Is it too early to be looking at the 2010 draft? Possibly, but nobody ever got hurt looking into the future.
This list is purely circumstantial, based on the needs of the team at this point in time. Bear in mind the team's needs now will not necessarily be the same next April. However, with certain positions appearing weak in 2009, here is who I think the New York Jets should be watching out for during the 2009 NCAA season.
A few of these guys will likely be taken ahead of where the Jets will be picking, but—as we saw in 2009—if the Jets are interested in a player, they won't shy away from making a trade to move up.
It's no secret that the New York Jets are not compiled with spring chickens at the defensive end position. So expect to see 4-5 defensive ends on this list, as it is perhaps the most glaring need in the 2010 draft. Some will say wide receivers could be a need, but there are unproven young receivers who will have a chance to break out in 2009.
The 2009 New York Jets defensive ends will consist of 32-year-olds Marques Douglas and Sean Ellis, backed by undrafted players like Mike Devito, Sione Pouha, and Zach Potter. There is a obvious need to bring in young talent.
There is no guarantee that Dunlap will be available for the 2010 draft, however if he does choose to leave school early he will be a hot commodity in several draft rooms.
Dunlap has it all: agility, strength, and quickness. He is a powerful player, standing at 6'6". He is a very aggressive competitor who will fall under the category of a "Rex Ryan-guy." He's consistently displayed the ability to stop the run and get to the quarterback.
He will need to show consistency again this year but he managed to get to the quarterback nine times last season for the sack and even when he is not getting to the quarterback, he is taking on blockers to allow other people to make the plays.
If there has been one knock on the Jets, it has been at the wide receiver position. That, of course, is understandable given the lack of experience behind Cotchery and none of the receivers having been high draft choices.
Although I personally don't think that NFL success and high draft stock are a match made in heaven, it does have its advantages. At the end of the season, one of the receivers might well have stepped up and we will not even be considering this position. However, right now it seems to be on people's minds.
Dez Bryant flew onto the scene last year catching 87 passes for 1480 yards and 19 TDs. He was the man to go to for Oklahoma State. Not only did he prove himself to be a big target, he proved himself a reliable receiver as well.
He has quickness and gets open regularly, which is hard to comprehend when defenses often seem to swarm all over him. He can catch in traffic or cause separation, and—standing at 6'2"—can also be used as a red zone jump-ball target against smaller opposition.
Is Arrelious Benn the most NFL-ready player in college football this season? I think the argument could be made.
For everything he did last year—catching 67 passes for 1,055 yards and 3 TDs—expect him to be a lot better this season as the Illini—and more importantly, Juice Williams—improve.
He is a physical player who will not shy from contact or going over the middle, will catch in traffic and take the big hit to gain the extra yard. If he had a QB like Bradford or McCoy throwing to him, he might have had the best stats of any receiver in college football in 2008. Of course, the latter is pure speculation.
At 6'2" and 225 lbs., he is a physical specimen who shows off very good quickness. Many would agree that he is probably the best offensive player in the Big 10, if not the best player period.
NFL scouts will fall in love with his toughness over the college season and expect him to go high if he can get consistent play from Juice WIlliams.
Greg Hardy does have durability concerns and, despite some injuries last season, he still managed a highly respectable 8.5 sacks on the season.
He is quite possibly the most explosive player in the 2010 NFL draft, showing the quickness and strength to get off the line and "hunter" instincts to get to the QB.
There are some questions as to which positions he will play in the NFL, whether he would be more suited to a 3-4 OLB spot or if he could play as a DE. I will have to see more of him to get a better opinion.
However, if Hardy can stay healthy in 2009 then you can expect some big things from him. He's got good moves to get around the corner or even to come back underneath. Hardy will likely command double-teams throughout the season, but is that enough to stop this aggressive predator getting into the back field? I'm not so sure.
Another player the Jets should be monitoring.
Now this player does not have the same star appeal as the others and will likely not command a top-of-the-line pick. You can't say for sure, as nobody knows how the 2009 season is going to go.
