2014 NFL Draft primer: Jets
This is the latest primer in our NFL Draft two-a-days that looks at each team and which potential first-round picks would be a good fit. The draft begins Thursday, May 8.
PICK NO. 18: JETS
2013 record: 8-8
Key offseason acquisitions: WR Eric Decker, QB Michael Vick, RB Chris Johnson, RT Breno Giacomini, CB Dmitri Patterson, WR/KR Jacoby Ford.
Key offseason departures: WR Santonio Holmes, CB Antonio Cromartie, RT Austin Howard, FS Ed Reed, QB Mark Sanchez, TE Kellen Winslow.
Biggest holes: Wide receiver, cornerback, tight end, guard.
GM John Idzik and the Jets were very economical when it came to free agency. They could adopt another economics concept when it comes to the upcoming draft.
Yes, wide receiver is far and away the biggest need entering the draft. But this class is so deep, the Jets can afford to draft the best player available at 18 and still grab a quality wide receiver in the middle to late rounds. And with 12 picks in this year's draft, the Jets could wait until they find a receiver that truly entices them.
It has to do with opportunity cost, a basic economics term. By using that first-round pick on, say, a wideout, what are you giving up as the next-best alternative? To put it simply, the Jets can draft a B+ wide receiver in the first round and follow up with a C+ cornerback in round 2, or they can take a B+ cornerback in round one and a B receiver in the second round (or even round three, given the talent in this crop of WRs).
Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert is a prime example of one of those B+ cornerbacks. Gilbert is athletic -- his 4.37 40-yard dash was best among corners at the Combine -- and he has good size at 6-foot, 202 pounds. He has fluid hips, good hands and can double as a kickoff returner. Gilbert's technique still needs refining, but his athleticism may be too much for Rex Ryan to pass up.
Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller also would be an option. Fuller isn't as flashy as some of his other counterparts, but he has risen up draft boards as of late because of his overall solid showing on film and the fact that he showed no ill effects from season-ending hernia surgery last November. He's a little lanky at 6-foot, 190 pounds, but he's quick on his feet and is as well-rounded as they come.
There's also TCU's Jason Verrett, although he's projected as more of a late first-round pick. Verrett is undersized at 5-9 and 189 pounds, but he's an aggressive ball hawk who plays like he's Gilbert's size. He has great technique, his backpedal is fluid, he anticipates the ball well and is surprisingly physical at the line. There are a few injury concerns stemming from his lack of ideal size, and he isn't a sure tackler, but he'd be a nice complement to last year's first-rounder Dee Milliner.
It may very well end up that the Jets take a wide receiver first overall. If that's the case, the best pick (barring some sort of highly unexpected fall for Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans) would be LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. He's an agile athlete with good hands and a surprisingly large catch radius that helps him grab tougher throws with ease. He's a threat both as a receiver and in the return game and would make the Jets' offense much more dynamic.
USC's Marqise Lee also is a possibility. Lee fell off a bit in his senior season after a stellar junior campaign, mostly due to nagging knee and shoulder injuries, but he has an impressive body of work overall. He's a former two-sport star (sprints, long jump) at USC. He has good speed (4.52 40), jumping ability (127-inch broad jump, 38-inch vertical) and hands (248 career receptions at USC). If he can prove that his injuries are a thing of the past, he could develop into a solid No. 1 for the Jets in time and would be a playmaking complement to possession receiver Eric Decker.
There's also Oregon State's Brandin Cooks. The 2013 Biletnikoff winner is an explosive, sure-handed weapon who thrives in space. He best projects as a slot receiver (which is currently Jeremy Kerley's role with the Jets), but can line up outside if needed and is also a good return man. He's essentially a taller version of Rams wideout Tavon Austin, who the Jets reportedly liked in last year's draft.
The Jets could also draft a pass-catcher at 18 without specifically taking a wide receiver. Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro has been rumored as a potential option and would give Geno Smith a mismatch all over the field. At 6-5 and 265 pounds, Amaro is bigger than North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron (6-4, 250) but a tick slower (4.74 40 vs. Ebron's 4.60). He's a prototypical "joker" tight end who lined up at various spots for the Red Raiders, including as a traditional in-line tight end, in the slot and as a flanker. His mix of size, speed and hands make him a perfect fit for today's NFL and a potentially dangerous weapon.
Possible Day 2 and Day 3 options for the Jets include Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, Clemson WR Martavis Bryant, Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief, Wake Forest WR Michael Campanaro, Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis, Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir, Clemson CB Bashaud Breeland, Rice CB Phillip Gaines, Utah CB Keith McGill, Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas, Mississippi State guard Gabe Jackson and Furman guard Dakota Dozier.