NFL Draft 2011: 20 Dark Horse Candidates for the New York Jets to Pick

Chris LeydenCorrespondent IIApril 5, 2011

NFL Draft 2011: 20 Dark Horse Candidates for the New York Jets to Pick

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    The NFL Draft is less than a month away and the New York Jets will look to add the missing pieces that held them back from reaching the Super Bowl last season.

    As shown at last years draft by what many considered to be a surprising pick of Kyle Wilson following the signing of Antonio Cromartie a few weeks before, the Jets are not afraid to think outside the box with their draft selections.

    While most draft experts see the Jets plugging up holes on the defensive line in the first or second round, this slide-show features players from a variety of positions who the Jets could make a move on.

    Like Kyle Wilson last year, this list features 20 dark-horse candidates the Jets may take in the first few rounds.

    Feel free to comment below with what direction you think the Jets will head.

Jimmy Smith- CB, Colorado

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    Right now behind Derrelle Revis there are a lot of questions at the cornerback position.

    The biggest question is will they re-sign Antonio Cromartie, and if they don't will they actively pursue and obtain Nnamdi Asomugha.

    With the CBA troubles and free agency frozen, it is very likely these questions won't be answered until after the draft.

    If Rex Ryan and the Jets organization feel as though their chance to sign one of these two players is slim they may go after a cornerback, and Jimmy Smith could still be available.

    Smith is a big, long corner who could replace Cromartie, but who also has the same character issues that surrounded Cromartie.

    If Smith is still around when the Jets pick in the first round they may pick first-round cornerbacks two years in a row.

Kenrick Ellis- DT, Hampton

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    With Kris Jenkins being cut following multiple injuries there has been a lot of talk about drafting a nose-tackle, but one player who has been ignored for the most part is Kenrick Ellis.

    The main reason Ellis is being ignored is because he attended Hampton University, and scouts look at his top-flight stats and blame it on the lack of talent he faced.

    Gang Green Nation has a great breakdown of Kenrick Ellis's strengths and weaknesses here.

    The Jets are very likely going to go after a defensive lineman at some point in the draft, and Ellis could be a player no one has heard of but who could be a star in the NFL in just a few short years.

Justin Houston- OLB, Georgia

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    Justin Houston is actually viewed pretty highly by Mel Kiper Jr., but could potentially drop to the Jets or even out of the first round.

    Houston is an outside-linebacker who plays solely on instincts, but who also has the ability to chase down quarterbacks in a hurry.

    Houston still has a lot to learn but could give the Jets another option on the outside as a pass-rusher.

    The one big negative of Houston, people are comparing him to Vernon Gholston, and Jets fans know better than anyone how that turned out.

    If Rex Ryan wants another "toy" to send on the blitz then Justin Houston may be who he goes after.

Brooks Reed- OLB, Arizona

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    Another option as a pass rusher from the outside is Brooks Reed of Arizona.

    Reed's regular season stats were not deserving of a first round pick, but after a strong Senior Bowl and combine Reed may sneak into the back end of the first.

    Rex Ryan loves players he can blitz either on the edge or up the middle and few in this years draft class are better at that than Reed.

    Unlike a few other plays on this list, Reed seems to in general have the right character for an NFL player and will play his heart out for a coach like Ryan.

Randall Cobb- WR, Kentucky

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    While it would appear as though the Jets have a log-jam at the wide receiver position, with Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes on the outside and Jerricho Cotchery in the slot, both Edwards and Holmes are pending free agents and the Jets may not be able to keep both.

    Randall Cobb of Kentucky has looked very impressive of late, and if the Jets are unable to keep both Edwards and Holmes, or if they were to lose Brad Smith, Cobb would be a great replacement.

    Cobb's biggest strength is his versatility, and the fact that not only can he catch and run well but he can also play the wildcat.

    Cobb is another player who was not considered a first round pick just a few weeks ago, but his stock has steadily raised to where the Jets are picking.

Rahim Moore- FS, UCLA

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    The Jets are pretty weak at the safety position right now with the team unsure if Brodney Pool is coming back and Jim Leonhard recovering from a leg injury.

    This years class of safeties is subpar, and most experts believe that none are deserving of a first round pick.