One of the aspects of the Jets team receiving a lot of attention from beat writers but ignored nationally is the need for a blocking TE.
I see Dustin Keller becoming one of the premier catching TEs in the game: He can stretch the field and he can do almost anything in the receiving game. It's his blocking that's questionable, though vastly improved over last year.
Nate Byham is a good blocking TE—moreso for the run—but his pass blocking is really coming along and another season at Pitt should solidify this. The Jets have Kareem Brown working out at TE, and I feel that once roster cuts start coming we will need to add another player, though it won't fill the long-term need.
Byham is a blocking TE, but he can also catch the football, something every TE needs to do at some point. He will be worth watching for all Jets fans.
Depth, Depth, Depth. That is the word of the month in terms of the Jets offensive line, quite frankly because we don't have any. Hunter/Daniels/Slauson? I'm afraid that's not the answer to any question we want to ask.
Will we use a high draft pick on a right tackle? Probably not, but you never know. Damien Woody is 31 years old and has some time left, but if Circon Black is the best player left on the board then perhaps taking him would be the right move.
Black is the complete tackle, capable of pass-blocking and run-blocking. He has had the luxury of being on one of the best O-lines in the SEC, thanks in large part to his own play. He is tough and durable, possessing excellent balance and size. It's likely that he could play from day one and not look over-matched.
Well worth keeping an eye on.
Wootton is quite frankly an outstanding prospect, albeit with huge question marks regarding how he'll recover from his ACL injury towards the end of last season.
However, his size allows him to clog-up the passing lanes, he possesses a lethal bull rush—along with other pass-rushing moves—and encompasses a useful quickness into his game
With 42 tackles (16 for loss) and 10 sacks, he clearly gets pressure in the backfield. He, too, plays with a controlled aggressiveness that would be welcome in a Rex Ryan defense.
Scouts will be watching him as close as any player in college football this season to see how he responds. Has he lost any of his quickness or power? We will have to wait and see.
George Selvie is one of the quickest defensive ends both on and off the ball I think that I have ever seen. I'm actually not sure where he will go in the draft.
I had him mid- to late first, but he seems to be a player that a lot of people disagree on. I've seen him going anywhere from the top 10 to the early second round.
With his pace, Selvie will line up out wide and can become predictable with his outside rush. However, he can use other methods like the bull rush and a inside trick or two. His main strength is definitely his quickness off the snap to beat the tackle on his outside shoulder.
He'll need to be stronger in the NFL if he hopes to anchor or push tackles around, but if used in pass-rushing situations—especially against the tight end—he could be very effective.
One of the things that I love about Selvie is that he has a tremendous work ethic. Even if things are not going well, he will continue to hustle and hunt and bring down the ball carrier. He possesses a good engine that just keeps on going.
Brandon LaFell possesses good quickness off the line but doesn't have top-of-the-line speed. He runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, which isn't great but isn't bad, either. Standing at 6'3", he makes a big target for a QB and his concentration is one of his best attributes.
With 63 receptions for 929 yards and 8 TD's last season, you expect those to rise this year with more experience across the LSU offense. He has "big play" written all over him, but not necessarily in the traditional way.
One of the hits on him is that he coasts at points, getting by on his natural athletic ability—something you absolute cannot afford to do at the NFL level. I don't know how accurate this is, but it is worth watching in 2009.
LaFell considered the 2009 draft and had his name down, but pulled out at the last minute. It was probably a good idea as he does need to work on his route-running.
Trent Williams needs to show one thing in 2009, and that's consistency. Just for balance I'm adding another offensive tackle into the mix, and Trent has a lot of great characteristics you want to see from a starting tackle.
He plays at a excellent pad level, he's tough, he's smart, and he is strong. What more could you want? He is very agile in his slides as well as having quick feet for a man of his size.
He has played at LT as well, but he's primarily been used as an RT. He's very tough to beat on the outside shoulder because of his quick feet, and it will take a tough DE to push him back onto the quarterback. Williams can hold his position and maintain the pocket.