Quarterback, wide receiver among Jets' biggest draft needs
New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan are starting their third season together in the Big Apple, and are once again in rebuilding mode. The team has let go several declining big-name veterans—including cornerback Darrelle Revis, center Nick Mangold and wide receiver Brandon Marshall—and looks to build through the draft. The biggest question for the Jets remains who will be under center as they continue their search for a franchise quarterback after a lackluster 2016 season.
Even though the Jets have two young quarterbacks and a veteran already signed, not many people believe that they have their quarterback of the future on their roster. Bryce Petty has already got some opportunity under center, but failed to impress, while there has not been any promising news regarding the development of former Penn State signal caller Christian Hackenberg. As a result, it is likely that the Jets will go into their season with veteran quarterback Josh McCown. However, the former Cleveland Brown cannot be viewed a long-term option, and the Jets could very well select a quarterback early in the draft who can sit and learn behind McCown.
Early-round target: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
If everything goes their way, the Jets have a chance of selecting the quarterback of their choice with the sixth pick, and former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson can very much be in play at that spot. Out of the early-round options, Watson has the most experience, as he played in two National Championships and has put together three years of impressive tape at Clemson. However, it is also of note that Watson has played in a very limited system and with teammates that were better playmakers than the ones the Jets have on their roster now. As a result, even though he is expected to be selected early in this year’s draft, the transition process may be challenging for the former Clemson Tiger.
Mid- or late-round target: Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami
It’s unlikely that the Jets would want a third developmental project quarterback on their team. However, if they do, Kaaya can be a good option to acquire on the second day of the draft. The biggest concern regarding Kaaya is how his performance drops off under pressure, and whether this is something that can be improved in the NFL. While he recorded a passer rating of 113.0 from a clean pocket—19th in the nation—Kaaya’s passer rating dropped to 59.2 when under pressure, 85th among quarterbacks. Not only is this not ideal coming into the NFL, but the Jets’ shaky offensive line would not help, either.
Need: Offensive tackle
While the Jets signed offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum during the offseason, his 2016 form does not suggest that he will be an upgrade for the offensive line, and the team is still in need of help along the unit, both on the interior and regarding offensive tackles. However, it was no coincidence that the Jets—along with several other teams—tried to address the question through free agency, as this year’s offensive tackle class is not considered particularly strong, and the best players are expected to be selected between the Jets’ first two picks.
Early-round target: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
The Jets could land Ramczyk only if he somehow slides and remains available early in the second round or if the team trades down. Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 ranked offensive tackle would represent an instant upgrade for Todd Bowles’ team; Ramczyk is a truly complete tackle who graded well both in the running game and in pass protection in his only year playing at the FBS level. In fact, he allowed only one sack, three hits and eight hurries on 373 pass-blocking snaps at Wisconsin in 2016.
Mid- or late-round target: Justin Senior, OT, Mississippi State
Senior has showed good signs of improvement over the past three seasons at Mississippi State, as he went from grading out at 52.5 in 2014 to earning an overall grade of 82.1 in his final season. As a result, it is unlikely that he has already reached his ceiling, and his upside makes him an intriguing prospect in the middle rounds. However, his pass protection will need to be worked on, as he struggled against the inside move of speed rushers and allowed three sacks, two hits and 15 hurries in pass protection in 2016. However, his athletic ability and the fact that he played in Mississippi State’s zone-heavy running game makes him a good fit for the Jets, who rely mainly on inside and outside zone plays in their running attack.
Need: Wide receiver
Although the Jets have an adequate set of skill players, with the departure of Brandon Marshall, they are in dire need of a playmaker, as none of their current offensive players cause sleepless nights for opposing defensive coordinators. In addition, their top receiver, Eric Decker, has just turned 30, and former Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith does not seem to live up to expectations, as he has failed to stay on the field and caught only 10 passes over the first two seasons of his NFL career.
Early-round target: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Davis is considered to be one of the two top wide receivers in this year’s class, along with Clemson’s Mike Williams. The two players are quite different in what they can do well and in how they win. As a result, Davis might be a better fit for the Jets, even though he is not as physical as Williams and does not win contested situations as frequently. His route-running and separation skills, however, can provide bigger cushions for the Jets’ inexperienced and slightly inaccurate quarterbacks.
Mid- or late-round target: Travin Dural, WR, LSU
Dural did not have the college production that some of the other receivers had in this year’s class; however, that was more due to LSU’s inept passing game than Dural’s skills. In fact, Dural has demonstrated very good hands in 2016, as he did not drop any of the 28 passes going his way, and has separated from defenders numerous times just to see a pass fly yards above his head due to his quarterback’s inaccuracy. While Dural’s route-running is nowhere near what is expected in the NFL at this point, his athletic ability makes him an intriguing option for the Jets.