The Targets

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets' interviews and how they might impact the draft and free agency.

In 2013 the NY Jets drafted seven players:  Dee Milliner, Sheldon Richardson, Geno Smith, Brian Winters, Oday Aboushi, William Campbell and Tommy Bohannon.  Of those seven, only two, Winters and Bohannon, were not interviewed by the Jets at some point in their 60+ interviews as part of the pre-draft meet and greet process.

Each year teams get the opportunity to talk to players at the Senior Bowl, at the East West Shrine game, at the NFL Combine, and at the various Pro Days staged by schools around the country.  Of those events in 2014, only the Pro Days remain.  The Jets have currently conducted approximately half of their allotted interviews.  If past practice is any guide as to what to expect this year, the remaining interviews will likely be split between 15-20 of the top 40 or so prospects and 10-15 prospects from local schools within driving distance of the NY metropolitan area, such as Rutgers, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, UConn, etc.

With the draft being so vital to building a team it should come as no surprise that the Jets' draft choices are mostly from among the pool of players they interview.  Every little extra bit of information about a targeted player could tip the balance one way or another as to how the team views a prospect.  Assuming the Jets again choose their players largely from the pool of players they interview, what information can we glean from the list of players interviewed so far?  Let's take a look.

I have put together a chart of all 29 players the Jets have met with thus far, according to the database kept at Walterfootball.com.  I have arranged the list in order of the projected draft round of each player, as projected by CBSSports.com.  I emphasize that these projected rounds are just one site's opinion and may well differ from your own views.  The exact place where any particular player will be taken is of course subject to endless debate and is largely unknowable; the projected draft positions given here are included only to serve as a convenient way of grouping the prospects into a rough order.   I would hope that the comments do not get bogged down in fruitless debate as to how appropriate the exact round is for any particular player; that debate is not really central to the ideas presented in this article.  It should also be noted that within any single round the players are grouped in alphabetical order, not in the order they are expected to be drafted; so, for example, the fact that Jimmy Garappolo is listed before Jordan Matthews in round 2 is a consequence of G coming before M in the alphabet, not a judgment of who is likely to be chosen before whom.

Name

Position

Height

Weight

Projected

Draft Position

.

Blake Bortles

QB

6’ 5"

232

1

Sammy Watkins

WR

6’ 1"

211

1

Jace Amaro

TE

6’ 5"

265

1/2

Odell Beckham

WR

5’ 11"

198

1/2

Ryan Shazier

OLB

6’ 1"

237

1/2

Jimmy Garappolo

QB

6’ 2"

226

2

Jordan Matthews

WR

6’ 3"

212

2

Dakota Dozier

G

6’ 4"

313

3

Pierre Desir

CB

6’ 1"

198

3/4

Zach Mettenberger

QB

6’ 5"

224

3/4

Rashaad Reynolds

CB

5’ 10"

189

4

Prince Shembo

OLB

6’ 1"

253

4/5

Bene Benwikere

CB

5’ 11"

195

6/7

Ted Bolser

TE

6’ 6"

257

7/UDFA

Tajh Boyd

QB

6’ 1"

222

7/UDFA

Carrington Byndom

CB

5’ 11"

180

7/UDFA

Phillip Gaines

CB

6’ 0"

193

7/UDFA

Ryan Groy

G

6’ 5"

316

7/UDFA

Matt Hazel

WR

6’ 1"

198

7/UDFA

Gabe Ikard

C

6’ 4"

304

7/UDFA

Jeff Matthews

QB

6’ 4"

223

7/UDFA

Tyler Starr

OLB

6’ 4"

250

7/UDFA

James Stone

C

6’ 4"

306

7/UDFA

Beau Allen

DT

6’ 3"

333

UDFA

John Brown

WR

5’ 10"

179

UDFA

Matt Feiler

OT

6’ 6"

330

UDFA

Allen Hurns

WR

6’ 1"

198

UDFA

A.J. Marshall

S

5’ 11

197

UDFA

LaDarius Perkins

RB

5’ 7"

195

UDFA

The first thing worthy of note is that the pool of players likely to be taken with the Jets' all important first two selections is likely to be much larger than those players listed in the chart as likely 1st or 2nd round selections.  A majority of the remaining interviews conducted will likely be among those players most likely to fall to the Jets at picks 18 and 49.  So this currently incomplete list of interviews is probably most lacking in the area of top tier talent, and may not tell us much about how the Jets will spend their top selections.  Still, it is noteworthy that every name in this chart pegged as a 1st round or 2nd round selection, and indeed the top 8 names on the list, are all offensive players.  Those hoping the Jets will go offense with their premium selections should be at least a bit heartened by the players interviewed so far.

It is also interesting to note that every round of the draft is addressed with at least one player, making for some interesting first takes on what the actual Jets draft might look like.  Assuming Bortles and Watkins are just there as due diligence in the unlikely event they fall in the Jets lap, what might a Jets draft look like, with the large proviso that the Pro Day interviews are still to come?

Rounds 1 and 2:  Amaro, Beckham, Shazier, Garappolo, Matthews (choose two)

Round 3:  Dakota Dozier, Pierre Dasir, Zach Mettenberger (choose two)

Round 4:  Rashaad Reynolds

Round 5:  Prince Shembo

Round 6:  Bene Benwikere

Round 7:  Take your pick.  I'm going with John Brown.

With all the endless mock drafts going around, it's interesting to see what a mock draft of players the Jets have actually shown interest in might look like.

There are some other interesting things we might take away from this chart.  First, quarterback appears to be very much a position of priority for the Jets, with five interviews among the 29 interviews conducted so far.  That's as many quarterbacks as were interviewed last year in the 60+ interviews conducted.  In addition, three of the five quarterbacks interviewed are projected as premium, first 100 or so selections.  This may be an indication that the Jets are not satisfied with Geno Smith as the starting quarterback, and they intend to strongly consider using a premium draft choice on direct competition for the starting position.

