Senior Bowl Players to Watch – New York Jets

Mike Nolan lists some of the players to keep an eye on in the Senior Bowl that the New York Jets could target on draft day.

After a long week of practices and interviews, the Senior Bowl finally takes place today. This “all-star” game is nothing like the NFL version as there is a lot at stake for the Seniors who were lucky enough to get invited to the game. Although it’s a year dominated by underclassmen, there is still some great talent the Jets organization and fans should be looking at in this game. Here is a list of eight guys on offense and eight guys on defense that we should keep a close eye on.


Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (6’2″; 209)

Matthews was thought to be the best receiver attending the Senior Bowl and he lived up to the hype all week. In practice, no DBs could cover the SEC’s All-Time Leader in Reception Yards. While he’s not quite there, he shares a similar skill set with his cousin, Jerry Rice. He has great hands, is an excellent route runner, and has great finishing speed. He could be a late 1st Round/Early 2nd Round pick. If the Jets fall in love with him or if guys like Mike Evans and Marquise Lee are off the board, the Jets could go after him.

Shaq Evans, WR, UCLA (6′; 210)

Evans wasn’t too high on the radar coming into the Senior Bowl, but has impressed at practice by showing a physical style of play. He’s not the tallest receiver, but he has shown the ability to get off of press man coverage and make tough catches. He could be a guy the Jets target in the mid to late rounds if they stockpile talent at receiver.

CJ Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa (6’5″; 262)

Overall, the talent at the Tight End position is not great at the Senior Bowl, but CJ Fiedorowicz is clearly at the top of the group. As Tight End might be the worst position on the Jets roster, we would hope they go after someone in the higher rounds. Fiedorowicz is not the receiving threat of Jace Amaro or Eric Ebron, but he is an excellent all around football player. The offense struggled when Jeff Cumberland was used as an in-line blocker, this guy might be a nice Day Two pick that will immediately upgrade the run and pass game.

Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame (6’4″; 305)

In my mind, Martin is the most underrated offensive lineman to receive a top round grade. The main reason he is not being as well regarded as some of the other top tackles is his size. At only 6’4″ and 305 pounds he is undersized and has played both tackle and guard in practices. The crazy thing is that he has excelled in both spots, and was the only lineman capable of blocking Aaron Donald in one-on-ones. While it is unlikely the Jets go after a lineman in the first round, crazier things have happened and we know Marty Mornhinweg loves versatile linemen.

Seantrel Henderson, OL, Miami (6’6″; 331)

Henderson is definitely one to watch in Mobile. The once highly touted Tackle has had some off the field and on the field issues at Miami and his draft stock has been down since 2012. If Austin Howard walks, the Jets could target him on Day Two as the sky is the limit for this guy if he is developed properly. He has all the physical tools to be a dominant tackle in the NFL,

Joel Bitonio, OL, Nevada (6’4″; 307)

Bitonio is an under the radar guy who would be a great value pick up in the Mid Rounds. Perhaps, he is best known for putting together great performances against top talent like UCLA’s Anthony Barr and BYU’s Kyle Van Noy. Bitonio has had a good week of practice and projects to move to guard in the NFL. This could be a guy the Jets look at if they aren’t sold on Brian Winters or Willie Colon walks in free agency.

Tahj Boyd, QB, Clemson (6′: 222)

While I’m not a big fan of Boyd as an NFL prospect, there has been plenty of buzz around him and the Jets since he played with Rex Ryan’s son at Clemson. There have already been reports that the Jets met with him for over an hour at the Senior Bowl. Boyd is an athletically gifted quarterback who is a little too inconsistent throwing the ball. That was the story of his season and it carried over into practices this week. If Rex still gets to make one draft choice like he did under Mike Tannenbaum, it could be Boyd in the later rounds.

