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Should Jets take a tackle or a receiver in first round of NFL Draft? Mel Kiper Jr. shares his thoughts

Mel Kiper Jr. on the set of NFL

Mel Kiper Jr. on the set of NFL Draft Countdown during the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville. Credit: ESPN Images/Allen Kee

Open any mock draft at this time of year and you’ll probably see the Jets taking one of two positions: offensive tackle or wide receiver. Both are big enough needs. They could continue to revamp their line or give Sam Darnold another target.

So when the Jets are on the clock next Thursday at No. 11, and they have their choice of either position, what do they do?

If you’re ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., you start thinking about the second round.

“The Jets could go wide receiver-offensive tackle, but what tackle are you going to get in the second round that’s as good as a receiver you could get?” Kiper said Wednesday during his annual pre-draft conference call. “So if you do the thing, you look at your grades of the first-round receiver, what's the grades of the second-round tackle going to be? But if you go with the grade of the first-round tackle as opposed to the second-round receiver, I think it's going to be better taking the tackle first and the receiver second. I think most teams would agree with that that I've spoken to.”

Indeed, that’s what Kiper did in his latest two-round mock draft, giving the Jets Alabama tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. in the first round even with Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb still on the board. Wills was the third tackle off the board, behind Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs (who went eighth to the Cardinals) and Louisville’s Mekhi Becton (who went 10th to the Browns).

The Jets signed George Fant to be their left tackle, but Kiper thinks Wills, who played right tackle for the Crimson Tide, would be able to play on the left side as well if needed.

“Look at the movement he gets in the run game. He was a key guy for the running game,” Kiper said. “He very rarely let up any pressures. He keeps that frame between the defensive end and the quarterback. He's a very skilled, very innately smart pass blocker. He just has a knack, he cuts off angles . . . He’s 6-4- plus, 312 pounds. He's got really long arms, he tested well, he's very athletic.”

Kiper went with Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool in the second round to fill the receiver need, but he also mentioned TCU’s Jalen Reagor, Texas’s Devin Duvernay, USC’s Michael Pittman Jr. and Penn State’s KJ Hamler as options.

Claypool tested very well at the Combine in February, running a 4.42-second 40-yard dash and recording a 40 ½-inch vertical and 10-6 broad jump — all at 6-4 ¼, 238 pounds. Kiper drew an interesting comparison to a current Jets receiver — in both a good and bad way.

“The main thing with Claypool, he’s a freak with his size and his speed, but he's got to be more consistent catching the ball,” Kiper said. “He can't be like Breshad Perriman, who had questions coming out and you thought he could maybe improve.”

The Jets signed Perriman, a former first-round pick of the Ravens, last month. Like Claypool, Perriman has excellent speed (4.24-second 40 at his Pro Day) and hops (36 ½-inch vertical, 10-7 broad jump). However, he has a history of drops and was only starting to put things together late last season with Tampa Bay, catching 20 passes for 419 yards and five touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ last four games.

“You’ve already got Perriman who's inconsistent, or has been throughout his career but has talent,” Kiper said “Claypool’s got, like Perriman, a ton of talent but he's had too many drops, and that's the reason he's a second-round pick and not a first-round pick.”

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