Last week, I broke down the five most likely targets for the Jets in round one, should they remain at 20. With the draft just three weeks away, here’s the second edition of the most likely candidates…
1. Noah Spence, EDGE, Eastern Kentucky (Last Week: 1)
For the second straight week Spence sits at number one and for good reason. He ticks several major boxes in regards to draft forecast: he is worthy of being selected at the pick, recent projections have him floating around the pick, and he plays a position the Jets are in huge need of. Walterfootball.com’s prospect visits list has the Jets bringing in Spence for one of their official pre-draft visits, another indication the Jets are serious about one of the draft’s top pass rushers. If Spence ends up available at number 20, there are only two realistic instances I envision the Jets would pass on him. It is possible the Jets could come away uncomfortable with Spence’s off-field issues after meeting with him on several occasions, going instead for a cleaner prospect. Alternatively if a worthy quarterback prospect is on the board, it is hard to see the Jets passing on that player. Which brings us to…
2. Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis (Last Week: 2)
Much like Spence, the Jets continue to do a ton of work on Paxton Lynch. Wednesday was his pro day (which by all accounts was excellent), and the Jets had a strong delegation there according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini. The same report also mentions Lynch having scheduled a private visit with the Jets as well. If the Jets like what they see in Lynch, and he’s available at 20, it’s hard to see him getting passed on for anybody else outside of the unlikely scenario one of the quarterbacks projected above Lynch also is on the board. What keeps Lynch ranked at two instead of one is his intrinsic value as a quarterback. Picks 11-19 have a number of teams that could view Lynch as the heir apparent or in the case of the Rams as a starter sooner rather than later.
3. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State (Last Week: 3)
Decker maintains his spot in the top three for similar reasons to Spence. Value, need, projected availability. D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s retirement makes taking a tackle early in the draft even likelier than it was a week ago, even with the trade for Ryan Clady. There are some concerns over whether Decker is a definite left tackle, but even if he isn’t, the Jets are going to need a right tackle soon too.
4. Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama (Last Week: 5)
The heart of Alabama’s linebacking core bumps up one spot due to likelihood of availability at 20. The previous player ahead of him, Leonard Floyd, looks like an increasingly possible top fifteen pick. Ragland is the definition of a solid pick – you’re essentially getting the ideal replacement for David Harris, but the potential for a more impactful player may be available depending on how the board falls for the Jets. If the above three players are unavailable, he’s not a bad selection.
5. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson (Last Week: N/A)
New to the list is a talent at a position that should be getting more attention for the Jets during draft season. Bowles isn’t any different to Rex Ryan in terms of having an affinity for corners, thus taking a CB in the first is one of many possible directions. Alexander has excellent man cover skills and an attitude that many of the greats possess, but has below average size (5’10, 190 pounds) that could turn away some suitors. He’s also not known as a playmaker, failing to record an interception his entire career. In 2015 he didn’t give up any touchdowns though either, and allowed just 19 receptions on the season according to Pro Football Focus. Likely to go anywhere from the middle to the end of the first round, Alexander is definitely an option for the Jets at 20.
The Leonard Williams Watch: Jared Goff, QB, California
More likely in a trade-up scenario than a free fall to pick 20, but I think the Jets become a serious candidate to move up for Goff if he falls past the Eagles at 8. The Jets would surely need to hop in front of the Rams who pick at 15, but moving up for a player of Goff’s caliber even with just six picks at present would be huge for the future of the franchise. A few reasons to think Goff could make it to this range: if the Browns take a quarterback, it sounds like Wentz is the more likely. The 49ers are the logical destination for Goff but they’ve also been linked with an offensive tackle or an impact defender, and there’s a good chance an excellent defensive prospect is still available for San Francisco. The Eagles signed not one but two potential starting quarterbacks this offseason. The Bears, Saints and even Dolphins are all teams that could view Goff as their heir apparent, but are just as likely to go elsewhere.
A Left Field Pick: Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
Tight end will need to be addressed at some point, even after bringing back The People’s Champion Kellen Davis. How much the traditional tight end would be emphasized with a better player at the position is still unclear under Chan Gailey, but a first round pick shouldn’t be ruled out. According to Pro Football Focus, Davis and Jeff Cumberland ran routes on about 33% of total pass plays. That’s a low number, but they were also poor passing targets in addition to struggling to carry weight as run blockers. Quincy Enunwa is a favorite to continue in the H-Back role he found success in last year, and 2014 2nd rounder Jace Amaro is a much better projection to that same role than he is as an in-line TE.
Hunter Henry is widely regarded as the best tight end in the draft, and not in the one-dimensional receiving way a potential first round tight end tends to be valued. Henry’s a complete player, just as much a strength of Arkansas’ offense as a run blocker than he was as a pass catcher. He played in a pro style offense and produced consistently as a receiver lining up both inside and out. He’s drawn favorable comparisons to Jason Witten (Lance Zierlein) and Travis Kelce (PFF Draft Guide). I imagine the pick wouldn’t be that well received relative to other needs, but Henry’s going to be a good player in the league for a long time.