The New York Jets are tied with the St. Louis Rams at 12 apiece for the most picks in the 2014 NFL draft. That means the Jets have the flexibility to be one of the most active teams on the weekend of May 8.
Their first-round selection is the 18th overall pick, but with 11 other picks, the Jets could easily move up to grab a coveted prospect. That being said, the 2014 draft is being heralded as one of the deepest in recent memory, so the Jets could also trade down to acquire more picks to give themselves even more flexibility to grab falling players later in the draft.
In order to understand what the Jets could or should do with their first-round pick, we should first get an idea of what to expect from what could happen before the Jets pick. To do so, I ran a simulation of the first 17 picks in the draft using FanSpeak's "On The Clock" mock draft simulator, which allows users to make the selections for a team of their choosing while filling in the blanks for the other 31 teams.
FanSpeak also allows users to select from one of three different prospect rankings, so I ran one simulation on each board. These are the top 10 players available at No. 18 in each draft:
|Best players available|
|Board||FanSpeak||Optimum Scouting||Walter Football|
|1||Eric Ebron (TE, UNC)||Eric Ebron (TE, UNC)||Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)|
|2||Louis Nix III (DT, Notre Dame)||Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA)||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)|
|3||Dee Ford (OLB, Auburn)||C.J. Mosley (ILB, Alabama)||Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)|
|4||Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)||Jeremiah Attaochu (OLB, Georgia Tech)||Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)|
|5||C.J. Mosley (ILB, Alabama)||Jace Amaro (TE, Texas Tech)||Marqise Lee (WR, USC)|
|6||Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)||Kyle Van Noy (OLB, BYU)||Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)|
|7||Timmy Jernigan (DT, Florida State)||Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)||Louis Nix III (DT, Notre Dame)|
|8||Zack Martin (OT, Notre Dame)||Dee Ford (OLB, Auburn)||Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)|
|9||Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)||Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri)||Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)|
|10||Ra'Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)||Allen Robinson (WR, Penn State)||Timmy Jernigan (DT, Florida State)|
|Erik Frenz/Bleacher Report|
Depending on how the first round shakes out, names like Eric Ebron (TE, UNC), Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA), C.J. Mosley (ILB, Alabama), Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama), Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State), Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri), Odell Beckham Jr. (WR, LSU) and Dee Ford (OLB, Auburn) could be available where the Jets select. The Jets could trade down a few spots or more and still grab a player that will contribute to their team immediately.
In a mock draft posted last week, the Jets were able to move back to the 31st pick in the first round—adding the 63rd (31st in the second round) and 95th (31st in the third round) picks in the process—and still grab Ford. That trade gave the Jets a total of 14 picks in the draft, giving the Jets the flexibility to move up in later rounds.
Of course, with so many picks at their disposal, the possibility of a trade-up must be entertained.
In doing so, there are only a handful of prospects that should be on the Jets' radar: Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson), Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M), Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina), Khalil Mack (OLB, Buffalo) and Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State). Others could be considered, but those are the ones that best fit the Jets from a need and value perspective.
Any of those prospects would be worth a top-16 selection in this year's draft, but the drop-off after those prospects is not great in any case except Mack and Clowney.
With that in mind, as badly as the Jets need skill position talent on offense, it makes sense for them to target a defensive player with their first-round pick. The wide receiver crop is considered the deepest it's been in years, and one of the deepest positions in this year's draft, meaning the Jets should have plenty of opportunities to add a talented pass-catcher with a mid-round selection.
It may make more sense for the Jets to trade up if they are prioritizing the defensive side of the ball, targeting the ultra-athletic Justin Gilbert or the versatile and explosive Khalil Mack. The depth at those positions is not as vast as at wide receiver. If the Jets pass on a pass-catcher in the first round, they can still circle back by grabbing someone like Davante Adams (Fresno State) or Kelvin Benjamin (Florida State) in the second round.
If they pass on Gilbert and Dennard, however, there may not be many viable options left that fit their defense. There are some intriguing prospects, like Keith McGill (Utah) and Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska), who both measure in at over 6'3" with arms measuring 33 1/4" and 32 3/8" long, respectively. The Jets could find that lanky, rangy prospect to eventually replace cornerback Antonio Cromartie, released by the team earlier this offseason, without giving up a first-round pick to do so.
At outside linebacker, the Jets have a few hybrid options like Trent Murphy (Stanford), Aaron Lynch (Georgia) and Chris Smith (Arkansas), but none with the immediate impact potential of someone like Ford, Ealy, Clowney or Barr. The futures of Calvin Pace and Antwan Barnes are uncertain, so the Jets could target a player who falls outside the realm of a "true" 3-4 outside linebacker to replace one of those two.
One more thing to consider is the number of picks, and the likelihood that 12 rookies can find a home on the Jets roster in 2014. The Jets have their share of needs (short term: outside linebacker, inside linebacker, safety, guard, wide receiver, tight end; long term: offensive tackle, center, cornerback), but 12 rookies equates to nearly 25 percent of the roster.
Unless the Jets want to leave the fate of their season in the untested hands of those rookies, they may need to find a way to move some of those picks, which could necessitate a trade-up at some point in the draft—though not necessarily in the first round, and not necessarily this year (if the Jets want to move some of those picks into future years).
The Jets will have options at any position wherever they draft, but based on the relative depth of the draft, it looks like a trade back could still be in the cards. With so many picks, however, the Jets have an opportunity to trade up and grab a coveted prospect. Depending on who they have targeted, that could prove to be a fruitful or fruitless endeavor.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases. Combine measurements and workout numbers provided by NFL.com.
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