Breaking Down the Most Important Pro Days for New York Jets
Often touted as glorified workouts, pro days can serve a valuable purpose if they are treated with the right amount of consideration.
Like the combine, pro days should be used to confirm what has been studied on tape—and to ensure that these prospects have enough discipline to stay in shape throughout the offseason. A significant decline or increase in numbers should cause scouts and personnel men to recheck their notes, not rewrite them completely.
Based on their needs, the Jets need to attend as many pro days as possible that feature wide receivers, tight ends and cornerbacks. Here are some of the schools that should be circled on their calendars this spring.
Key Players: Calvin Pryor (S), Hakeem Smith (S), Teddy Bridgewater (QB)
Jets general manager John Idzik was actually in attendance for the Louisville pro day, and for good reason: The Cardinals have a stacked roster that is loaded with NFL-caliber talent at positions where the Jets need it.
Top quarterback prospect Teddy Bridgewater garnered all of the headlines from the pro day, but the Jets were likely there for other, more realistic options. Safety Calvin Pryor was on display, and his explosiveness would be a huge addition to the Jets' beleaguered secondary.
The Jets also got a look at Pryor's partner, Hakeem Smith. While not as talented as Pryor as a deep safety, he plays the run very well and could provide good value in the middle-to-late rounds.
This is not to say the Jets had zero interest in Bridgewater, who posted a rather unspectacular workout. Mike Mayock of NFL Network called the workout "average at best"—hardly a ringing endorsement for a player with hopes of being the top pick.
Bridgewater's stock appears to be on the decline after so much preseason hype, and the Jets have to be prepared to make a decision on a possible trade-up.
Key Players: Kyle Fuller (CB), Logan Thomas (QB), Antone Exum (CB/S), James Gayle (DE)
After being bystanders on the cornerback market in free agency, the Jets have as much reason to be at Virginia Tech's pro day as any other team.
The Hokies are loaded with talented defensive backs, producing two NFL-caliber talents in Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum this year. Fuller is a borderline first-round pick who could interest the Jets, especially if they do not add another starting cornerback before the draft. According to Tony Pauline of WalterFootball.com, Fuller was as advertised, posting numbers that reflected his combine and looking smooth in drills.
Meanwhile, Exum is a much riskier selection because he missed the vast majority of last season recovering from an ACL injury. His lack of ideal speed may also make him a candidate to transition to safety, taking advantage of his physicality, ball skills and instincts.
Pauline notes that Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman showed particular interest in Exum, noting that he will be "fine" coming back from his injury.
Perhaps the most polarizing player in this year's draft class, quarterback Logan Thomas, will be on display as well. Thomas makes plenty of sense for a Jets team in need of some quarterback depth and perhaps an extra body to make the transition to tight end if quarterbacking does not quite work out. Thomas had an impressive workout of his own, which comes to no surprise considering his physical gifts.
Another person of interest is defensive end/outside linebacker James Gayle. The pass-rushing specialist would be a terrific late-round pick to groom behind Calvin Pace while he develops his run technique to become a full-time starter.
Key Players: Brandin Cooks (WR), Micah Hatfield (WR)
This year's Oregon State products on two ends of the draft spectrum at wide receiver: Brandin Cooks and Micah Hatfield
Brandin Cooks is the cream of the crop and may wind up as a first-round pick. However, while everyone traveled to Oregon to take a close look at Cooks, it was his teammate, Micah Hatfield, who stole the show, Tony Pauline of WalterFootball.com notes:
Hatfield, who weighs just under 190 pounds, posted a vertical jump of 38 inches, broad jump of 10-2 and completed 11 reps on the bench. He timed 4.41s in the forty and turned in an unofficial 6.38s in the three cone. I'm told Hatfield looked terrific catching the ball and at the very least secured himself a free agent contract in May.
Hatfield is not going to solve the Jets' need for a No. 1 receiver, but he may have convinced at least a few teams that he is worth investing a draft pick in, if not a priority free-agent contract.
Key Players: Justin Gilbert (CB), Tracy Moore (WR), Charlie Moore (WR)
Potential first-round pick Justin Gilbert is the main attraction for Oklahoma State. According to Tony Pauline, he looked the part in his drills, reflecting the solid numbers he posted at the combine. His consistency will only push him further into the first round.
The Jets should have also kept an eye on the two receivers on display, Tracy Moore and Charlie Moore. Tracy was terrific in his speed drills, running a solid 4.53 and looked "explosive."
Meanwhile, the bigger Charlie Moore ran a bit slower in his 40 (4.65), but he looked good in the catching drills, living up to his reputation as a "possession" receiver.
Key Players: Kelvin Benjamin (WR), James Wilder Jr. (RB), Lamarcus Joyner (CB)
One of the most attractive pro days on the calendar (on a seemingly annual basis), there was an array of prospects on display in Tallahassee who would be of great interest to the Jets.
Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is one of the more difficult receiver prospects to decipher this year. His combination of size and speed is attractive, but his inefficient route running and unreliable hands make him a maddening prospect to study.
To the surprise of many, Benjamin did not even attempt to improve on his average combine numbers, Rob Rang of CBSSports.com reports. The decision to not want to compete and improve his average time could cost him significantly on draft day.
According to Rang, running back James Wilder Jr. helped his cause the most. He made a significant improvement on his average 40 time at the combine (4.86), turning in an impressive 4.65—a tremendous improvement in just a month's worth of work.
Defensive back Lamarcus Joyner helped his stock as well, looking explosive when changing direction. Joyner does not quite fit the Jets' need for a boundary cornerback, but it is never too early to start looking for potential replacements for Kyle Wilson.
Key Players: Jordan Matthews (WR), Kenny Ladler (FS), Andre Hal (CB)
Another second-round receiver the Jets need to keep a close eye on is Jordan Matthews, who has enjoyed a strong draft season that has helped his stock tremendously. After putting his name on the map at the Senior Bowl by requesting coach's tape of opposing cornerbacks, his combination of size and toughness is difficult to ignore.
Matthews' 40 time will be vital at his pro day, as he will have to prove that his 4.46 time at the combine was no aberration. If he can erase his speed concerns for good, his stock will only continue to rise.
Meanwhile, Kenny Ladler could wind up as a mid-round steal. The ball-hawk safety could be a tremendous addition to a Jets secondary that needs to create more turnovers. While not overly gifted in any one area, his versatility would be welcomed in Rex Ryan's complex schemes.
Andre Hal is pegged as a zone cornerback—not an ideal scheme fit for Ryan's man-to-man defense. However, his 4.40 40-yard dash may suggest that he can open up his scheme library at the next level.
Key Players: Odell Beckham Jr.(WR), Jarvis Landry (WR), Zach Mettenberger (QB)
For the Jets, making the trip down to Baton Rouge to see the Tigers' receiving corps in action is well worth the trip. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry combined for one of the best receiving tandems in the nation, but their pro days carry much different significance for one another.
After blowing up the combine with a 4.43 40-yard dash, all Beckham has to do is keep pace with his numbers from a month ago to secure his first-round status.
Landry, however, has much more to prove. His pedestrian numbers in the 40-yard dash (4.77) and vertical jump (28.5 inches) have put his second-round projection in jeopardy with his athleticism now in question. He needs to post significant improvements in just about every drill to get his stock back to its pre-combine state.
In their never-ending search for talented signal-callers, the Jets should also keep an eye on quarterback Zach Mettenberger. If they are unable to land a premier backup quarterback in free agency (such as Michael Vick), adding a talented prospect who can at least bolster their depth should be a priority.
Combine numbers courtesy of NFL.com
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