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois (6’2″; 219)

Garoppolo has been one of the stars of the College All-Star circuit this season. He was by far the best QB at the East-West Shrine game and was asked to participate in the Senior Bowl after AJ McCarron declined. Many are comparing Garoppolo to Tony Romo as they went to the same small school, but I actually see a skill set similar to Aaron Rodgers and he could fit great into a West Coast Offense. You can bet that Marty Mornhinweg likes this kid as the Jets have already met with him this week. He has quick feet, great balance, and a fast release that has helped him raise his profile as a Day Two prospect and the Jets could pull the trigger if Marty falls in love.

Others: Josh Huff (WR, Oregon), Robert Herron (WR, Wyoming), Solomon Patton (WR, Florida), Jalen Saunders (WR, Oklahoma), Morgan Moses (OT, Virginia),


Dee Ford, DE, Auburn (6’2″; 243)

Ford may be the hottest player coming into the Senior Bowl game. He had an unbelievable national championship game as he was in Jameis Winston’s face all game and he has completely dominated offensive linemen in practices. Ford could be the Edge Rusher that Jets fans have been clamoring for in Rex Ryan’s defense. He may be tough to get though as many believe he’s worked his way into the first round after his recent showing.

Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford (6’5″; 252)

Murphy led the FBS in sacks and could be a great fit in Rex Ryan’s defense. He is a versatile player who would be better suited perhaps than the rest of the field to play both standing up and with his hand in the dirt. I don’t see the Jets taking him at 18, but if they decide to move down and stock pile picks, they could look at Murphy at the end of the first or beginning of the second.

Kyle Van Noy, OLB, Brigham Young (6’3″; 244)

Van Noy is similar to Murphy in that he will probably go in the late first round to early second round of the draft. Though he is not quite the pass rusher Murphy is, he is a little more well rounded and always seems to be near the ball and make big plays. He is very instinctive and is perhaps one of the better OLBs in pass coverage. Another versatile guy who could be a great value if the Jets trade back or he falls to them at 50.

Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech (6’3″; 252)

If the Jets don’t make any trades on day one, then it may be smarter to get a pass rusher on day two. If that’s the case, they could target Attaochu in the second or third round. He is more of a pure pass rusher and has excellent explosion. He should be able to play standing up or with his hand in the dirt as he’s done both at Georgia Tech in two different defensive schemes. He also plays with a nasty attitude that may intrigue Rex Ryan.

Michael Sam, OLB, Missouri (6’1″; 260)

Catching a trend here? Sam is a great college pass rusher who could drop in the draft due to questions with his fit. He is a tweener who is a little small to be a typical DE and a bit of a liability in pass coverage to be a pure OLB. Where other teams may stay away because of fit, Rex Ryan might see an opportunity. Keep an eye on him to see how he performs after struggling all week.

Chris Davis, CB, Auburn (5’9″; 201)

Davis is best known as the guy who returned the missed field goal to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl, but he is also a solid corner. Davis was good enough to earn second team All-SEC honors as he showed a knack for swatting away passes. At 5’9″ he is shorter than scouts would like and he could go in the mid rounds because of it. That may be a perfect spot for the Jets to snag him as he is also an excellent punt returner, something the Jets desperately need.

Lavelle Westbrooks, CB, Georgia Southern (5’11”; 195)

While most of the buzz has been about Jean-Baptiste out of Nebraska, it is Lavelle Westbrooks that some scouts have said was the most well-rounded corner at Senior Bowl practices. Westbrooks has a solid frame and coming from a small school could leave him on the board for a nice value pick. The Jets have a lot of needs and corner could be a more pressing one depending on what happens to Antonio Cromartie. The Jets could get a nice mid-round corner from this deep class.

Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois (5’10”; 191)

Somewhat unknown coming into the Senior Bowl, Ward has had a great week of practice. He has great closing speed that allows him to excel in both run support and playing centerfield. I know Rex Ryan doesn’t usually value safeties enough to take one in the top half of the draft, but Ward’s performance this week has shown that be might be worth it.

