New York Jets' Top Needs & Fits in the 2014 Draft
With the Senior Bowl over, the time is now for NFL teams to start looking at their team needs and how they can address them in the draft.
The Jets need plenty of help at the skill positions. Luckily for them, they are plentiful in this year's draft. In fact, they will be provided with a bevy of options to solve their most pressing needs in just about every round of the draft.
Here is a look at some of the top candidates to fill the Jets' biggest needs in the draft.
With Santonio Holmes likely on his way out and Stephen Hill being a massive disappointment in his first two seasons as a pro, the Jets will need a receiver as badly as any team in the NFL.
Even if the Jets spend a healthy amount of money upgrading the position in free agency, the position is bare enough to add a prospect at just about any point in the draft.
Marqise Lee, USC
Without Holmes, the Jets will need a playmaker who can turn a short hitch route into a long touchdown. For such purposes, there is no one better in this draft than USC's Marqise Lee.
Once viewed as a potential top-five pick, injuries and a stagnant offense at USC have caused Lee's status as an elite prospect to wear off. However, Lee has far too much raw ability to pass up on just because he was the victim of a difficult situation at USC in 2013.
Odell Beckham, LSU
One of the more underrated receivers in this draft, Odell Beckham has a tremendous skill set that fits a lot of the needs the Jets have at the receiver position.
Beckham has tremendous hands and athletic ability that give him a ton of upside as a receiver. He also doubles as a bona-fide punt returner. He's a bit raw as a route-runner, but he has all the tools to evolve into a true No. 1 receiver.
Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Mike Evans is almost the direct opposite of a receiver in the mold of Marquise Lee in that while he lacks the fluid movement ability of Lee, he can win just about any jump-ball situation to generate big plays down the field.
Evans draws some concern in that he does not gain a lot of separation, but it is impossible to ignore how often he has been able to make huge plays for the Aggies because of his ability to make contested catches.
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
Jordan Matthews started to draw a lot of attention at the Senior Bowl after he requested tape of the opposing cornerbacks prior to the week of practice.
While a bit rough around the edges as a route-runner, Matthews is an aggressive, physical player who is excellent after the catch. He would provide tremendous value in the second round—if he somehow makes it that far.
When considering how average they were at the position last year, as well as that their top two players (Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow) are set to hit the free-agent market, the tight end position is as bare as any on the roster.
Just like the receivers, the Jets should look to add young talent to this group even if they make a splash in free agency.
Eric Ebron, UNC
There are a handful of first-round tight ends in this draft, but Ebron stands out as the player with the most upside with the least amount of risk.
Ebron oozes athletic ability with a tremendous combination of size and speed and is a willing blocker, but he needs to refine his technique in his route-running and in-line blocking. If he can clean up those areas of his game, there is no telling how good this All-American can be in the NFL ranks.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
Seferian-Jenkins is as every bit as talented as Ebron, but he falls short of the top spot because of a few holes in his game. First, he is not nearly as effective after the catch as Ebron. Secondly, he is not as willing as a blocker, appearing to not give full effort on every play.
Still, he has a ton of upside as a receiver because of his massive frame and would be an instant upgrade over anything the Jets had on the roster last year.
Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
While not quite as strong as Ebron or Seferian-Jenkins, Amaro is almost their equal as a receiver. He was rarely used as a blocker at Texas Tech, but he was lethal over the middle using his frame as a receiver, excelling in making contested catches and getting extra yards after the catch.
Amaro is a willing blocker in the rare cases that he did block, but he needs a lot of coaching in this area if he is going to develop into a two-way tight end.
The Jets' front seven has vastly improved over the past few years, but they are still one young, stud outside linebacker away from completing the puzzle once and for all.
It is unlikely that the Jets fill this position in the first round given their other needs, but there are a handful of prospects on the second and third days that could be enticing.
Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
One of the most athletic players at his position, the 253-pound prospect is a prime candidate to make the transition to outside linebacker.
Attaochu is an explosive athlete who is capable of playing almost anywhere on the defensive front, but there is some concern about how well his relatively thin frame will translate into the NFL.
If he can add some weight to his frame (specifically to his lower body) without losing much of his explosiveness, Attaochu could be the answer to the Jets' pass-rushing woes.
Kyle Van Noy, BYU
Van Noy's stock did not go up quite as much as he had hoped in his senior season at BYU, but he is one of the most polished players at his position.
Very refined in his technique, Van Noy has the athleticism and versatility to play at virtually any linebacker position, making him a perfect fit for Rex Ryan's multidimensional defense.
Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
Alabama product Adrian Hubbard would make an easy transition to the professional game with his ability to win in a multitude of ways, whether with his speed moves or bull rush.
