The New York Jets could have as many as twelve draft picks in 2014. As they stand right now, the Jets have $25,861,726 in cap space. With expected cuts of Santonio Holmes, Mark Sanchez, and Antonio Cromartie, the Jets should have $51,911,726 in cap space. That gives them a lot of room to work with.
This is a four part series. It will cover four offensive positions of need (QB, WR, TE, & G), free agent scouting reports, and draft options. This week, guard.
Its that time of year again: traffic, last minute shopping, pine trees in-doors, the New York Jets crawling to the finish line, and the whole family getting together to celebrate and be merry. As you sit in the basement, refreshing your twitter feed every thirty seconds to avoid your in laws, perhaps you might enjoy a Christmas List tailored to your favorite football team. Grab the eggnog and enjoy this look at the Jets 2014 options at a major position of need, wide receiver.
It is no secret that the Jets skill positions are the weakest link of the team. Not one team in the NFL would envy the Jets playmakers on offense.
Jeremy Kerley and Chris Ivory are solid. David Nelson, Bilal Powell, and Kellen Winslow are role players, albeit reliable ones. Holmes will likely be handed a pink slip and Stephen Hill relegated to the back of the depth chart.
Santonio Holmes has seen the trainers table much more than the field this year. When on the field, he hasn’t produced like the number one receiver he was paid to be. He has dropped easy catches, failed to make the clutch receptions he was once known for, and hasn’t made hay after the catch. Unless he is willing to take a major pay cut (probable) and a major downgrade in snaps and role (unlikely), Holmes’ last game as a Jet will be in Miami next week.
Stephen Hill: 6’4″, 4.36 40 yd dash, and 39.5 inch vertical. Combine Superstar or NFL Wide Receiver? At this moment, he appears to be the former. His speed and vertical ability were enough to make NFL GMs salivate and made him a “steal” in the second round. However, concerns over his route running, catching mechanics, and overall lack of experience proved valid. Hill has failed to make a serious impact on a team where even a moderately talented receiver should stand out. As of now, Hill has played himself out of any serious discussion as the Jets 2014 starter and slid down the depth chart. Swing and a miss.
Clyde Gates and Ryan Spadola (and Hill) were pre-season darlings. The Jets receiving corps looked much deeper than expected. However, the former failed to translate his preseason surge to the regular season and landed on IR. The later is no longer with the team.
Now, credit where credit is due. When healthy, Jeremy Kerley has solidified himself as a serious contributor and borderline starter. Solid hands, crisp routes, and a tendency to move the chains have ensured him a future with the team.
David Nelson, Greg Salas, and Josh Cribbs were all solid midseason acquisitions. Nelson, in particular has proved to be a reliable target for rookie Geno Smith. Cribbs completely changed the special teams dynamic. However, at his age and contribution level I would not expect Cribbs to return.
Outside of Kerley, Nelson, Salas, and a reduced role for Hill, expect all new faces to be catching passes for the Green and White in 2014.
Eric Decker (DEN): Decker is one of the most technically sound receivers in the NFL. He displays outstanding footwork and route concentration. Without his athleticism, Decker would still be able to gain serious separation, which projects longevity. He has enough speed to play flanker or split end. Decker is physical and fights for the ball. His tendency to struggle with in-route adjustments is concerning.
Decker also has the benefit of being drafted with and playing along side the dynamic Demaryius Thomas. With that in mind, Louis Riddick (ESPN analyst and one-time director of pro personnel for the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins) isn’t sold on him:
“Decker is a good player but I don’t think he can carry a passing game like a true number one wide receiver. He has problems with physical cornerbacks and press coverage. It will be different for him if he is the focus of a defense. That’s not the case in Denver.”
James Jones (GB): Jones is every young, inexperienced quarterback’s dream. He has massive hands and catches poorly thrown and contested passes. He boxes out the defender and puts himself in a good position to make the catch. Jones displays great concentration. He runs intermediate routes well and the rest of the route tree serviceably. He is not the speediest receiver on the field but catches everything thrown his way.
Golden Tate (SEA): Perhaps even more so than Jones, Tate has extremely reliable hands. Tate also displays top end speed and can out run most other players on the field. He can use his speed to create separation and as a tool with the ball in his hands. Tate tends to rely too much on his speed and lets his route running suffer. While he may not run the most crisp routes, Tate finds a way to get open and can be relied on to haul em in. Tate’s age (25) is also very appealing, compared to the ” elderly” Jones (29).
Jeremy Maclin (PHI): Maclin may be the most physically impressive of this year’s free agent wide receiver crop. He has great reach and hands but occasional lapses in concentration create issues. Maclin has a mastery of the route tree, a quick release, and doesn’t lose speed out of his cuts. He does not have elite speed but his great acceleration and burst make him difficult to cover. Maclin, however, is injury prone and this history will make most teams very hesitant to sign him to a long term deal.
Emmanuel Sanders (PIT): Sanders is very hit or miss. He has outstanding hands but poor extension, great release but runs stiff routes. He uses natural speed to gain separation but tends to round off his routes. Like Decker, Sanders has always had a solid number one option across from him and many question his ability to carry an offense.
Hakeem Nicks (NYG): As a member of the crosstown Giants, many Jets fans already know Nicks. He is a strong wide receiver with good concentration and enormous hands. Nicks is a good route runner and quick out of his breaks. However, a history of injuries will make NFL GMs hesitate. Even when healthy, Nicks has been inconsistent and disappeared for long stretches. He has all the talent in the world but just can’t seem to put it together.
Jacoby Jones (BAL): Known mostly as a special teams ace, Jones has emerged as a legitimate threat in the passing game. Jones is not the most technically sound pass catcher and struggles with sharp cuts. However, he is often wide open due to his elite speed. He can surely take the top off a defense but one has to question wether or not he (like Decker or Sanders) can carry an offense.
Riley Cooper (PHI): Cooper was an afterthought of the Eagles passing game going into the season. However, with an aging Avant and Maclin on IR, the opportunity presented itself for the mercurial wide out to make an impact. Early season slip of the tongue aside, Cooper has put together a respectable campaign. As of week sixteen, Cooper has 44 receptions, for 796 yards, and eight touchdowns, all career bests. Cooper is inexperienced and likely will not be a number one receiver.
Top 5 2014 Draft Prospects (CBS Sports):
- Sammy Watkins – Clemson, 6’1″, 205
- Mike Evans – Texas A&M, 6’5″, 225
- Marquise Lee – USC, 6’0″, 195
- Davante Adams – Fresno State, 6’3″, 205
- Jordan Matthews – Vanderbilt, 6’3″, 210