The New York Jets and Mike Maccagnan have a ton of work to do this offseason. Quarterback is clearly the most pressing need, but what about cornerback? Taking a look at the current group, it is clear improvement is needed at a critical position. Who are the players the Jets should be targeting in both free agency and the NFL Draft?
Morris Claiborne had a solid year, but is injury prone and can’t be relied on to be their top guy. Buster Skrine? He’s the second best corner on the current roster but struggles outside of a nickel role. Justin Burris didn’t show the type of progression fans were hoping for, along with either late round rookies from the 2017 draft. The Jets gave up a future draft pick for Rashard Robinson, but he did not do anything on the field this season and was just involved in an off the field incident. With an abudance of cap room, eight total draft picks including three in the first two rounds, the Jets can quickly change cornerback from a need to a strength…
Top Free Agency Targets
Trumaine Johnson, Los Angeles Rams
The top player at the position on the market is Rams corner Trumaine Johnson. The 28 year old had another good year for the Rams, who were one of the top defenses in football this past season. Over his six years with the franchise he has eighteen interceptions, and has become one of the best cornerbacks in football. He’s been playing under the franchise tag the past two seasons, and will not be cheap. His ability to create turnovers is something the Jets badly need. At his age and price it would be a big risk for the Jets, but one that could end with big reward.
Kyle Fuller, Chicago Bears
I think Kyle Fuller is a better target for the Jets than Trumaine Johnson. Fuller is only 25 years old, and was a first round pick back in 2014. He will not be as expensive as Johnson, and may have had a better year in 2017. On top of that he is entering his prime, instead of being on the back end. He was the 22nd ranked corner in the NFL by Pro Football Focus and was tied third in the league in passes defended.
EJ Gaines, Buffalo Bills
Similar to Fuller, EJ Gaines is a player entering his prime who should be a top target for the Jets. Gaines was a sixth round pick of the Rams in 2014, and emerged with a great rookie season. Missing the enterity of his sophomore season with injury slowed him down, and durability is a big question with him. He has missed ten games over the past two seasons. This season he was great for the Buffalo Bills after being involved in the Sammy Watkins trade. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 13th cornerback in the league, and ESPN’s Field Yates has him on his list of free agents who will make more money than everyone is expecting.
Raashan Melvin, Indianapolis Colts
Raashan Melvin isn’t a household name, but would be a great signing for the cornerback needy Jets. Melvin had a career year for the Colts in 2017 with three interceptions and consistent coverage week to week. He may have been on his way to the Pro Bowl had it not been for a season-ending hand injury in week 12. At 6’2, Melvin can bring needed size on the outside to the Jets defense.
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Colvin, Jacksonville Jaguars. Bashaud Breeland, Washington Redskins.
Top Draft Targets
Carlton Davis, Auburn
It is unlikely the Jets take a cornerback if they stay at the sixth pick. There is no corner in this draft besides Minkah Fitzpatrick that is garnering any real consideration that high. In the second round where the Jets will have two picks, corner should be a top priority.The team has neglected the position early in the draft since the Dee Milliner blunder, but cannot ignore it any longer. Carlton Davis is a long and physical corner, who should play outside in the NFL.
Jaire Alexander, Lousiville
Another potential second round pick is Louisville’s Jaire Alexander. Alexander was limited to six games this season due to injury, but in a healthy season the year before recorded five interceptions. The injury concerns are why he will likely not be a first round pick, but the skillset and is there. Alexander would also provide the Jets with a dangerous return man, something the team has been lacking for what feels like an eternity.
JC. Jackson, Maryland
If the Jets want to take a mid-round risk that could pay huge dividends, look no further than J.C. Jackson. Jackson was a blue chip prospect out of high school before going to the University of Florida. He was dismissed from the school after legal troubles (which he was found not guilty of), and transferred to Maryland. This past season he recorded three interceptions and made 12 starts for the Terrepains. I would take a flier on Jackson, as with his ability he could be one of the biggest steals of the draft in the middle rounds.
Honorable Mentions: Donte Jackson, LSU. Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State.
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