However, Hubbard is not exactly elite in any one area, limiting his ceiling (and thus his draft stock). He is also a bit slow off the ball, but his length and technique give him enough tools to have a successful career in the NFL.
Geno Smith finished the season off strong, but the Jets have no reason to be 100 percent convinced that Smith is the unquestioned man for the job in the long term. While it would certainly ruffle some feathers, the Jets should look to add a quarterback during every round of the draft, depending on who is available and how confident they are in Smith.
Derek Carr, Fresno State
The Jets may not be able to land Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater, but there is at least a decent chance that Derek Carr will be the odd man out and tumble down the first round on draft day.
With a strong, accurate arm and good size for the position, Carr is a better pro prospect than his brother, former first-overall selection David Carr. While he tends to be a bit "streaky" in terms of his decision-making, he has a competitive fire that coaches will fall in love with.
Carr may very well go in the first 10 picks, but if he slips down to the Jets at 18, they have to at least consider taking a potential franchise quarterback in Carr.
Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
Another route the Jets can go in to solve their omnipresent quarterback situation is to draft a "project" in the middle rounds to compete and develop on the roster, which could ideally be Logan Thomas.
Thomas endured a very up-and-down career at Virginia Tech, as he was a superstar in 2011 before falling apart the very next year, destroying his draft stock. He rebounded somewhat in 2013, but there are still a lot of questions as to whether Thomas is truly capable of being an NFL quarterback or if he is just a big, strong-armed body who happened to play quarterback in college.
If taken in the proper spot in the draft, it could be well worth the Jets' time and effort to find how if Thomas is capable of being an NFL starter.
Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
In may ways, Garoppolo is the direct opposite of Logan Thomas in that while he has less-than-desirable size and arm strength for the position, he makes up for his shortcomings with a strong sense of timing, instincts and acute knowledge and for offensive football. He processes information quickly and can see the entire field well.
The lack of elite physical tools puts a limit on Garoppolo's potential, but he has the makings of an excellent fit in Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense.
The Jets have at least a decent safety tandem to work with heading into next season, but they will need to add some young talent to prepare for Dawan Landry hitting free agency in 2015.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
If the Jets are interested in getting a star at the safety position, one of their options will be to use their first-round pick on Alabama product Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Clinton-Dix is the most well-rounded safety in this class. He has the range to play deep in Cover 1, the physicality to be an enforcer in the back end of the secondary and the athleticism to cover in man-to-man situations.
It remains to be seen whether the Jets would be willing to use their top pick on a defensive back with so many other needs on the roster (assuming he even makes it to the 18th pick), but he would be the best player at the position since they traded Kerry Rhodes in 2010.
Calvin Pryor, Louisville
One of the hardest-hitting safeties in the country, Calvin Pryor will give the Jets an element of physicality in their secondary that they have not enjoyed since they let LaRon Landry walk in free agency.
Pryor also spends most of his time alone in deep zone coverage, making him a perfect fit on a Jets defense that utilities a lot of Cover 1 principles.
Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
Assuming the Jets part ways with veteran Dawan Landry after this year, they will need to find a long-term replacement at the strong safety position.
Ahmad Dixon is not ideal in man-to-man coverage, but he excels as a downhill player who can be an enforcer in the run game. Because the Jets have Antonio Allen to handle the coverage responsibilities, Dixon can fill the void as a physical enforcer.
On paper, the Jets appear to have solidified the cornerback position with Dee Milliner performing well in the latter weeks of the season. However, the inevitable release of Antonio Cromartie may force the Jets into drafting another cornerback as high as the first round if the right player is available.
Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
One of the most physical and aggressive players at his position, Kyle Fuller has everything Rex Ryan looks for in his cornerbacks.
Fuller lacks the elite speed that scouts are looking for, but he makes up for it with his above-average "comeback" speed, as well as physicality in both press coverage and against the run. He is sound in his technique, which would allow him to start for the Jets opposite Milliner immediately.
Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Dennard is a classic cover corner who would be an ideal replacement for Antonio Cromartie, who is coming off his worst season as a pro and stands a good chance to be released. Dennard and Milliner would give the Jets a starting cornerback tandem that has as much upside as any in the league.
Dennard is a fluid athlete who is capable of playing in either press-man or "off" coverage.
There is a slim chance that Dennard will fall so far to where the Jets pick in the first round, but if he does slide, the Jets should not hesitate to draft Dennard to put the finishing touches on rebuilding their secondary.
Pierre Desir, Lindenwood
With long, athletic cornerbacks being all the rage these days at the corner position, small-school product Pierre Desir figures to be a much more coveted prospect than one would expect at 6'1".
Desir had a strong week at the Senior Bowl, which he capped off with an interception in the game.
If the Jets part ways with Cromartie, Desir could be logical replacement if he can be had in the second or third round.