New York Jets – First Round Candidates

Connor Rogers breaks down a few players the New York Jets might take in the first round.

Now that free agency is dying down, the NFL Draft will re-enter the discussion in full force. John Idzik took a conservative approach in free agency and will look to the draft to round out his New York Jets roster. With an abundance of picks in May, the Jets are in a good position to fill some glaring holes.

In the meantime, the most heated topic seems to be in regards to what the team will do at 18 overall in the first round. Let’s take a look at some of the candidates who could be holding up the green and white jersey in Radio City Music Hall.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

The 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner (best wide out in the country) is a dynamic player from the slot. Oregon State ran there offense through Cooks after lead wide out Markus Wheaton went to the NFL (Steelers 2013 3rd round pick).

The 5’10, 185 pound Cooks thrived in the lead role. He reeled in 128 catches for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013. He finds space in zone defenses better than anyone in the country. In man coverage he nearly impossible to cover underneath.

While not a big target that will take the top off of a defense, Cooks is the elusive possession receiver every team covets. His ceiling appears to be a faster, more dangerous Wes Welker type. Along with top notch short game receiving ability, Cooks is a dynamic returner.

Teaming him up with Jeremy Kerley and Eric Decker would certainly make the Jets a chore to stop on passing downs.

Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

While Gilbert may not be appealing to every defensive scheme, he fits Rex Ryan’s quite perfectly. He has the length (6 feet tall) and speed (official 4.35 forty) to excel in a man coverage scheme.

When given the chance, he showed off impressive press coverage ability in 2013. He plays the ball in the air as well as any corner in this draft and has natural pass catching hands along with long arms.

The knock on Gilbert is his tendency to rely on natural ability. While watching his tape, he seems to get beat when playing off man. He is a poor tackler in space and will need to brush up on his technique. Make no mistake though, Justin Gilbert has the highest ceiling of any defensive back in the 2014 draft class.

Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

As the NFL continues its trend of shifting to a “passing league”, every team covets a game changing tight end. Amaro does most of his damage out in the slot, off the line of scrimmage.

The 6’5, 260 pound Amaro runs a 4.75 forty and is a pest over the middle of the field. He is fearless underneath and often too athletic for linebackers to cover. Slot cornerbacks are too small to defend him. He is the classic mismatch in the middle of the field.

Although Amaro has the ability to torment a defense, he does come with flaws. He is not a tight end that can take the top off of a defense such as the NFL’s Vernon Davis or Jimmy Graham. While he can throw defensive backs around when blocking down field, he is not suited as an in-line tight end.

Zach Martin, OG/OT, Notre Dame

While many are claiming Martin will move to guard in the NFL, I am in the minority that he can play tackle. Either way, many of you are probably scratching your head at this candidate.

Martin is as rock solid as they come. He is athletic and can pull, paving a path for the run game. While he does not have a long wingspan, he does have the lateral ability to pass protect. If the Jets want a versatile, young, talented lineman to add to their offensive front – Martin is the right guy.

Eric Ebron, TE, UNC

I originally left Ebron off of this list as I do not see him sliding to 18, but the draft works in mysterious ways. The talented tight end from UNC is a unique game changer. He lines up out wide and as an in-line tight end.

His speed enables him to draw safeties deep, while his length enables him to make spectacular highlight reel catches. I often avoid pro comparisons but truly believe Ebron is the next Vernon Davis.

While he should be a sure-fire top 15 pick, Ebron does need to work on his concentration on catches. He will often look ahead of the play (such as a screen) and forget to naturally bring in the ball first. It seems like more of a mental lapse than an actually raw ability issue.

My only other knock on Ebron is that he has trouble diagnosing when to pancake a defender and when to get his hands on them. When he goes for the kill shot, he is prone to missing at times.

At the end of the day, you have to love his tenacity in all aspects of his game. He is the type of player you purely draft on such an impressive ceiling.

Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

My other guy who might “slide” down draft boards. The former college running back converted to outside linebacker is one of the biggest boom or bust prospects in the 2014 draft class.

Barr possesses superb acceleration and straight line speed. His athleticism is off the charts and he often lays out big hits. The Jets have lacked a dynamic edge rusher for quite some time and may be willing to gamble on developing Barr.