QB

Name

Position

Height

Weight

Projected

Draft Position

.

Blake Bortles

QB

6’ 5"

232

1

Jimmy Garappolo

QB

6’ 2"

226

2

Zach Mettenberger

QB

6’ 5"

224

3/4

Tajh Boyd

QB

6’ 1"

222

7/UDFA

Jeff Matthews

QB

6’ 4"

223

7/UDFA

Among the other positions represented in droves among the current interviews are cornerback, wide receiver and offensive line.

Five cornerbacks have been interviewed, but none are expected to go higher than the 3rd round.  Based on these interviews it would not come as a surprise if the Jets selected a cornerback in the middle rounds.  Perhaps this would be the eventual replacement for Antonio Cromartie.  However, so far none of the top rated cornerbacks have been interviewed.  This may be an early indication the Jets intend either to bring back Cromartie or they intend to address the position in free agency, as it is unlikely a mid round selection would be ready on Opening Day.

CB

Name

Position

Height

Weight

Projected

Draft Position

.

Pierre Desir

CB

6’ 1"

198

3/4

Rashaad Reynolds

CB

5’ 10"

189

4

Bene Benwikere

CB

5’ 11"

195

6/7

Carrington Byndom

CB

5’ 11"

180

7/UDFA

Phillip Gaines

CB

6’ 0"

193

7/UDFA

For those who insist the Jets must select wide receivers in this draft, the list of interviews so far should be encouraging.  Six wide receivers have been interviewed, making this the single largest position group among the 2014 interviews.  Three of the six are premium selection types, so it looks fairly likely the Jets will be using at least one premium selection on a wide receiver.  The other three are all back of the draft or UDFA types.  I would expect the Jets to double dip at wide receiver, using one premium selection and one late round project.  John Brown would be my choice among the late round types on this list.

WR

Name

Position

Height

Weight

Projected

Draft Position

.

Sammy Watkins

WR

6’ 1"

211

1

Odell Beckham

WR

5’ 11"

198

1/2

Jordan Matthews

WR

6’ 3"

212

2

Matt Hazel

WR

6’ 1"

198

7/UDFA

John Brown

WR

5’ 10"

179

UDFA

Allen Hurns

WR

6’ 1"

198

UDFA

The last position group with a large number of players interviewed is the offensive line.  Five offensive linemen have been interviewed, although only one, guard Dakota Dozier, is projected to be anything more than a late round developmental pick.  For those hoping the Jets would use one or more premium selections to begin rebuilding the offensive line, this list suggests that will not be a Jets priority in the draft.  This might indicate the Jets are likely to aggressively target a guard or two in free agency to replace the departed Willie Colon and to compete with the so far underwhelming Brian Winters.

OL

Name

Position

Height

Weight

Projected

Draft Position

.

Dakota Dozier

G

6’ 4"

313

3

Ryan Groy

G

6’ 5"

316

7/UDFA

Gabe Ikard

C

6’ 4"

304

7/UDFA

James Stone

C

6’ 4"

306

7/UDFA

Matt Feiler

OT

6’ 6"

330

UDFA

The last thing of interest to me in examining the list are the positions with little or no representation.  There are zero inside linebackers on the list.  For those hoping to draft a replacement for David Harris, that may not be in the cards.  Perhaps the Jets intend to aggressively target the position in free agency.  Or perhaps the Jets feel the team is fine at inside linebacker for the foreseeable future.  The lack of interest in linebackers should come as no surprise, as the Jets have valued the position less than any team in the NFL over the last 15+ drafts.

Surprisingly, safety also seems to be a position of limited interest for the Jets, as they have only interviewed a single safety, and he is a player who is not expected to be drafted.  Perhaps this means Dawan Landry and/or Ed Reed will be back.  Or it might mean the Jets will be going after safeties in free agency.

Tight ends also do not appear to be a large priority, the Jets' purported interest in Eric Ebron notwithstanding.  The Jets have only interviewed two tight ends, only one of which, Jace Amaro, is even likely to be drafted.

For those tired of defensive line selections early in the draft, you should be encouraged that the entire list contains only one defensive lineman, and he is not expected to be drafted.  Given the high quality but low quantity of defensive linemen currently on the team, particularly with Douzable being a free agent, it appears the Jets are either intending to sign one or two defensive linemen in free agency or they are planning on promoting one or two from the practice squad.

Finally, for all those who believe the Jets are just fine at running back, this chart's for you.  The Jets have only interviewed one running back, the diminutive Ladarius Perkins, and he is a player not expected to be drafted.  It would appear the Jets are either thinking the position is not one of need, or they intend to address it in free agency.

For those keeping score at home, the preliminary indications, subject to the rather large proviso that Pro Days are still ahead, are that the Jets will be looking hard at quarterbacks early in the draft.  They also appear to be fully on board with a focus on the offense in the early rounds, with particular emphasis on wide receivers.  Running back, tight end and offensive line appear to be somewhat lesser concerns on offense.  It is perhaps noteworthy that running back, tight end, and all positions on the offensive line other than left tackle are the least expensive offensive positions to fill in free agency, perhaps indicating that Idzik will take the most cost effective approach to free agency and target the most expensive positions in the draft, where he can get players on the cheap for four or five years.

On defense, there does not appear to be a large interest in premium defensive players this year,  with only Ryan Shazier being very likely to go in the first two rounds.  After that the list primarily contains depth players, meaning perhaps that the Jets intend to fill defensive holes in free agency, or they are satisfied with much of the talent already here, particularly at defensive line, inside linebacker and safety.

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