Others: Jaylen Watkins (CB, Florida), Pierre Desir (CB, Lindenwood), Marcus Smith (OLB, Louisville), Brent Urban (DL, VIrginia), Marqueston Huff (S, Wyoming),

Author: Mike "Tiny" Nolan

Mike is a graduate of Muhlenberg College where he was a team captain and All-American Center on the football team. Mike is a former NFL Films employee where he was a PA for the NFL Network shows Playbook and Total Access. He also worked at NBC Sports and now does some free lance producing for them. He lives in the Philadelphia area where he is a football coach at The Haverford School.

  • Harold

    I like the players you slected.

    I would have RB for next year Powell will be gone and we may a more well rounded player to take his place. Antonio Andrews or Charles Sims may be good fits.

  • KAsh

    I think you went too deep into the quarterbacks and too deep into the o-line. Boyd and Garoppolo have been the definition of inconsistent in practice. Martin has struggled in his transition to guard, where he is undersized to stop heavier-built interior pass rushers. The rest of the o-line prospects also had up-and-down performances.

    And I am surprised that you did not include Huff in the top eight, or even mention Charles Sims or Abbrederis. Sims has been showing the speed and the hands we would need of the final piece in the running back equation. White, a running back from Wisconsin, has been an all-round back, so he might deserve a look to challenge Powell. Meanwhile, Abbrederis has rocked his opposition during practices. He seems to be always open and always making plays. I do not know how he did not even get a mention.

  • Harold


    Abbrederis is hurt so he is not playing. I think his list is only for guys playing in the game.

    But I agree too much on QB and O-line.

    Not enough on WR and TE (even if just a couple of sleepers).

  • KAsh

    Just found out about Abbrederis. That sucks. But might be good in the end if his stock drops for other teams.

  • John X

    I think it’s time the editors here need to make a case for showcasing QB’s the way the consistently do. I would ask them to answer such questions:

    1. Why would the Jets or any other organization select a franchise QB in consecutive years? Answer this question keeping in mind that this has happened exactly once in history with Carolina (being that team) selected their 2nd QB with the first pick. BTW, this resulted in a coach and GM being fired directly for swinging and missing on the first choice. It hasn’t happened since nor after so what is the likelihood of this becoming a reality?
    2. Why would a new GM essentially admit failure after one season with his choice of Geno Smith when they finished 8-8 without weapons or cap room the previous season?
    3. Why would they select another very young QB after just signing Chris Simms an extension? You would then have THREE QB’s on the roster under 25.
    4. Why would the Jets bring in a distraction for their franchise QB? Did you see what Tebow did for Sanchez? Totally undermined his confidence.
    5. With all the needs on offense for playmakers, why would a high pick be used for another QB?

    I’m just trying to understand the media’s reflexive thinking that a QB will be pursued and have trouble even fathoming the idea. These are the questions you editors need to answer to realistically make the case that a high pick should be burned for another QB and essentially start over again. I think this has gone too far.

  • John X

    Just three OL, guys.

    I agree with Kash regarding RB’s and Sims would be a great fit should Goodson not make it for numerous reasons. There are a few other underclassmen RB’s who might fit in well.

    Some good, relevant choices at CB for the Jets for potential 3rd day selections.

  • Mike “Tiny” Nolan


    This list was in no way a player ranking of guys at the Senior Bowl. Most of the offensive players I put on there were guys who have been linked to the Jets through interviews. Jets personnel have spent considerable time with Boyd, Garoppolo, Martin, Matthews, and Shaq Evans (Who ended up not playing in the game).