His biggest concern is his hand use when disengaging blockers, even from tight ends and running backs. If an NFL staff can teach him how to get off his blocks, Barr will be a household name by year two.

Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

Shazier has flown under the radar but is a rare prospect in today’s world as he is an every down player. He single handedly shuts down run games and seems very capable in pass coverage. He has the speed to develop into a six to eight sacks a year type of player.

The knock on Shazier is that he gets taken out of plays due to his size. If he can add 15 pounds while maintaining his speed, he can start in the NFL from day one and be highly productive.

Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

The most physical cornerback in the entire draft, Dennard is the rare case of using his hands too much. When watching the tape, it seems as if he gets away with a lot of pulling and tugging down field.

NFL referees tend to get flag happy when they see tussling between a wide receiver and a defensive back. If Dennard can learn to jam at the line and use his body more than his hands down the field, he will be a capable starting cornerback.

I have seen analysts knocking his athletic ability, but I am not quite sure how that adds up. He runs under a 4.5 forty and displays excellent hip movement in coverage. He loves coming up and making plays against the run and was a vital leader of the Spartans defense.

Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

Evans is an imposing figure at 6’5, 225 pounds. He takes advantage of his frame against college defensive backs and often catches the ball over them.

Johnny Manziel often extended plays with his feet and Evans showed excellent ability in coming back to the ball. He is the type of player that will be a red zone threat from day one. If he makes it past Detroit, he is a very likely candidate for the Jets at 18.

CJ Mosley, ILB, Alabama

Fans will groan at the thought of taking an inside linebacker but hear me out first. Mosley is a top five talent in this draft that will slide due to the position he plays. Current starter David Harris will most likely not play out his ridiculous contract Mike Tannenbaum gave him.

Allowing Mosley to learn the defense for a year may be a worthwhile investment. He flies around the field while helping in both run and pass coverage. On tape, it seems he often bailed out fellow Alabama defenders by constantly making potential big play stopping tackles.

Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn

Ford has an excellent first step and has been a productive edge rusher throughout his five year career at Auburn. He has significantly improved each season, but still lacks run stopping ability.

Ford is a realistic candidate because he has shown the potential to become an every down player. He possesses the ability to drop into coverage and takes excellent angles to the ball carrier. If he can stay healthy, he should be a productive NFL pass rusher.

If the Jets do take Ford, he can platoon with Antwan Barnes as a passing down edge rusher while Calvin Pace handles the running downs in 2014.

Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Lee seems to pop up in every NFL media member’s mock draft for the Jets. Before the 2013 season, he was a consensus top 10 pick and regarded as the best wide out in the country.

Unfortunately for Marqise, he struggled from poor quarterback play in 2013 and did not post gaudy stats like he did in 2012 (118 catches/1,721 yards/14 td’s vs. 57 catches/791 yards/4 td’s).

Lee is a smooth route runner and very good after the catch. He is also a body catcher prone to drops and injury prone. What Marqise Lee will an NFL team get? He is certainly a gamble and I am not sure if the Jets can afford another one of those at wide receiver, especially in the first round.

Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

The fan bases crush, “ODB” has gained a ton of momentum since the end of the college season. While not the biggest target (5’11), Beckham Jr. goes up for the ball very well. He often bailed quarterback Zach Mettenberger out of errant throws.

Beckham Jr. caught 59 passes for 1,152 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013. His biggest question mark is if teammate Jarvis Landry drew most of the secondary’s attention, opening up winnable match ups for him.

The Jets may also look for a bigger wide out to play across from Eric Decker, enabling Jeremy Kerley to work from the slot full time.

Follow Connor Rogers on Twitter: @Real_CR3

  • Dalbin

    Great list. Definitely surprised by the inclusion of Mosley, because it seems like it’d be a luxury pick with other holes to fill, but he seems to be one of the safer picks.

  • Mike A

    your list reflects some great prospects, to bad we didn’t have 4 or 5 picks in the first two rounds to take advantage of the wholes we didn’t fill in free agency.

  • I like your list. I would not be disappointed with Martin. You gotta have an OL or your QB can’t do anything anyway. We are very suspect in OL right now.

    Wish we could draft everyone on this list!

