New York Jets: 5 Bold Predictions for 2014 NFL Draft
The New York Jets have been deliberate in allocating sufficient monetary resources to free-agent talent on the open market this offseason, increasing the need to win the 2014 NFL draft. While the Jets remain in need of several key difference-makers at multiple positions, they face the difficult challenge of making the correct positional decision in each round.
General manager John Idzik has steadily increased the viability of the Jets offense over the course of the new league year, decreasing the immediate need for New York to bolster its receiving corps in the draft. Yet, it remains distinctly probable for the Jets to address their ongoing need for an additional wide receiver in the first round.
The Jets must also select a starting-caliber, pass-catching tight end at some point in the upcoming draft. The second round is expected to be the most opportune segment of the draft to select a tight end, but it's possible for certain players, namely former Washington TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, to drop into the third round.
Aside from solidifying their offense, the Jets also need to improve their secondary and add an edge-rusher capable of improving their ability to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
The 2014 NFL draft is less than than three weeks away and, as the Jets' front office brass begins to finalize the big board, it's time to make a few bold predictions about what Gang Green will do in the war room on draft day:
5. GM Idzik Won't Wait to Draft WR
The Jets aren't as desperate for a wide receiver now as compared to the start of free agency, considering the addition of former Broncos wideout Eric Decker and Titans speed back Chris Johnson. The acquisitions the Jets have made on offense doesn't entirely negate their need for another receiver, but it also doesn't mean they must use their first-round pick on a wideout.
If the Jets weren't in need of a tight end, it would make sense to wait until the second round to make their move for a rookie receiver, specifically because of the amount of depth this particular draft flaunts at that position. New York remains without a true starting tight end, though, and this draft doesn't feature more than a handful of potential impact tight ends. That reality will consequently prompt the Jets to use the 18th overall pick to draft a receiver.
Realistic options mid-first round include former Oregon State vertical speed threat Brandin Cooks, former Southern California wideout Marqise Lee and former Louisiana State receiver Odell Beckham Jr. All three players would improve the Jets' playmaking ability on offense in the 2014 season. While fans and pundits alike have their preferences, the idea is ultimately to improve the team's big-play potential. The Jets should be able to accomplish that in the first round.
Idzik will face pressure from in-house scouts and coaches, namely head coach Rex Ryan, to draft a defensive back in the first round. Even though that remains a realistic possibility, the Jets would better improve themselves by drafting a playmaker on offense at No. 18 overall as opposed to a cornerback or safety.
4. TE Will Be Adressed in 2nd Round
The 2014 NFL draft features just four high-profile tight ends, including former Texas Tech standout Jace Amaro, who demonstrated impressive pass-catching ability in his final collegiate season. The Jets highly covet former North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron over all other prospects at that position, but a solid combine showing put him out of the team's reach at No. 18 overall.
Amaro recorded 106 receptions for 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns in his junior season, averaging 12.8 yards per reception. He also registered top performer status in six drills among tight ends at the annual scouting combine, according to NFL.com. He's arguably the Jets' best option at tight end, if he's available in the second round.
Amaro is also reportedly one of the best tight end options for the Patriots, according to Doug Kyed of NESN.com. Staff members at SI.com also recognize Amaro as a potential fit for the Seahawks at the bottom of the first round. If the Jets are unable to snag Ebron in the first round, which appears highly unlikely, or Amaro with the 49th overall pick, their options begin to dwindle.
CBSSports projects that former Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas and Seferian-Jenkins will both be taken in the second round. Both players figure to be on the Jets' big board, although several mock drafts, including WalterFootball, have 6'6" Seferian-Jenkins dropping to the third round.
The Jets' limited options at tight end will likely prompt Idzik and Co. to pull the trigger on that position in the second round.
3. Drafting a CB Will Happen in 3rd Round
At some point during the upcoming draft, Ryan will get his way. It seems highly improbable for the Jets to enter 2014 with their current combination of cornerbacks. Adding a formidable rookie talent would decrease the possibility of players becoming content within inherent roles and also spruce up competition in camp, a big component of Idzik's managerial mantra.
The Jets' current tandem of starting cornerbacks includes second-year player Dee Milliner, who came on strong toward the end of last season, and veteran free-agent signee Dimitri Patterson, who hasn't played in all 16 games since 2007. New York's current depth chart also includes nickelback Kyle Wilson and coverage corners Darrin Walls and Ellis Lankster.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste is a solid third-round option for the Jets. At 6'3'' and 220 pounds, Jean-Baptiste is the big-bodied type of press-coverage corner that Ryan likes. He excelled in his final collegiate season, racking up 41 tackles, including three for loss, while also registering 12 passes defended and four interceptions.
The former Nebraska product would satisfy a prioritized draft need while also pleasing the Jets' head honcho. While New York is also in need of safety help, drafting a cornerback is a more definitive area of concern. It's a move that will likely be addressed in the third round.
2. Rex Will Influence Selection at OLB
The impact of Ryan in the war room on draft day shouldn't go unwarranted. The Jets need an exterior pass-rusher to help solidify Ryan's exotic blitz scheme. One player who could greatly help improve the Jets' ability to rush the passer is former Louisville defensive lineman Marcus Smith, who wreaked havoc on ball-carriers throughout his final collegiate season.
Smith registered 42 total tackles, including 18.5 for loss, with 14.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in 2013. He also recorded three passes defended, showcasing some degree of awareness and natural coverage ability. At 6'3'' and 252 pounds, Smith fits the Jets' 3-4 base defense. He's too undersized to excel as a down lineman in the NFL and flaunts the intangibles necessary to transition nicely into a stand-up pass-rusher at the next level.
Smith isn't a developmental project, although forcing him into an edge-rushing role from the stance wouldn't be a skill he'd be able to perfect over the course of minicamp. According to Rob Rang of CBSSports, Smith boasts enough power and speed to excel as a 3-4 rush linebacker. The Jets need a guy like that. They tied for 13th in total sacks in 2013, a number they must improve upon in order to assert themselves as the most dominant front seven in the league.
Ryan will forever prioritize defense over offense. It's simply his natural tendency. The Jets have heavily favored improving their defense over skill positions on offense throughout his tenure as head coach. This year figures to be different in that New York is expected to first address offensive needs before turning its attention to bolstering certain units on defense.
1. NYJ Will Not Draft Another DL in 1st Round
Over the previous three NFL drafts, the Jets have taken a defensive lineman in each first round. That trend will assuredly stop in 2014, especially considering needs at other positions and the Jets' relatively concrete front three. The Jets don't need help in the trenches on defense, largely because of Ryan's positive influence in the team opting to solidify that unit over recent seasons.
2013 Defensive ROY Sheldon Richardson is a catalyst for the Jets on defense. He was an outstanding draft selection at No. 13 overall last year, registering 42 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 16 games. He clogged the line for opposing offenses, preventing them from creating rushing lanes. Richardson also proved semi-valuable on offense, rushing for two goal line touchdowns.
The "Sons of Anarchy" are now an established entity of Jets football. The trio of Pro Bowl snub Muhammad Wilkerson, nose tackle Damon Harrison and Richardson is one of the most fierce units in football, depleting the need to even consider bolstering depth at down lineman on defense.
The Jets boast decent backup options at both nose tackle and defensive end. Leger Douzable proved to be a valuable commodity as a role player in 2013 whereas Kenrick Ellis spelled Harrison when needed. As a team, the Jets are far from perfect, but their front line on defense is characteristic of the team Gang Green seeks to become.