  • Mike “Tiny” Nolan


    I’m not sure how drafting Boyd in the mid to late rounds or taking a guy that no one ever heard of up until the East-West Shrine game possibly in the middle rounds constitutes taking a franchise quarterback. When Mornhinweg was with the Eagles they often took quarterbacks they liked in the middle rounds regardless of who was already on their roster. They took Andy Hall, Kevin Kolb, Mike Kafka, and Nick Foles despite having McNabb/Vick as starters. Were they drafting “Franchise” quarterbacks? No. They were drafting cheap/young back ups that they felt could succeed if they had to step in and could provide value down the road. Some worked out and some didn’t. The point is, the Jets are most likely losing Mark Sanchez this year and quarterbacks don’t magically appear on rosters. They have to draft young talent or they have to sign a veteran to fill the void. We don’t know which way they will go. There are pros/cons to both methods of filling their roster at QB. I simply mentioned two guys who the Jets have reportedly spent some time with at Senior Bowl practices. If I had suggested them taking a franchise quarterback then maybe I would have talked about Derek Carr. I don’t know too many scouts suggesting that Tahj Boyd is a potential franchise quarterback and Garoppolo is a guy who just popped on the radar that he might have some potential. I wouldn’t call this showcasing quarterbacks. Anyway, thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

  • joey diesel

    John, awesome post on the Jets QB scenario!

  • joey diesel

    It would undermine the Jets if they pick a QB in round one. It is clear that it has been the offensive supporting cast that has been the problem the last 3 years. No matter what QB they put in, whether its Sanchez, McElroy, Smith or Simms. If you cant obtain an elite QB which is rare, the next best thing is to build a solid offensive supporting cast to give your signal caller a fair chance. In that regard, even just an average QB can be really good if the pieces are solid and stable around him. The last few years Kerley and Cumby have been the Jets best wr options and that speaks volumes. I dont know too many qbs that would succeed with a shaky oline and no weapons on offense, let alone a raw rookie from a simple college offense. Lets stop looking for the shiny things and build the pieces. Without that, you cant even properly evaluate a QB. Geno with more experience and a beefed up supporting cast will surprise. He has the raw physicals and a gun for and arm, not to mention good wheels.

  • joey diesel

    If for some reason Geno is not the Jets QB for the future, at least a solid offensive supporting cast will be in place for the next QB, and the Jets could honestly say they gave Geno a fair chance. To give up on a rookie from a simple college offense, also with an offense under transition, and no weapons around him would be sad. Just put the pieces around Geno, bring in a viable vet like McCown for insurance and to push Geno, and watch things take shape.

  • John X


    You still haven’t explained how three peach-fuzzed QB’s on the roster makes any sense (question #3). In the history of the NFL, has there ever been a roster comprised of three QB’s under 25? Just askin’. I’ve never heard of such a thing. I don’t see that as a recipe for success.

    To me, drafting another rookie anywhere in the draft (even mid to late rounds) undermines Geno to a large degree…you just drafted him last year! If you use a day one or two pick, that’s mutiny in my eyes. They need to stand behind their guy and not have him looking over his shoulder. Geno doesn’t possess bad work ethic like maybe Mark displayed and I don’t believe he needs to be pressured.
    And let’s be real, please…Boyd isn’t a mid-round pick. I’d bet you everything in my checking account (which isn’t much, mind you) that he doesn’t get out of the 2nd round in spite of his less than stellar Senior Bowl. He has tools to succeed and scouts know it.

    But I’m not in charge and I did read where Rex talked to Tajh at great length. This concerns me as a fan as I can usually understand nearly all Jets’ moves (less Golston). But maybe I’m missing something. Maybe the Jets aren’t at all comfortable with Geno and feel they can’t move forward with him at QB. That would be strange considering his numbers down the stretch as his QB rating surpassed Manning’s in that time.

  • John X


    I don’t see how the Jets can’t help but give Geno a go here. They spent a high 2nd on him and went thru the growing pains all last year and the thought of starting over again doesn’t make much sense to me. Which would be another good question to the pro-QB crowd – why go thru that again?
    None of these QB’s that will be available even with our 1st pick are in any way a better prospect than Geno was coming out of college. 42 TD’s, 6 INT’s – who in this class surpasses that? No one.
    I’m tired of this QB talk. It’s utter nonsense.