  • Bruce Harper

    We have guards, cornerbacks and linebackers on this list only because of the TERRIBLE job Idzik has done in the Free Agency period. Another year of excuses! No real starting OG, oops now we a linebacker, OMG_we need a brand new cB, no sense spending all that cap money! This draft was supposed to be about getting offensive weapons to give Gino the opportunity to show he is a better quarterback than he looked like last year. He will now be asked to do this with a brand new offensive line. What I am saying is that we should not have to have cornerbacks and linebackers on your list. If they pick another defensive player in the first few rounds, it will be further evidence of management’s failure. PS-I am not a hater. I am just incredibly frustrated.

  • Frank Antonelli

    I see some more of the frustrated teenage girls are out in force today!

  • Joe Caporoso

    You guys are all entitled to your opinions and may feel frustrated, nothing we say is going to change that. We are going to just keep analyzing and breaking down the moves that do happen and could happen.

    I’m not (and most of our writers are not) ready to grade John Idzik in March and we won’t be in April, May or June etc either. The offseason doesn’t end until kick off in week 1.

    Thanks for reading/commenting!

  • Joe Barra

    I wish the draft wasn’t a billion years from now.

  • Mike A

    Joe, as a Jet fan how could you not be frustrated after this period of free agency?? The hope of filling the holes in our team with NFL starting caliber players out of the draft alone is like drawing to an inside straight in poker. It is almost like the league is awarding a trophy this spring for the most frugal GM!!Granted Geno is still a question mark, but the rest of the team dose not have to be.

  • KAsh

    We will be taking the most talented player regardless of position. This was the plan all along. I am surprised some names did not make this list: if Amaro is included, ASJ needs to be, too; Haha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor are both viable candidates; if you are including a late-first round draft bust like Brandin Cooks, you might as well include a late-first round receivers like Kelvin Benjamin and Jordan Matthews.

    But the odd name on this list is Ryan Shazier. Shazier can only play a 4-3, if he ever becomes a three-down LB. Everyone was excited when he weighed in at 237 lbs. for his Pro day because he played at 229 lbs. in college. He needs to gain thirty pounds to play three downs for Rex Ryan, and he is not doing that without getting a beer belly. At his current weight, it is extremely difficult for him to hold or shed blocks from right tackles, which is what he will have to do in the NFL. He excels in chasing down running plays going to the other side, but struggles with plays that come straight at him.

  • glegly

    Please, let’s have a 10 year moratorium on OLBs from Ohio State. I know it’s irrational, but I just can’t stomach it. Shazier could be the next LT, and I’d still be skeptical.

  • John X

    I’d like to see those comments about Idzik making this pick as strictly BPA. Yeah, right! Ha ha ha!

  • Ro

    List is pretty solid. I personally wouldn’t mind Cooks over Lee. We already have a shaky receiver in Stephen Hill. Think we’ve blown enough 1st round picks on corners. What about Safety Dix from Alabama? Amaro in the first and then draft Jordan Matthews in the 2nd. 2 solid weapons

  • John X

    Thanks for the great list, Connor!

    I agree that Mosley could be in play by May but it’s a long shot at the moment.

  • Joe Caporoso

    Really good list Connor. In terms of WR, would prefer ODB to any option. Think he is ready to step in from day one and be an impact player and handle starter’s level reps. He’d be a strong option at Z, with Decker at X.

  • Ugga

    I bet the same people ripping Idzik for lack of free agent signings are the same people that ripped Tannenbaum for signing everybody, overpaying and getting the Jets into cap hell.

    There is a reason those players were allowed to hit free agency. Whether it’s asking too much $, coming off injury orquestionable skills.

    For all the diapers wearers whining that Idzik isn’t spending, spending, spending, I bet Walmart will get a new shipment of pacifiers soon.

  • glegly

    Question for the group and/or Joe Cap: We’ve all heard that you can’t properly grade draft picks until their third full pro season – by then, you either know they can play or not.

    Has there been any kind of analysis talking about how teams have fared over the years drafting players, using that 3 year lag? Maybe using some metric along the lines of Draft Number Value (like from and number of starts in the NFL? Don’t know how the second metric would work, number of starts seemed the most obvious, but there’s prolly something btr.

    And then take that “grade” and applied to how the pros originally assigned grades to those same draft picks back in the day? McShay, Kiper, Polian, etc. Who’s more accurate? And what teams have really done well?

