Next to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Jets have been the surprise story of the NFL. Coming into the season experts and fans alike expected the Jets to finish towards the bottom of the league, but to date the Jets are sitting at 2-1 in division play and 5-4 overall. The remaining scheduled games are fairly favorable for the Jets. There is a possibility that Gang Green can make a playoff run, but realistically they should be able to finish at .500. If the season plays out in the Jets favor they should land a mid draft spot (around picks 16-20). Given the status of the current roster their are numerous ways the Jets can go with their first round picks. Lets take a look five possibilities.
Jordan Matthews: Senior Wide Receiver Vanderbilt 6'3'' 205 lbs.
It seems that the Jets have found a steady quarterback in rookie Geno Smith. Despite some turnover issues, Smith has helped the Jets win some big games, and has displayed solid arm strength and instinct. The Jets need to assist Smith by adding some offensive weapons.
Matthews was given a three-star rating by Rivals coming out of high school. He played at the Madison Academy located in Madison, Alabama. He only received offers from Vanderbilt, Arkansas State, Jacksonville State, Kansas, and Tulane. Matthews boasted a 4.5 second 40 yard dash and 34 inch vertical leap. Even more impressive was his 3.9 Grade Point Average (although this is not football related, it speaks volumes of the work ethic and mindset of Matthews).
Matthews is an underrated receiver with a great build. Given the fact that he is on a team that plays in the best conference in the nation, Matthews has proven that he can perform well against solid competition. Matthews is a cousin of NFL legend Jerry Rice. By no means does this mean that he will be the next Jerry Rice, but it is clear that he has the ability to be a game changer. Matthews leads all Vanderbilt receivers with 75 receptions for 935 yards and 5 touchdowns (He currently is ranked third in receiving yards amongst SEC players). Last season Matthews led the SEC with 19.0 yards per catch. He clearly has big play capability.
There are some flaws in Matthews game. His speed is one that is more consistent. He doesn't have top notch acceleration during his routes. NFL Draft expert Todd McShay recently ranked Matthews over Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans, stating that Matthews has "has good ball skills with the ability to adjust to the ball in the air, and he is a very competitive player." If the Jets were to acquire a player like Matthews, they would be able to utilize him in numerous passing situations. He would be a good target for Geno Smith.
Marqise Lee: Junior Wide Receiver USC 6'0'' 195 lbs.
In comparison to his 2012 campaing, Lee is not playing to his full potential. Despite not having a stellar season, Lee still has been able to put up respectable stats (38 receptions, 521 yards, 2 touchdowns). Lee has been battling a tough knee injury all season that has impacted his play. Despite the injury, Lee has been resilient. His performance during the 2012 season helped him earn a Biletnikoff Award.
Rivals ranked Lee the third overall receiver in his recruiting class. Coming out of Junipero Serra (Gardena, California) Lee He had offers from numerous major programs, but decided to take his talents to Southern Cal. Lee runs an impressive 40 yard dash (times varying betwen 4.4 and 4.5 seconds). His speed is respectable, but even more impressive is his ability to play physical despite his size.
Lee can shift his body fluidly and throws impressive jukes when needed. His ability to cut has allowed him to run excellent slant and dig routes. He shows great movement after the catch, gaining crucial yards after his receptions. It's obvious that Lee won't beat NFL defensive backs with size or strength, but with instinct and agility he can shake corners. If Lee can improve his strength it will help him transition better to the NFL game. He needs this strength to assist him during blocking assignments. By adding size to his frame he will be able to compete against all-pro caliber corners. He needs to add size without compromising his speed. Depending on how he performs during the rest of the season and the combine, Lee may find himself as a top 15 pick. If he falls later in the draft he would be a steal.
Mike Evans: Redshirt Sophomore Wide Receiver Texas A&M 6'5" 225 lbs.
Mike Evans exploded on the scene with his breakout game against Alabama. Despite losing, Evans hauled in 7 catches for 229 yards and a touchdown. Evans currently ranks 2nd amongst Division 1-A receivers in yards (1263 receiving yards). He has put together a stellar season. During the 2012 season, Evans hauled in 82 catches for 1105 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Evans has a great build that allows him to create separation and win on jump-ball situations. He is bigger than the majority of the corners he faces, which allows him to succeed in physical match ups. Evans leaping ability comes from his pure athleticism. He was a highly touted basketball player at Ball High School in Gavelston, Texas. His strength is best on display when fighting for the ball in the air. His hands are strong, and he is able to snag the ball almost immediately while in the air. The redshirt sophomore has great control over his massive frame. Evans frame has allowed him to become a nuisance for defenders who attempt to tackle him. Much like other large receivers, Evans uses his size to create momentum to fight for extra yards.