    If the Jets really want to add to the last line of the defense their best bet is Rahim Moore of UCLA.

    Moore has 10 interceptions last season and is a great play-maker in coverage.The biggest problem with Moore is he still needs to build up some strength to tackle at the NFL level.

    Moore may be a stretch in the first round for the Jets, but if they really like him he may not be around when they pick in the second round.

Alex Henery- K, Nebraska

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    I know what your thinking right now, no way would the Jets pick a kicker in the first two rounds. And then your thinking oh wait they did with Mike Nugent, but that turned out awful.

    It seems unlikely the Jets will repeat their mistake, and many members of the organization and fans are happy with kicker Nick Folk.

    If the Jets were to go after a kicker early Alex Henery has separated himself from the rest of the pack. He only missed a single field goal last season, and that was because it was blocked.

    Henery can also double as a very good punter and with the new rules will be able to kick the ball deep into the end zone on kickoffs.

    If the Jets feel field goal kicking is crucial to their success next year they may go after a kicker early again, and that kicker would have to be Henery.

Torrey Smith- WR, Maryland

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    As explained in an earlier slide regarding the wide receiver situation the Jets may go after a receiver with their first pick.

    Torrey Smith is a big, strong and fast guy who is nothing like Darrius Heyward-Bey, who everyone compares him to because they both went to Maryland.

    Smith would give the Jets value on returning kicks, but also runs one of the best deep routes in college football.

    Rich Cimini doesn't think the Jets will go with Smith or a receiver in the first round, but it could be a dark horse possibility.

Leonard Hankerson- WR, Miami

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    Another player similar to Torrey Smith in that he is not considered to be a first round talent but may go in the first round is Miami receiver Leonard Hankerson.

    Hankerson may not be the best route runner in the class, but he was a scoring machine for Miami last season, catching 13 touchdown passes.

    Hankerson may be a sleeper in this year's draft, and if the Jets take the receiver route come draft day they may go after him.

    As stated in the previous slide the Jets are reportedly not going after a receiver early, which makes Hankerson a dark horse candidate.

Prince Amukamara- CB, Nebraska

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    If the Jets decide to part ways with Antonio Cromartie this off season they may be looking for a cornerback and Prince Amukamara is one of the best two in the draft.

    Amukamara is projected as a top ten pick right now, and the Jets would obviously have to trade up for him but they have shown in the past they are willing to move up for a player they like.

    Although it seems unlikely the Jets can move all the way to the top three for Patrick Peterson they could sneak in somewhere in the 7-10 range and grab Amukamara.

    Amukamara's weakness would have to be catching the ball, as he is great at breaking up passes but rarely comes down with an interception.

    If the Jets want a top notch cornerback they may trade up for Amukarmara in this year's draft.

Mike Pouncey- G, Florida

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    The Jets offensive line has been one of the strengths of the team the past few years, but many positions are getting older and could use a fresh face.

    Mike Pouncey is the brother of breakout rookie center Maurkice Pouncey of the Pittsburgh Steelers and could turn in to as good of a player.

    Pouncey could play guard on either side of the line, and could compete with younger players Matt Slauson and Vladimir Ducasse on the left side. The Jets could also place him on the right side and have him back-up Brandon Moore for now.

    A lot of teams have expressed interest in Pouncey but most are not willing to take him in the first round. If he is still around when the Jets make their first pick they may take a long hard look at him.

Kyle Rudolph- TE, Notre Dame

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    The New York Jets already have a great tight end in Dustin Keller, but as the Patriots have shown, a dual-tight-end offensive formation can be almost impossible to stop.

    Standing at 6"6' Kyle Rudolph could be the next great athletic pass catching tight end, and could be a great weapon to give Mark Sanchez.

    The tight-end position is especially crucial for a young quarterback who is still developing because it gives them an option if the receivers running the main routes are covered.

    Rudolph was hurt and missed the final six games of the Fighting Irish's season, and this may push him down to the Jets second round pick, when taking a tight end would not be a bad move.

Aldon Smith- DE, Missouri

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    Defensive end is one of the weaker spots on the Jets roster, and lucky for them this years draft class may have the largest quantity of talented defensive ends of all time.

