New York Jets 2014 NFL Draft Fact or Fiction
As the draft rapidly approaches, the rumor mill will only continue to spin as teams try to scrape every ounce of leverage they can get in preparation for draft day.
While some of the rumors are true, many of them are smokescreens intended to confuse other teams and drive up prices in trade negotiations. Some teams even perform smear campaigns against prospects, hoping that the rest of the league will buy their slander to cause a prospect to slip down the draft.
However, even without any sources, we can tell that the Jets will be interested in certain positions more than others based on their pre-draft visitations and obvious needs. Now, the trick is working through the smokescreens to find the truth in their actions.
Here is a breakdown of the fact and fiction of the Jets' pre-draft philosophy for 2014.
The Jets Are Guaranteed to Go Offense in Round 1: FICTION
As much as Jets fans would love to see their team field a respectable offense for the first time in several years next year, there is one reason why the Jets should put themselves in a corner and ignore the defensive side of the ball completely.
As difficult as their offense was to watch last year, the idea that their defense can be left alone for Rex Ryan to figure out is irresponsible. In particular, the Jets have a need for a shutdown cornerback opposite Dee Milliner, even after the acquisition of Dimitri Patterson.
Patterson is a decent option as a stop-gap veteran, but the 22nd-ranked pass defense is not going to get back to its elite form without another elite talent at the position. The Jets realize their massive need in their secondary, evidenced by their visitation with first-round prospect Kyle Fuller, per Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.
No one would fault the Jets for electing to use their top pick on an offensive player, especially given their ineptitude on that side of the ball under Rex Ryan's watch. However, the odds of the Jets using their top pick on an offensive or defensive player are about even, despite using their last five first-round picks on the defensive side of the ball.
Brandin Cooks Becoming a First-Round Option: FACT
If the Jets do choose to take the offensive route in the first round, they won't be short of options at the wide receiver position. This stellar class is loaded with depth and elite talent that will leave the Jets with a few options to pick from in the first round.
One player who has started to stand out more than others has been Oregon State's Brandin Cooks. Regarded by many to be a second-day pick before the draft process, Cooks' performance in workouts has turned heads, running a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash.
The speed-depleted Jets have certainly taken notice of Cooks' numbers, showing a lot of interest in him by bringing him in for a pre-draft visit and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg being present for his pro day.
The more Cooks continues to impress, the less comfortable the Jets can get with the idea of him even being available. Cooks' speed may make him more attractive than a (relatively) slower player like Marqise Lee to some teams—especially those in desperate need of speed, like the Jets.
The Jets Can Wait to Draft a Tight End: FICTION
For as many needs as the Jets have, they are fortunate that two of their top needs at wide receiver and cornerback align with the strengths of this year's draft class. If they don't select one in the first couple of rounds, they can at least find some mid-round prospects who can contribute.
However, when it comes to the tight end position, the Jets cannot wait around to expend a pick on the position if they are looking for a player who won't need much time to develop.
This year's class features a few first-round prospects, including Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Notre Dame's Troy Niklas is a solid second-round prospect, but there is a steep drop-off after Niklas comes off the board.
With only one experienced player on the roster (Jeff Cumberland), the Jets cannot afford to wait around to draft a developmental prospect to wait in the wings. The Jets need instant contributors who can play at an NFL level without taking much time to adjust.
Jets Are Intrigued by Jace Amaro: FACT
The Jets may be looking to add one of the stud wide receivers to their team in the first round, but not without taking a long look at upgrading the most depleted position on the roster: the tight ends.
While the Jets would love to add a talent like North Carolina's Eric Ebron to their roster, the odds of them being able to draft him without trading up are optimistically minute. However, the Jets do have another first-round option at tight end in Texas Tech product Jace Amaro.
Used mostly detached from the formation as a "joker" tight end at Texas Tech, Amaro would instantly give the Jets a dynamic one-two punch at the position with Jeff Cumberland already in place, at least from a receiving perspective.
Amaro does not have much experience in the blocking aspect of the game (especially in-line blocking), but he is a willing blocker when asked and could at least develop into a capable player in this area.
