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Jets should have pick of elite receivers at No. 11 in NFL Draft

Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III on Aug.

Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III on Aug. 31, 2019, in Atlanta. Credit: AP/John Amis

Joe Douglas, like many general managers trying to build a winning team, watched the Chiefs and 49ers in the Super Bowl and thought to himself, “We need some of those guys.”

That could be a little window into Douglas’ draft strategy when the Jets are on the clock with the 11th pick.

“I think you saw that in the two teams that competed for the Super Bowl this year, how many explosive players they had on both sides of the ball,” Douglas said at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. “Everyone is trying to get bigger, faster, smarter, tougher. We need explosive guys. We need explosive, dynamic playmakers.”

The expectation all along has been that Douglas will take an offensive lineman and really try to bolster the front that he spent much of free agency strengthening. But a game-changing wide receiver would be a welcome addition for the Jets and quarterback Sam Darnold.

Douglas made the promise to Darnold’s parents last August that he would get him the protection he needs to stay upright and the weapons to succeed. He addressed the line, signing five players, including four starters: Connor McGovern, George Fant, Alex Lewis and Rockville Centre’s Greg Van Roten. Douglas certainly wouldn’t be wrong if he added a potential fifth starter and selected Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Georgia's Andrew Thomas or Louisville’s Mekhi Becton if they’re available.

But the Jets’ receiving corps definitely needs some juice, and this is a draft that can provide it. Douglas could have his choice of three explosive, dynamic playmakers with the No. 11 pick.

Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and speedster Henry Ruggs III are the top three receivers in what is considered a deep and talented class. Any one of them  immediately would add a different dimension to a rather pedestrian receiving group and provide excitement for a fan base that needs something to lift their spirits.

The Jets believe they have a franchise quarterback in Darnold, but the jury is still out because of injuries, illness, a disappointing offensive line and unspectacular skill players. Darnold is 11-15 in his two seasons, with 36 touchdown passes, 28 interceptions and an 81.1 quarterback rating. If Darnold had an explosive receiver and a stronger offensive line, it could open things up for him and the Jets.

Douglas did his “due diligence” on DeAndre Hopkins and Stefon Diggs, but the Jets were never really in play for either receiver before they were dealt to Arizona and Buffalo, respectively. The Jets ended up with Breshad Perriman in free agency after losing Robby Anderson to Carolina. He joins productive slot receiver Jamison Crowder in a group that also features Josh Doctson, Vyncint Smith, Braxton Berrios and Josh Bellamy.

Quincy Enunwa also is on the roster, but his return from a second season-ending neck injury in three years is iffy.

“Whenever we have the opportunity to improve our playmaking group, we’re going to go after that,” Douglas said.

Certainly Adam Gase wouldn’t mind adding a potential major weapon to his system. The Jets finished last in yards per game (273) in Gase’s first year as their coach and fourth from the bottom in receiving yards (194.4). One of these receivers also could keep teams from loading the box and give Le’Veon Bell more running room in his second season as a Jet.

The Jets also could find a quality receiver in this draft — perhaps LSU's Justin Jefferson — if they trade down in the first round for more draft capital. If they go for an offensive lineman at 11, they should have receiving options in the second round, perhaps Clemson’s Tee Higgins or Baylor’s Denzel Mims.

“You’ve probably heard every GM and coach talk about this wide receiver class; it’s a good one,” Douglas said. “There’s a lot of talented players and we see how much the pass game affects the National Football League. So we do feel good about this group.”

Jets re-sign LB Burgess. The Jets officially re-signed inside linebacker James Burgess to a one-year deal on Tuesday. Burgess, who has been cut eight times in his NFL career, led an injury-riddled Jets defense with 80 tackles in 10 games last year.

Three wide receiver options for the Jets at No. 11

1. CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma, Jr.

He earned All-American honors after catching 62 passes for 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns. Lamb finished in the top six in the nation in receiving yards, yards per catch (21.4) and touchdowns.

2. Jerry Jeudy, Alabama, Jr.

He won the Biletnikoff Award as a sophomore and followed that with 77 catches for 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns. Jeudy had 204 receiving yards against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.

3. Henry Ruggs III, Alabama, Jr.

He caught 40 passes for 746 yards and seven touchdowns as the Crimson Tide's No. 2 option in the passing game. Ruggs has game-breaking speed, as he showed when he ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at the Combine.

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