    Most mock-drafters have Aldon Smith being drafted before the Jets pick at slot number 30, but the way I see things panning out Smith may free-fall all the way out of the first round. This is because he is the seventh best defensive end, and it seems unlikely that many defensive ends will be taken in the first round.

    If Smith is still around when the Jets pick, I would think it would be a pretty easy decision for them, as he would be a great bookend and potential replacement of Sean Ellis.

    The Jets could actually use two defensive ends in this years draft, and taking one early is not a bad idea.

Mark Ingram- RB, Alabama

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    Shonn Greene has shown he is the real deal, and LaDainian Tomlinson has shown that he still has gas in the tank, but if this Heisman winner is still around when the Jets pick, it may be too good to pass on.

    The Jets did draft Joe McKnight last year, but early signs are showing that he could be a bust.

    With that in mind the Jets may be able to get one or two more seasons out of Tomlinson before he is also over the hill.

    The NFL is all about two running backs sharing the load now, and Ingram could be that second back to Greene.

    It doesn't seem very likely Greene will still be around when the Jets select, but if he is they may have to think about picking him.

Andy Dalton- QB, TCU

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    Mark Sanchez is the future quarterback for the New York Jets, but behind him they have the very old Mark Brunell and Kellen Clemens, who could be gone in the snap of your fingers.

    The Jets need a back-up in the case that Sanchez were to get hurt who can come in and lead this team to a win.

    While the Jets are not going to waste one of their first two picks on a player like Cam Newton, Andy Dalton could be a solid choice in the third round.

    Dalton was the leader of a TCU team that was one of the best in the nation and he could potentially command a NFL team.

    The Jets may be content with their quarterback situation for now, but if they are not Dalton could be a smart pick.

Titus Young- WR, Boise State

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    If the Jets want to wait until the second round to select a wide receiver then Titus Young may be the most underrated and best selection.

    Young played for a Boise State team that put up plenty of points on less talented opponents, but even if he took on the big conference teams of college football, he would have been able to hold his own.

    Young could help the Jets in the kick return game, although with such a small frame that may put him at too much of a risk for injury.

    Young is very different from the big receivers who can go up and get the ball, but as Wes Welker has shown possession receivers still have value in the NFL.

Stephen Paea- DT, Oregon State

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    The Jets must address the nose-tackle situation, but if they wait until the second round they may end up getting similar value 30 picks later.

    Stephen Paea tore his meniscus during practice at the Senior Bowl but has already recovered well and is almost back to the speed he was at before the injury.

    Paea became a household name when he bench pressed 225 pounds 49 times, showing the sheer muscle this guy brings to the game.

    If the Jets can wait on Phil Taylor in the first round, Paea is a similar player who they could potentially take a round later.

Drake Nevis- DT, LSU

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    While on the topic of nose tackles, another potential second round option is Drake Nevis of LSU.

    Nevis was the second best defensive lineman in the SEC after Nick Fairley, and was largely overshadowed by the star at Auburn.

    Nevis had a nagging foot injury that has slowed him down and could turn teams away from him come draft day.

    If the Jets want to add a defensive tackle who can use his smaller size to slide through the offensive line then Nevis seems like a smart second round pick.

Sam Acho- OLB, Texas

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    The Jets are not exactly desperate for a outside linebacker, but adding one in the second or third round would be great for Rex Ryan.

    Sam Acho is a great character guy, and won the sportsmanship award for the Big 12.

    Acho is another player who is weaker at pass coverage, but could be a great asset in the pass rushing game.

    Acho is a great decision maker, which is shown by his classroom achievement, and would be a good guy to have in the locker room for the Jets.

Curtis Brown- CB, Texas

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    The Jets may add a cornerback in the draft, and if they wait until the second or maybe even the third they could add Curtis Brown to the roster.

    Brown is an athlete who plays football as opposed to the other way around, and will need to be coached a lot if the Jets select him.

    Brown only recorded a single interception last season, but has shown that he has the skills and hands to turn that into more at the NFL level.

    The Jets love to add defensive weapons, and they may be able to steal Curtis Brown and turn him into a good third corner.