The New York Jets haven’t selected an offensive player in the first round since they traded up to take Mark Sanchez in the 2009 draft. That shouldn’t change this year.
There’s no knocking the talents of LSU running back Leonard Fournette or Alabama tight end OJ Howard, two names that have been linked to the Jets in numerous mock drafts. Fans love to point to the Cowboys selection of Ezekiel Elliot in last year’s draft but seem to forget how the Cowboys were in position to draft him. Tony Romo was hurt for most of the 2015 season causing Dallas to rely on Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore. With arguably the best offensive line in football and at the time a proven quarterback, it was an easy decision for them. The Jets offensive line is nowhere near the best and we all know the story at QB.
Break out Bilal
After Bilal Powell had a phenomenal December in 2015, for some reason now ex- offensive coordinator Chan Gailey didn’t make more of an effort getting him more touches until Matt Forte started to wear down as the season went on. After Forte’s knee injury, Powell once again had a terrific December. He should be the Jets’ starter this season with Forte coming into games with fresh legs. What’s even better is that Powell is under contract for the next two years.
In summary, Fournette could very well be that next elite ball carrier but with all of the many needs the Jets have, running back is nowhere near the most glaring.
Tight end a prominent need?
As far as Howard goes, the sixth pick is just way too early for a tight end. There is no denying the talent of somebody running a 4.51 40-yard dash and a 6.85 cone drill at the position, but there are other tight ends who can be drafted much later who can also have an immediate impact for the Jets.
Jake Butt out of Michigan would be getting talked about a whole lot more if he didn’t suffer a torn ACL last season. He is expected to return to football activities after the draft and could potentially be a mid round steal for Mike Maccagnan & co. Then there is Ole Miss’ Evan Engram, who isn’t being put in the same discussion as David Njoku from Miami or Howard as the top tight end in the draft class due to his size. At 6’3”, 234 pounds Engram ran a 4.42 40 and was a dynamic playmaker at Ole Miss. Draft experts have also praised his blocking ability. The Jets no doubt need to draft a tight end but shouldn’t reach for one with their first round pick.
The Jets secondary stunk last season, plain and simple. Darrelle Revis is an all time great and is basically a Ring of Honor lock but he looked to be aging fast at 31 years old. Buster Skrine is best suited as a nickel corner but he was often out of position and Marcus Williams struggled with his increased role. At safety, Marcus Gilchrist just doesn’t make enough plays and Calvin Pryor had a down year after a promising sophomore campaign. Pryor, a former first round pick shouldn’t be given up on. He too found himself playing out of position due to injuries.
It is a passing league and the Jets made opposing QB’s look a whole lot better last season because receivers were often wide open. Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore is universally known as the top cornerback in the draft but his injury history is a major red flag. We’ve seen this movie before with Dee Milliner. Great talent but often hurt in college which was the same story as a member of the Jets. Todd Bowles’ blitz heavy scheme puts a lot of pressure on his corners so it would be hard to blame the Jets for using a first rounder on Lattimore because their biggest need outside of a franchise quarter back is defensive back.
If Malik Hooker or Jamal Adams are available when the Jets pick, they shouldn’t have a tough decision. It would be hard to imagine that both will still be there at six but if that’s the case, Hooker should be the pick. He is exactly what the Jets haven’t had in so long, a speedy ball hawking safety that will play “centerfield” in the secondary and will get his hands on interceptions. Last season, the Jets seemed to be allergic to an interception and who knows, maybe a few big turnovers would’ve changed the season?
Adams may very well be the best safety in the draft class but he is more suited as a strong safety. His versatility will intrigue Bowles, who loves to call dime packages but Hooker fits more of a need.
Trading back should be the goal for the Jets who need to gain more picks to address the plethora of holes on their roster. However, at six they are in a great spot to select a defensive back who can change their defense right away.