent IIIApril 7, 2014

Who Are Experts Predicting New York Jets to Take in First Round of NFL Draft?

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    With the draft rapidly approaching and free agency in the rearview mirror, it is starting to become a bit clearer which players will be realistic targets for each team in the first round of the NFL draft.

    While no one knows for sure what is going to happen on May 8, top draft analysts have a better feel than most observers as to which players teams are leaning toward, and their projections are worth taking into consideration. 

    Here are the latest projections by some of these experts as to whom the New York Jets might select in the first round.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

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    The selection of Brandin Cooks makes a lot of sense on several levels. For one, it is no secret that the Jets have a huge need for a wide receiver opposite Decker, particularly the variety that can add a dimension of speed to stretch the field.

    Boasting a 4.33 40-yard dash, Cooks would be a perfect fit the Jets' need for speed, as Daniel Jeremiah notes:

    The Jets need offensive playmakers and Cooks is an explosive weapon with outstanding production.

    However, there is a downside to Cooks in that he is a bit rough around the edges with his route-running, making him a bit of a project that may take some time to adjust to the NFL. For a team that needs instant contributors out of this draft, Cooks would be a bit of a short-term gamble.

    Of course, the only downside to adding a receiver in the first round is that it leaves the Jets vulnerable at the cornerback and tight end positions, which could be argued as bigger problem areas on the roster. 

     

Odell Beckham, Jr.

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    The question is not whether or not the Jets would be interested in drafting Odell Beckham, Jr. with the 18th-overall pick—what is more in doubt is whether or no the Jets will get the opportunity to make such a decision. 

    Already touted as a first-round talent before the draft process, Beckham Jr. has skyrocketed after he quelled any doubt about his speed with a 4.43 40-yard dash at the combine. In addition to his tremendous body control, hands and timing, Beckham Jr. is one of the most exciting receiver prospects in this draft. As Matt Miller notes, his skill set would be the ying to Eric Decker's yang:

    Odell Beckham does have that potential. The LSU standout attacks the ball as well as any player in this draft, and he shows the speed to make big plays after the catch, too. In an offense featuring Mike Vick or Geno Smith, Beckham's ability to get open underneath or press a defense deep will be huge. 

    The only negative aspect of Beckham as a prospect is his height. At 5'11", Beckham Jr. does not quite fit the prototypical mold of a No. 1 receiver. 

    Nonetheless, he would be a great complement to Decker who would be able to line up anywhere across the formation, including the slot—if the Jets even have a chance to draft him without moving up to do so.

Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

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    If the Jets were to go defensive with their top pick for the sixth consecutive time, Darqueze Dennard would be the ideal player to pick with the 18th selection.

    Dennard would fill the Jets' massive need for a press-man specialist. Dennard is strong at the line of scrimmage and has the flexibility to turn and run with receivers with ease. While his speed is less than ideal (4.51 40-yard dash), Dennard is the best fit for the Jets' preferred style of man-to-man coverage, as Michael Schottey notes:

    The New York Jets swung and missed on a bunch of cornerbacks in free agency and don't have a lot of talent back there in terms of what Rex Ryan needs cornerbacks to do in his scheme—press and man-cover. Luckily for Ryan, Darqueze Dennard is a tough, physical corner who does exactly that. 

    Dennard's polished technique in press coverage makes him an even more attractive option to the Jets, who would love an instant upgrade over the recently signed Dimitri Patterson.

    A lot has to happen for the Jets to be have the opportunity to take Dennard in the first round without moving up, but if he was available, the Jets would take a big step towards solving their issues at the cornerback situation by adding a second first-round talent to the position in as many years.

Marqise Lee, WR, USC

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    Despite his relatively disappointing 2013 season, there are few, if any receivers that would be a better fit opposite Eric Decker than Marqise Lee.

    With Decker handling all of the deep-ball duties making contested catches down the sideline, Lee would take care of the shorter stuff, utilizing his great quickness and acceleration to turn stick routes into long gains—exactly what the Jets were hoping Santonio Holmes would be capable of doing. 

    Doug Farrar recognizes the Jets' need for a dynamic player at the receiver position:

    Through Ryan’s tenure, the offense has always been limited...that’s why it’s time to give Smith, or Michael Vick, or whoever, a receiver of Lee’s caliber. Most everything Lee does seems to be underrated, but with his route awareness and smooth, gliding speed, he brings Reggie Wayne to mind.

    There is some risk that comes along with Lee, as injuries held him to a 2013 season that was about half as productive as his breakout 2012 sophomore campaign.

    If the Jets are able to draft the 2012 version of Lee that surpassed Sammy Watkins in just about every area of production, they may land themselves the steal of the draft that would take their offense to heights they have not reached in years. 

Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

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    While he is not the prototypical man-to-man specialist that Darqueze Dennard is, Justin Gilbert may be an even better cornerback prospect in the long run.

    Gilbert is at his best attacking the ball, reading a quarterback's eyes to make game-changing plays. While not quite as fluid as Dennard in turning and running, he is bigger (6'0") and faster (4.37 40-yard dash), giving him more upside to develop into an elite corner. 

    It seems rather unlikely that Gilbert will slip all the way to the second half of the first round. Even if he is not the ideal scheme fit for the Jets, there are plenty of teams picking before New York that would love to have an aggressive, game-changing cornerback like Gilbert on their roster. 

    However, if Gilbert is available, the Jets should have no qualms about using their top pick on a player who will give the team an elite pair of young corners.