    I should think everyone would be on board after seeing Marty tweak his offense to lean more towards shotgun snaps which greatly improved Geno’s efficiency. To envision an entire offseason devoted solely to Geno (no QB competition distraction) with Marty and an offense no longer new to him, there’s no telling what Geno can accomplish especially with a superior supporting cast. Why in the world would you threaten that with a new QB?!

    I think this might be a huge mistake for the Jets to go down this road and the last time I mentioned such words was when they drafted Gholston. For one, I didn’t think he was a good prospect with very few tackles aside from his sacks. Beyond that, they had signed Pace and Thomas to contracts on the ends so there was no place for Vernon to play. We’ll see what happens.

  • Mike “Tiny” Nolan


    I don’t have to explain anything. I think you may have the wrong post for your demands. This is not an opinion piece, nor is it a call for the Jets to draft a quarterback. This was simply a list of players to watch in the Senior Bowl who the Jets may be looking at. Jets personnel interviewed Garoppolo and Tahj Boyd, this is why I highlighted them as players to keep an eye on. I am not making an argument for the Jets to draft a quarterback. I’m not sure what your missing here. I’m simply stating that they have interviewed a couple quarterbacks, they most likely will have an open roster spot at QB soon, so keep an eye on these guys in the Senior Bowl because it is within the realm of possibility that they could draft one in the mid to late rounds. I’m not sure what is causing you to make an argument against an article that isn’t making an argument. The point of this article was that if your going to watch the Senior Bowl keep an eye on these players because they have been linked to the Jets or they are at positions of need for the Jets.

  • joey diesel

    I agree with you, but I really think the Jets are backing Geno and the media is just making stories to pay the bills, they have to eat too, lol.

    No way could a raw rookie be properly evaluated with all the obstacles that he faced last season. Even some solid vets would not succeed under those conditions. Also, the Jets have seen what distractions can do to a qb.

    I would bet the farm that the Jets bring a viable vet to compete with Geno, and for insurance. I also think there is a 50/50 chance that they draft a mid round QB project that shows some potential. Bottom line, Geno will be the qb and have the full backing of management until he shows otherwise that even with more pieces and another full training camp under his belt, that he is not the man; I honestly think he is. Many of his issues come from his non pro style college offense and transitioning to the NFL, it takes a little time. Also, the dearth of play makers this year was pitiful and greatly slowed his development down. Even with those two huge drawbacks, he still won 8 games and showed marked improvement down the stretch. This is the time for purely speculative stories and smoke screens. The Jets are not that foolish, especially with Johnny Z steering the Jet ship. I expect full support for Geno when all the smoke clears.

  • joey diesel

    My last post was directed at the other general media outlets, not this blog and not only about the QB position but football in general. I feel that at this time, these types of speculative stories come out and they are good for conversation, but you cant bank on their accuracy. I was a little confused on the qb talk on this thread and just responded.

  • Will

    So many options…I think in a franchise QB falls to their lap in the first round that Idzik had rated as best player on his board. He has to make that move.

    With that said, I agree with many, that we need to build around Geno(or any Jet QB).

    Hopefully, a team falls in love with a QB and trades a few extra picks to the Jets. I think the Jets can find great value in WRs throughout draft. Picking up an extra 2nd rounder would be huge for Jets.

    Give us two young WRs, TE, Safety, LBs (in any order) and we will be fine.

  • Harold

    I definitely agree w/ the general consensus that Geno should be given time to develop w/ a decent starting cast of Wr’s and Te’s. To play pretty solidly in 9 or 10 games with that offense cast is pretty good.

    As a Jets fan I simply say look back at the Bills game in 2009 where we rushed for 300 yards and lost. Can Jets fans envision Geno losing a game like that.

    I keep telling Jets fans I understand why you are scared to believe in another young QB. But Geno is a much better prospect than Sanchez ever was. If we get some quality players we should be good year and year out for some time.