We know that the Jets have the 20th overall selection in the NFL draft, we also know that the Jets showed a willingness to go best player available in the first draft under GM Mike Maccagnan. We don't know who they're interested in this year and we don't know how they will approach the draft, but it's always fun to speculate.
I have a habit of doing the rounds with mock drafts once a week. Looking at who they have going to the Jets and who they have falling past the Jets. A lot of people don't like mock drafts, but they are always a topic of interesting conversation pieces.
I've collected a number of mock drafts as they stand today, and highlighted the Jets pick in each below, along with the reasoning and logic behind the selection.
The Jets haven't enjoyed strong play from their inside linebackers for quite some time. David Harris has regressed over the past few years and is now a major liability. Yet, he's still better than the other starter, Demario Davis. New York can fix this in the first round of the draft this year.
The Jets' potent D-line is just begging for a force to pair with it at outside linebacker. Lorenzo Mauldin showed glimpses, but Floyd is a better prospect. The redshirt junior also showed this season that he can do a little bit of everything at linebacker, meaning he doesn't have to be stuck in a rush-only role.
General manager Mike Macagnan surprised many when he stuck to his board to draft Leonard Williams a year ago despite the Jets boasting one of the league's most formidable defensive lines. Smith is a medical gamble after suffering a "significant" knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl but if team doctors feel he's on his way to recovery, the explosive three-down linebacker could still earn first-round consideration. Smith was viewed as a top 10 cinch before the injury and could ultimately prove a steal.
The Jets have plenty of beef up front on defense, but need to add some sizzle on the edges to better put pressure on the pocket. Floyd is a lanky bender with pass rush upside.
Todd Bowles has already stated that he wants Ryan Fitzpatrick back next season, but in the unlikely event that someone else overpays for his services, Connor Cook becomes a nice option here. Cook looks to have the skillset required to run Chan Gailey's spread offense.
The only running back under contract for the Jets next season is Zac Stacy, who is currently on injured reserve. Elliott is an instant-impact running back when he's given the opportunity, which he strangely didn't get enough at Ohio State.
A team with patience will select Jaylon Smith in the first-round. At this time we do not have details regarding Smith's injury, but it is viewed as serious. He covers plenty of ground and appeared more aggressive at the point of attack this season. The Jets' linebackers seemed to allow a high number of first downs this year based on positioning and a lack of speed. Smith could help fix that.
Aside from all-world defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson who had 12, nobody on the Jets roster had more than five sacks on the season. Rookie Lorenzo Mauldin showed a fair amount of promise leading all linebackers with four sacks, but Todd Bowles still seeks an explosive edge rusher to give his defense a desired fear factor. He could find that in Georgia's Leonard Floyd, who is one of the most unique prospects in this year's draft. When it comes to 'bend', there isn't another edge rusher in the draft who has more flexibility turning the corner. His length is incredible and he has the straight-line speed to beat tackles to the edge. However, he is a bit raw, and although his sack numbers weren't what you might expect for such a talented athlete, many scouts actually had their opinion of Floyd raised this past season as he played most of the season at inside linebacker.
The Jets have a good secondary, but two of its best defensive backs, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, both are past their prime. It's time to inject some youth and speed into this group, and Kearse is among the best safeties in this class. He's playing a very important role for a stingy Clemson pass defense.
Floyd has outstanding potential as an edge-rusher. With a lean frame (6-4, 231 pounds), there's no doubt he needs to improve his ability to take on blocks. But Floyd's speed will always be coveted by defenses from the outside linebacker position, particularly for a team like the Jets, who are missing that element in their front seven.