According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Jets are "intrigued" by the possibility of rounding out their tight end position with the selection of Amaro and will bring him in for a pre-draft visit.
While he may not be their top option in the first round, he could be an instant contributor for the Jets at a position that desperately needs help.
The Jets Will Look to Acquire More Picks: FICTION
It is not that the Jets would not like to have even more picks than they already do—but with 12 selections (four compensatory) to spend already, adding more volume to the rookie class would almost be counterproductive.
Having such a large influx of young talent is more than welcome, but the Jets must be ready to accommodate this incoming class. They have plenty of cap room to sign all of these players, but it does not mean they have a roster spot for so many players.
They could certainly use their non-compensatory picks to move up and down the board (compensatory picks cannot be traded) as they see fit, especially in the middle rounds when the stakes are not quite as high. Ultimately, however, it seems unlikely that the Jets would intentionally continue to hoard picks with so many at their disposal already.
If the right offer comes around for the Jets to move down, they may certainly do so—but they would likely use their newly acquired picks to move up at a later time. After all, as much as the Jets need to round out their depth, adding quality players is just as important as adding a certain quantity of players.
Drafting a Quarterback Is in Play: FACT
After adding the top free-agent quarterback in Michael Vick, it seems unlikely that the Jets would bother to tinker with the quarterback position by adding another prospect in the draft.
While the position is certainly less of a priority, the Jets should still be involved in the young quarterback market as long as there are questions about their incumbent starter.
Vick and Geno Smith will take up the two top spots on the depth chart in an order that will be determined in training camp. However, there are still questions about the development of Matt Simms, who has not given the coaches any indication that he is capable of becoming a starting-caliber player anytime soon.
It would be unlikely that the Jets end up taking a chance on a first-round prospect, but adding a mid-round passer like Zach Mettenberger or Logan Thomas would give the Jets an extra developmental toy to play with on the bottom of the depth chart.
After all, continuing to take chances on later-round prospects gives the Jets a chance to land a diamond in the rough with the next coming of Russell Wilson or Tony Romo. If the Jets play the lottery enough times, they just might eventually win.
The Jets Will Move Up in the First Round for a Wide Receiver: FICTION
Trading down may not be in their best interest over the long term of this draft, but they have even less of a reason to trade up into the top half of the first round.
As attractive as a player of Sammy Watkins' caliber is to a receiver-needy team like the Jets, throwing away a bunch of hard-earned picks on one player would be a waste of resources considering how deep this draft is at wide receiver.
While Watkins may be the best receiver in this class, he is only marginally better than the players selected a few spots after him. In other words, a combination of a player of Marqise Lee's caliber and another high draft pick is much more valuable than what Watkins brings to the table.
It is also worth noting that the Jets have had a bad history of aggressively trading up in the draft recently (see Sanchez, Mark), and a new administration would not want to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors.
If Watkins were the only stud receiver in this class, making an aggressive play up the draft board would be a more realistic option. However, given the depth of this class and the sheer amount of needs, the Jets are better off waiting for the board to come to them and take the best player available in most situations.
Trading for a Veteran Is in Play: FACT
Making drastic moves up and down the board may not make a lot of sense for the Jets, but they could use their picks in a more unconventional fashion: trading them for veterans on the trade block.
Thanks to their hoarding of draft picks over the past year and relative inactivity in free agency, they are able to fit in a heftier veteran contract much easier than most teams and have the ammo to make deals happen.
While the trading block has cooled off since the start of the league year in the beginning of March, the draft could drastically change the complexion of rosters literally overnight. For example, a team could walk away with a player they did not anticipate on being able to draft, making one of their veterans expendable for the Jets to make an offer for.
John Idzik has shown the willingness to make such deals last year when he traded a fourth-round pick to the Saints for running back Chris Ivory.
Veterans are more expensive and have less upside than their rookie counterparts, but they are proven commodities that teams can rely on. With huge holes at the receiver, tight end and cornerback position, the Jets are in need of starting-caliber players as much as any team in the league.
If a player at one of those need positions hits the trading block, expect the Jets to show heavy interest.