The New York Jets face an interesting decision in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, where they must fill a gaping void on their 53-man roster. The most popular opinion among Jets Nation is for the team to use its first pick to acquire an additional playmaking receiver who can complement Eric Decker on the outside.
The Jets' receiving corps remains without a substantial speed threat other than draft bust Stephen Hill, who has failed to develop his skill set over two seasons as a pro. New York has been linked to several high-profile names occupying a receiver-rich draft class. General manager John Idzik is seemingly exploring every possible first-round option, including players at other positions.
The most notable vertical-speed threats likely to be available at No. 18 overall, where the Jets are scheduled to make their first-round selection, are former Oregon State wideout Brandin Cooks and former Louisiana State receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Both players would give the Jets offense the home run potential it's seeking to add.
New York's passing game was abysmal yet again in 2013, largely because of a lack of talent at the skill positions. The Jets ranked as the 31st-"best" passing team in league last season, averaging 183 yards through the air per game.
Gang Green has already greatly improved their offense this offseason, signing free-agent receiver Decker while also adding explosive speed back Chris Johnson and veteran quarterback Michael Vick. Drafting a legitimate playmaking receiver would further enhance the Jets offense, pushing it toward the cusp of potency.
While head coach Rex Ryan continuously employs a defense-first mentality as a defensive-minded strategist, the days of the Jets massively struggling on offense could be nearing an end.
The case for Beckham Jr., as opposed to potentially selecting Cooks (5'10", 189), is that his frame and stature make him better suited to excel as an outside target. Cooks figures to be a solid NFL talent, but the Jets already possess a reliable slot receiver in Jeremy Kerley. Although it wouldn't be unconventional to utilize two slot receivers, the Jets will likely remain a run-first team in 2014, considering the dynamic combination of the "two-dreaded monster" of Johnson and Chris Ivory.
At 5'11'' and 198 pounds, Beckham Jr. doesn't feature elite size. According to Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com, Beckham Jr. projects as a flanker at the next level, where he can take advantage of his run-after-catch skills.
The Jets likely wouldn't be opposed to using Beckham Jr. as a slot back, though. Beckham Jr. showcased electric speed-burst ability at the combine, clocking a 4.43-second 40-yard dash time, according to NFL.com. While some scouts question his vertical speed, Beckham Jr. is fast enough to gain separation on the perimeter.
Beckham Jr. made a name for himself as a receiver in his final collegiate season, registering 57 catches for 1,117 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 19.6 yards per reception. He was formerly known for his punt-return skills. He led the nation with 35 returns in his sophomore season during 2012, averaging a respectable 9.1 yards per return.
He's a fluid athlete that ultimately boasts substantial upside. His raw athletic ability is something that should benefit the Jets offense, especially considering its ongoing need for playmakers.
Which receiver should the Jets draft in the first round?
The most impressive aspect of Beckham Jr.'s style pf play is perhaps his agility. He showcased his cutback ability at the combine, recording top performer status in the 20- and 60-yard shuttles. Beckham Jr. embodies a solid skill set. He uses his hands to snatch catches over the top of defenders, utilizing adequate length to make plays. While he doesn't flaunt front-line speed, he's quick enough to get open downfield.
With the No. 18 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Jets' best playmaking option could be Beckham Jr., who would bring the type of raw talent the team has been lacking on offense during the Ryan era. He's certainly not the "best" receiver available in this year's draft, but he features an impressive skill set that would improve the Jets' big-play potential—a necessary element in the pass-happy NFL.