The forecast for the NFL draft is starting to take shape. For the next few weeks leading up to the draft, I’ll have a weekly rankings of the players most likely to be selected by the New York Jets with the 20th overall pick…
1. Noah Spence, EDGE, Eastern Kentucky
It’s been a strange draft process for Spence, but one the Jets could be huge beneficiaries of. The Eastern Kentucky edge rusher has been touted as everything from out of the first round to a possible top ten pick the last few months. His stock seems to be floating around mid-to-late first round at this point, making the Jets a logical destination. Spence is the terror off the edge the Jets have been searching the past decade for. If available, and right now that seems a good possibility, it is hard to see the Jets passing on him. There is an obvious hole at outside linebacker at present and Maccagnan indicated the Jets would be in play for an edge rusher with the serious interest in Olivier Vernon.
2. Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
The Jets need a quarterback whether Fitzpatrick returns or not. Fitzpatrick doesn’t answer the long-term question at the position, and the Jets aren’t going to plan for Smith or Petty to be either. Lynch is an odds-on bet to go in the first round at some point after Goff and Wentz, and the Jets are definitely going to be in play. If we hold firm on the belief that Goff and Wentz will both get selected in the top ten, then the Rams are the only team in front of the Jets likely to consider a quarterback. Lynch isn’t a player you want starting right away, but if the Jets can get a bridge veteran in front of him (and they should), he has a chance to develop into the best passer from this class.
3. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
The draft has a pair of decorated Big Ten tackles the Jets are bound to show a lot of interest in, the other being Michigan State’s Jack Conklin. Both players are durable and experienced maulers that could slide in immediately at right tackle. Decker takes a spot on the list over Conklin with the latter starting to gain traction as a possible top fifteen pick. Much like outside linebacker, this is a position the Jets have shown some interest in addressing in free agency with a younger long-term signing (Kelvin Beachum), so one would expect adding blue chip talent up front to be a priority on draft weekend.
4. Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia
The athleticism and versatility of the Bulldogs’ leading sacker will be attractive to the Jets, who are looking for an injection of speed in the linebacker core. Floyd is not without risk though. Versatility and criticism of being a ‘tweener are two sides of the same coin. He’s beaten SEC tackles on athleticism alone and has ran down the seam with slot receivers, but he’s awfully thin at just 6-6 244 pounds (per combine measurements) and he’s certainly not going to be Calvin Pace in terms of sitting the edge. Regardless, having a freakish athlete that has made splash plays on the edge, as an inside linebacker and a slot defender is a salivating prospect for any defensive minded head coach. Floyd is no doubt a name to keep an eye on.
5. Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
The return of Erin Henderson means the Jets aren’t worrying about ILB in 2016, but beyond that is a different story. A thought that must be entertained is that David Harris could be playing his final year as a Jet in 2016, with his three-year deal signed last season basically being a guaranteed two-year commitment with a 6.5 million 2017 team option. There isn’t a better replacement for Harris in this draft than Ragland, who is a king-sized premier run defender with some pass rush ability as well. Ragland would no doubt be a solid pick, but if the above players are available, it’s probably not the best one.
The Leonard Williams Watch: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
Each week I’ll try to highlight a player that may not often be discussed as a possibility at 20th overall due to higher draft stock but could fall in the right scenario. No one thought for a second the Jets would come away with Williams last year, or figure out a way to land Revis in 2007.
Treadwell’s forty time isn’t going to cause him to tumble down boards but it will probably prevent teams in the top ten from pulling the trigger on him as a can’t miss receiver prospect like Amari Cooper or the top ten trio from 2014. Teams expected to be interested in him like New Orleans and Los Angeles have major holes elsewhere and could pass on the receiver for other positions. If he made it to 20, the Jets would view him as a Brandon Marshall clone and a player that immediately strengthens a supporting cast that could further elevate a journeyman signal caller.
A Left Field Pick: Andrew Billings, NT, Baylor
Getting Leonard Williams last year was a pleasant surprise. If draft day has taught us anything though, it’s that not all surprises are good ones. Sometimes a team is on the clock, has a few obvious choices to choose from, and still takes a player nobody was expecting. Quinton Coples, Sheldon Richardson and Dustin Keller are recent Jets examples that run the gamut in terms of NFL success.
Picking in the back half of the first round, the Jets can go in a lot of different directions. It is difficult to predict with real accuracy what 19 other teams ahead of the Jets are going to do, and the Jets could stand to get younger at a number of positions. With that said, there is one position group that Jets fans would collectively groan if addressed in round one yet again: the defensive line. Funny enough, this is the best draft in some time for this position group and if Maccagnan adheres strictly to the best player available mantra, there is a decent chance that player is a defensive lineman.
The point of this segment isn’t to bang the table for a player, but simply to look at some outside the box options that can sneak up on us on draft night. The Jets lost an elite player in Damon Harrison, but his status as a two-down player made a big-money extension difficult. Billings is an interesting option because in addition to showing major run stuffing prowess, he has real growth potential as a pass rusher. In Billings, the Jets could see a true three-down interior lineman they did not see in Harrison, as dominant as he was.
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