The 18th overall pick is wide open for the New York Jets. Outside of running back, what position truly isn’t in play? Most see the team focusing on wide receiver, tight end, or the secondary and those thoughts aren’t misguided but offensive line, linebacker, quarterback and even a hybrid defensive lineman are not completely off the table. Let’s take a quick run through some prospects and positions commonly associated with the team:
1. Odell Beckham Jr, Wide Receiver, LSU - Considering I don’t anticipate Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans being available, Beckham Jr is my favorite option at wide receiver. Despite being 5 foot 11, 198 pounds, he has a huge catch radius and aggressively attacks the football. Beckham Jr also possesses very good speed and can create in the open field. I’m not insane about comparisons to NFL players but I will be dropping in a few throughout this article and his game reminds me of Steve Smith. He would fit in nicely as the Jets primary “Z” receiver in 2014, while Eric Decker could man up “X” the majority of the time. Beckham Jr is pro-ready and should hit the ground running this summer wherever he lands.
2. Brandin Cooks, Wide Receiver, Oregon State - Our man Connor Rogers is leading the Cooks bandwagon and not without good cause. He is a tantalizing playmaker who will bring a much needed big play element to the Jets offense. The pre-draft comparisons of Cooks to DeSean Jackson aren’t crazy. If the Jets did pass on him, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Eagles snap him up. His lack of size is a little concerning but I’d say he is a better and more polished wide receiver prospect than Tavon Austin was last season.
3. Marqise Lee, Wide Receiver, USC - Cooks and Lee are my 4A and 4B top receivers after Watkins, Evans and Beckham Jr. Lee has a bit of a boom or bust feel to him but was one of the best players in the college football only two seasons ago. There are valid concerns about his durability and consistency catching the football but if he reaches his potential, he could end up being the second best receiver to come out of this class behind Watkins. Lee’s game reminds a bit of Santonio Holmes (in his prime Holmes, not what we’ve seen the past few seasons).
4. Eric Ebron, Tight End, UNC - The top tight end on the board, who is unlikely to be available to the Jets at 18. However, if he did manage to fall that far, I would be fairly surprised if the Jets didn’t pounce on him. As a matter of fact, if he fell to the 14-15 range, it wouldn’t stun if they hopped up a few spots to get him. Ebron’s game still needs refinement but he could be a game changing talent working the middle of the field for any offense. The Jets badly need help at tight end and Ebron could immediately become both a safety blanket and playmaker down the seam for Geno Smith. It is worth bearing in mind that Ebron will be a 21 year old rookie, he is still going to grow into his body and develop as a player.
5. Jace Amaro, Tight End, Texas Tech - A notch below Ebron as a prospect and is somebody you would feel better about talking at 28 instead of 18, which could be a scenario that unfolds if the Jets either trade back or trade up into the back end of the first round after making their pick at 18. Amaro was consistently productive working out of the slot as a “move” TE for Texas Tech and would be an immediate weapon for the Jets in the middle of the field. While Jeff Cumeberland is more stiff, upright and looks like an average split end being miscast as a tight end, Amaro would be a more dynamic option with increased versatility.
6. Darqueze Dennard, Cornerback, Michigan State - The top cornerback in this year’s class, who is an even more intriguing target because he plays “Rex Ryan” style football at his position. He has the skillset to thrive in a man heavy scheme and would project to starting week 1 opposite of Dee Milliner, potentially allowing the Jets to be set at corner for the next 4-6 years. If he makes it to 18 (a major if), it is hard to imagine Rex not banging on the table for him.
7. Bradley Roby, Cornerback, Ohio State - More likely to be available at 18 than Dennard but a clear cut below him talent-wise. He has tremendous athleticism and is the type of player that could be moved around a defensive formation to cover a variety of different receivers. This likely wouldn’t be a “popular” pick but Roby isn’t poor value 18 and if the board breaks a certain way, this wouldn’t be a stunning selection.
8. Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State - Most people’s #2 overall corner and the flashiest player at the position with the most upside. The Antonio Cromartie comparisons are not unfounded. Gilbert could have a rough initial transition to the pros and needs major refinement to his technique. If Dennard is off the board and the Jets are going corner at 18, Gilbert has more potential than Roby but also a higher chance of being a bust.
9. Safety - We have broken down HaHa Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor here but my gut says the Jets aren’t going to go safety at 18. The position has been devalued by this defense for the past few years and I just can’t see them sinking a first round pick into either of these prospects. Both prospects have the ability to push Dawan Landry out of the starting lineup but again, I think the Jets will wait until the middle rounds to add a player to the mix at safety.
10. Quarterback – Nobody knows exactly what type of tumble Teddy Bridgewater and/or Johnny Manziel could be looking at, if one at all. There is a good chance the Jets will have intriguing quarterback options with their 18th pick but I would be very surprised if they selected one before the 3rd or 4th round. It is fair not be sold on Geno Smith but if I was betting on it today, he will be the team’s starting quarterback in week 1.
11. Offensive Line - Evan Silva recently mocked Xavier Su’a-Filo to the Jets and a few others have suggested targeting either a guard or tackle. I do think the Jets will add multiple offensive lineman in this draft but I don’t think it will be until the middle and late rounds.
12. Defensive Line/Linebacker - There is a better chance of the Jets adding a player at linebacker or a hybrid defensive lineman with the 18th pick than quarterback, safety and offensive line in my opinion. Kony Ealy has been linked to the Jets in a few places and does give off a Rex vibe because of his versatility.