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.

OFFENSE:

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),

DEFENSE:

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.