The lights are up, and the tree is decorated. For what you ask? The NFL combine, and in my household, it’s a national holiday. While I have my eye on many prospects, in this week’s Joe Jet 5, I examine a few targets that may appear on Joe Douglas’ radar (during days 2-4), who could potentially end up donning the green and white this upcoming season.
Tristan Wirfs (OT, Iowa) – Projected round: 1
I have my sights on all 4 of the top OTs, but Tristan Wirfs stands as the best fit for the zone-based system the Jets intend to run, and although he’s my second ranked OT, he’s my primary target for the Jets.
Wirfs is expected to crush the combine, which might not fare well for someone (like me) who’s hoping he falls to 11. His lateral quickness and undeniable strength are showcased whenever you turn on the tape. While at Iowa, for instance, Wirfs broke Brandon Scherff’s hang-clean record (of 443 pounds) by lifting a mind blowing 450 pounds 4 times.
Some reservations about Wirfs’ ability to play left tackle have hurt his stock with Jets fans, but don’t sleep on this prospect; he’s the perfect blend of power and athleticism.
Jeff Gladney (CB, TCU) – Projected round: 2-3
Gladney played through a meniscus injury all of last season and, as a result, missed the Senior Bowl. I’m hoping his “sore knee” doesn’t prevent him from demonstrating his skill set at the combine too, as I’m curious if Gladney’s on-field quickness and speed shows up in his 40 time.
On film, Gladney’s versatility is always on full display, and his ability to perform in both man or zone coverage makes him an enticing option.
Gladney conceivably possesses the talent to be a day one pick, but some character issues could impact his draft stock: a heated exchange with his head coach (Gary Patterson), an ejection from a game for targeting, and a scuffle against Iowa State are all disconcerting.
Douglas prides himself on fielding high character players, so I question if Gladney is someone he’d even consider. Still, his talent remains undeniable, and he’d be a steal anywhere from the second to third round.
Jonah Jackson (IOL, Ohio State) – Projected round: 3-4
Jonah hasn’t received much attention this offseason (from fans), but I’m certain his name is well recognized amongst the scouting community. Adaptability proves to be Jackson’s strongest attribute: he played both guard and center at the collegiate level and is scheme flexible. Kyle Crabbs, of The NFL Draft Network, said, “Jackson projects best to a zone scheme, given his lateral mobility and footwork—but would be a viable option in a gap heavy scheme as well.” The Jets run a predominantly zone-based system, but incorporate multiple run concepts in their arsenal as well. Jackson could be the perfect mesh of strength (28 reps on bench press) and mobility this line desperately needs.
Joshua Uche (Edge, Michigan) – Projected round: 3-4
Uche received some high praise at the combine on Thursday. Top tackle prospect, Jedrick Wills, when asked about the best pass rusher he faced, said, “it was Josh Uche. He was a really good pass rusher. He has some counter moves, some speed to him. So, it was a good matchup that I went against.”
Uche could fit nicely as an OLB in Williams’ 3-4 attacking defense. He’s extremely versatile with the ability to drop into coverage or rush from the edge. Converting speed to power is perhaps his best weapon, and he’s incredibly athletic with an almost surreal bend. Utilizing him in a two-point stance from a wide 9 alignment could be a great way to unleash his skill set. Pro Football Focus College gave him the highest grade at this year’s Senior Bowl, and the arrow is pointing up for this young edge defender. I’ll be watching him closely on Saturday night.
Anthony McFarland (RB, Maryland) – Projected round: 4-5
Last season, the Jets utilized outside zone less than the league average, and I fully expect that to change with a revamped offensive line (built for a zone-based system) and a complementary back.
McFarland could fit the bill and, according to Tony Pauline, has already been linked to the Jets: McFarland is an explosive player with the long-striding speed necessary to take-it-to-the-house on any given play. Tailor-made for the wide zone, McFarland would fit seemlesly with the Jets. He’s elusive, has good instincts, a natural feel for cutback lanes, and next level acceleration. McFarland would be best employed in a RBBC, but I firmly believe he possesses the skills to be the lead back in that committee eventually.
Expect Joe D. to keep a close eye on McFarland’s 40-yard dash. For comparison purposes, the 49ers deploy OZ more than any other run concept, and all of their RBs (in their RBBC) recorded a sub 4.40 forty-yard dash: Coleman (4.39), Breida (4.38), and Mostert (4.34).