The 6'5" receiver is a solid blocker. He uses his leverage and reach to create space for runners on the outside. Evans effectively stretches his arms and drives his defender down field allowing runners to find open space and accelerate upfield.
Although Evans is revered for his size, his speed has been questioned. Many analysts feel that he doesn't have top caliber speed for a receiver. Although he may outsize opponents, Evans isn't known to be a burner downfield. Evans is very physical in jump ball situations, but he needs to work on beating jams at the line. His route running needs some fine tuning. He needs a better arsenal of routes to add to his overall game. He's a deep threat, but he needs to work on shorter inside routes to develop into an overall great receiver.
If Evans declares for the 2014 draft he will face stiff competition in a class that boasts numerous great receivers. Given his play to date and his size, Evans should be a sure fire first round pick. Where he will land is still in question, but if the Jets could add Evans to their roster they could offer a big body target for Geno Smith to throw to.
Nick O'Leary: Junior Tight End Florida State 6'3" 248 lbs.
O'Leary and the Seminoles have put together an impressive season. Heisman hopeful quarterback Jameis Winston has connected with O'Leary on 23 passes for 389 yards and 6 touchdowns. O'Leary is a big target that Winston favors in the redzone.
O'Leary was ranked the number one overall tight end in the 2011 recruiting class by Rivals. O'Leary had a stellar career at Dwyer High School in West Palm Beach, Florida. He chose Florida State over Alabama, LSU, and Florida.
Coming into the 2013 season, many knew of O'Leary due to the fact that he is the grandson of famous golfer Jack Nicklaus. O'Leary has used his play to define himself instead of his grandfather's fame. He's proven himself in the redzone and has earned a spot on the Mackey Award watch list. O'Leary possesses adequate speed for a tight end (4.84 40 yard dash). He has a strong upper body that allows him to haul in tough passes. O'Leary showed his ability to shed defenders and create space against Pitt. He uses his agility to make himself open in tight situations.
O'Leary displayed his brute strength after he trucked a would-be tackler during Florida State's romp of Clemson. O'Leary has the ability to turn up field and create momentum with his thick frame. He is lucky to be alive after surviving a motorcycle crash this past summer. He was able to bounce back and has strung together a strong season. The Florida State tight end doesn't possess amazing intangibles, however O'Leary is a solid player overall. He may not be a sure fire first round pick, but he could be a draft gem in the later rounds. The combine could be proving ground for O'Leary if he improves his 40 time and displays his strength. O'Leary can earn a first round draft spot by impressing scouts at pro-days and combine events. If the Jets can acquire a player like O'Leary they can use him in numerous situations. He has the ability to line up at full back or play a hybrid position like Delaney Walker did for the San Francisco 49ers.
Bradley Roby: Junior Cornerback Ohio State 5'11" 192 lbs.
The Jets were seeking a replacement after the departure of Darrelle Revis and they thought they found the answer by drafting Alabama corner Dee Milliner in the first round. Milliner has not yet lived up to the hype that surrounded him. He has shown promise at times, but for the most part he has been battling nagging injuries. The Jets pass defense currently ranks 27th in the NFL. The secondary needs some assistance if they plan to be successful in the future.
Roby was a three star prospect (Rivals) coming out of Peachtree Ridge High (Suwanee, Georgia). Since than he has filled his frame out gaining 15 solid pounds without losing his speed. He has developed into a first round caliber corner. Roby was suspended after the Iowa game for targeting a receiver. It was a controversial call, but a penalty is a penalty. Some look at the play and say that Roby led with his shoulder. Although the hit was questionable, it did show that Roby is a tenacious defender with a high motor.
The Jets may being taking a risk if they draft Roby, but analysts have praised the Junior Buckeye for his speed (4.39 40 yard dash) and ability to play close defense. His ability to fight for the ball with receivers sets him apart from his counterparts. He uses physicality and speed to match up with receivers. His frame is average for an NFL corner, which may create issues against bigger receivers. Many times, Roby has difficulty looking back and locating the ball. He needs to work on reacting to plays in front of his body and positioning his body to break on the ball.
With seven games remaining, the Jets control their own destiny. They can continue their on field success and acquire a mid to late first round pick, or they can play inconsistently and find themselves with an early pick. Preferably, fans would hope that the Jets string together the wins needed to make a playoff run. It's no guarantee that the Jets will have success in the postseason, but it's a big morale boost to make it to the playoffs after being touted as a team that would finish below .500.
The college season is winding down, and prospects will need to start making decisions on declaring for the draft. If the given prospects do declare, they will need to continue to bolster their stock with strong combines and pro-days. Given their current status, the Jets can go many ways with their draft picks. The Jets are a team that need to find consistency on the field. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith still has room for improvement, and given the right tools he can fix his flaws