    This isn’t exactly NYJ related, just stat geek related. Thanks.

  • LeeBur
  • Joe Caporoso

    Hey Glegly – I’ve seen a few articles out there that will “re-grade” drafts after 3 years but this is definitely an interesting concept and something I’ll put on our agenda leading into the NFL Draft. Thanks!

  • glegly

    Thanks Joe. Saw something this morning on 538 that made me think of this, re: teams spending lots of draft value on QBs and getting little return, thus forcing them to keep going back to the well. You don’t need to guess how the NYJ fared…

  • Joe Caporoso

    guhh…that is a tough read for a NYJ fan haha

  • Frank Antonelli

    Hey clowns let me learn you some things:

    Every successful team can pick out a few key signings. Which is why Decker and Giacommini are nothing to spit at. Those are good signings. So was the trade for Chris Ivory. But you don’t just say “We have needs/wants at 8 positions. We’ll fill those with 6 or 7 free agents and call it a day” like the Browns or Raiders are doing. They’re trying to win with other people’s players because they failed so miserably at drafting their own talent.

    Look at the Seahawks starters and you tell me if it looks like the type of roster Idzik is looking to build:

    [NOTE: For our purposes, I am assuming Sidney Rice is headed elsewhere. If he doesn’t, he takes Lockette’s spot on the depth chart]

    QB: Russell Wilson (3rd round pick)

    RB: Marshawn Lynch (trade: 2011 4th round pick, 2012 conditional pick)

    WR: Doug Baldwin (UDFA)

    WR: Percy Harvin (trade: 1st and 7th rounder)

    WR: Ricardo Lockette (UDFA)

    TE: Zach Miller (Signed 2011 to 5-year deal)

    LT: Russell Okung (Top 10 pick)

    LG: James Carpenter (1st rounder)

    C: Max Unger (2nd rounder)

    RG: JR Sweezy (7th rounder)

    RT: Michael Bowie (7th rounder)

    LDE: Michael Bennett (UDFA)

    DT: Brandon Mebane (3rd rounder)

    DT: Tony McDaniel (UDFA, bounced between Jaguars and Dolphins, signed in 2013)

    RDE: Cliff Avrill (Signed as RFA in 2011)

    OLB: Malcolm Smith (7th rounder)

    MLB: Bobby Wagner (2nd rounder)

    OLB: Bruce Irvin (1st rounder)

    CB: Richard Sherman (5th rounder)

    CB: Byron Maxwell (6th rounder)

    FS: Earl Thomas (1st rounder)

    SS: Kam Chancellor (5th rounder)

    Of all Seattle’s starters on offense, only 1, Zach Miller, was a free agent signing. Much like the Jets traded a 4th rounder for Chris Ivory, the Seahawks did the same to get Marshawn Lynch. Harvin was a pickup via trade as well, but his health has prevented him from making any impact on a team that won the Super Bowl largely without him.

    Of their starters on defense, only one, Cliff Avrill, was a significant free agent signing. McDaniel was a scrap-heap pickup that worked out. The rest they found via the draft.

    The Seahawks entire back 7 was found via the draft. Their entire offensive line was drafted. That’s impressive stuff. You cannot even come close to arguing that this Seattle roster depended on free agents. They depend on the draft. Period.

    If the Seahawks are the model we’re looking to duplicate, Idzik is right on target so far. He’s accumulating talent via the draft, filling a few needs where he can via free agency. This is how you build a winner.

  • KAsh


    I read somewhere, but do not remember where, that over the long term, all teams draft about the same, as in there is no team that always drafts above average players. Of course, such an analysis probably does not factor in that different GMs and coaches are the ones that pick the players.

    As for the experts, all you need to know is that they talk up each draft class, but only a few picks shine at their positions after several years.

  • Hillel

    Idzik should reveal to us Jets fans the team’s draft plan and free agency plan. We won’t tell anybody else, OK? Why should we, as loyal fans, have to wait.

  • Mike

    How about adding Cro, Sidney Rice and Owen Daniels? This would help heading into the draft.

  • joeydefiant

    great post frank. teams that are successful year after year dont fill their roster with scrap heap free agents that have bounced around from team to team. sure they make some free agent signings when it makes sense. none of these crybabies whining about the lack of free agent signings are considering our own young talent that needs to be signed in the next few years either. id much rather have the money to lock up mo, coples, sheldon, milliner, allen, kerley, and geno than sign brandon pettigrew and rogers cromartie a guy who has been on 5 different teams in the last 5 years and is not even sure if he wants to play anymore.

