Jets might choose cornerback in Round 1

Oklahoma State defensive back Justin Gilbert makes a

Oklahoma State defensive back Justin Gilbert makes a catch as runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. (Credit: AP / Michael Conroy)

Receivers Brandin Cooks and Odell Beckham have been linked to the Jets in several mock drafts. But while some draft experts think the organization should plug its offensive holes in Round 1, there's always a chance Rex Ryan will want a new toy for his defense.

The Jets coach took a defensive player in the first round in each of the previous four years. It wouldn't be surprising if he found a way to add another first-rounder Thursday night.

The cornerback position -- once a strength thanks to former shutdown corner Darrelle Revis -- is now their biggest area of need on defense. The Jets chose not to re-sign their former No. 1 cornerback, Antonio Cromartie, who carried a $14.98-million cap charge.

The Jets also chose not to pursue Revis, who eventually signed with the Patriots in March after his release from the Bucs. General manager John Idzik & Co. also lost out on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who signed with the Giants.

In an attempt to bolster their secondary, the Jets signed free agent Dimitri Patterson and claimed former Charger Johnny Patrick off waivers. But there are durability concerns with both cornerbacks.

Despite the questions regarding the Jets' secondary (i.e., will Dee Milliner pick up where he left off?), Ryan has said the organization feels "pretty good" about its corners. Although defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman echoed those sentiments, he also said "no one really knows" whether the team has upgraded its secondary.

"We'll find that out in the future," Thurman said.

Cromartie's hip injury and Milliner's erratic play were reasons why the Jets allowed 4,189 passing yards in 2013. But there are plenty of cornerback options for the Jets at No. 18.

At 6 feet, 202 pounds, Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert possesses rare speed and size. Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard was the star attraction in a Spartans secondary nicknamed the "No Fly Zone."

Although Gilbert and Dennard have garnered much of the attention, NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock has Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller as his top-rated corner. In his latest mock draft, Mayock predicted the Jets either will select LSU receiver Beckham or a cornerback with their first-round pick.

"It's really interesting, because right around that point, there's a bunch of corner and safety needs coming up, starting with the Jets and moving through 25 on San Diego," he said on a recent conference call.

"From a corner perspective, the Jets could get a Kyle Fuller, a Bradley Roby [of Ohio State] perhaps. Everybody has different flavors at corner. From my perspective, Fuller, Dennard, Gilbert and Roby . . . It's those four corners they'd be looking at versus who is the highest-rated wide receiver on the board."

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