  • joeydefiant

    why is everyone so concerned about cornerback? we have enough cornerbacks on the roster. the giants woon a superbowl with worse corners than the jets currently have. what cb’s have the 49ers put on the field the last few years? i seriously doubt the jets are drafting a corner until at least round 4. lot of great corners have come from the middle of the draft. one of the top wr or te needs to be taken in the first round.

  • Fred The Hammer

    I’m doubting the Jets have Darqueze Dennard on their radar in round one (although he would seem a great fit for what Rex does); the Jets were the only NFL team not present at Michigan State’s pro day.

  • KAsh


    That can be interpreted in one of two ways: we are not interested or his tape says it all. This is also the time for smokescreens.

  • Bacon

    I’m probably in the minority, but I feel pretty strongly that the Jets should wait until the second round to draft a receiver unless his name is Mike Evans. Starting quality talents like Eric Ebron, Justin Gilbert, Anthony Barr, and CJ Mosley won’t be available at their respective positions in the 2nd round, but guys like Jordan Matthews, Davante Adams, and maybe Allen Robinson should still be on the board at pick 49, especially if you leave another receiver on the board.

    It seems like Jets fans think you can go from the worst receiving corps in the league to the best in one offseason. Obviously additions need to be made, but rebuilding takes time, and you can’t ignore the rest of the roster in the meantime.

  • Frank Antonelli

    Idzik will not pick someone based on need. He will stick with the best player available philosophy which garnered us Richardson last year. So to predict who he will pick is next to impossible. I believe in his approach because reaching for need is a loser’s game.

  • Mark Phelan

    Frank – I hope we don’t end up with 3 NT’s.

  • Zeb


    I think it’s hard to predict how any team will draft. If your theory, that ‘Idzik will not take someone based on need’ is true, than the Milliner pick flies in the face of that, a bit. Yes, he was rated high, but he was certainly of big need for the team. Similarly, Geno Smith could certainly be a ‘need’ pick.

    Even in your references to Seattle, Bruce Irvin was most assuredly not the BPA there. Yes, Seattle may have had him rated highly (a miss on their part), but they wanted a pass rusher, so they simply picked him when they could.

    I don’t think anyone can really adhere to a hard and fast strategy. No matter who the NYJ take in round 1 this year, it’s likely to fill a need, even if it’s argued the pick was BPA. I agree with Mark though, if they take a Nix or Jernigan, based on BPA, it’s a big mistake. It’s one thing to build depth and a talent base, it’s another to be redundant.

  • KAsh

    Irvin was rated highly by both the Jets and the Seahawks. He was just undervalued by the draft community. Geno was not needed – we needed tight ends and wide receivers more than we needed a new, young QB. Same with Milliner: CB was far from the worst problem on the Jets, so the pick was a surprise for some.

  • Zeb


    I appreciate your reply. I’m new to the site, but see you post often. I don’t want to consistently debate topics. I’m sure there are times when teams take the BPA. However, I don’t believe any team strictly adheres to that philosophy. There are 22 starting spots on every NFL team. I’m sure anyone could argue every pick, on every team, as ‘fitting a need’ or being ‘the best player available’. I mean if the NYJ had taken Chance Warmack, you could have said he’s a ‘need’ and the ‘BPA’.

    Irvin has been a decent player, but not a superstar. I don’t understand why you would say he was ‘undervalued’ by the draft community.

    QB is the most important position, in sports. After 2011 and 2012, most NFL, and NYJ, followers believed it was time to move on from Mark Sanchez. If you believe that, it would seem to me you can argue him being a ‘need’ pick.

    After trading away their best player, it’s seems like a pretty big coincidence the team selected the top rate CB with their 1st pick, when they had as many needs as you cite (I’d refer to my Warmack example).

  • Chris

    If CJ Mosley falls to 18th, most likely he will b the pick. His a Top 5 or 10 talent; yes ILB is not a need but after next year when the Jets cut Harris it will be.
    Everyone knows its a deep WR draft, Jets can get a WR that fits the system in 3rd to 5th round.