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Potential first round picks you haven’t (or rarely) seen mocked to the Jets

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“From outta nowhere!”

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Wisconsin vs Western Michigan Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

I love draft season. This is a time where rumors fly, people know what other people are thinking, you have to separate fact from fiction, and where most media and experts are basically right on about 2% of their projections. I also like mock drafts, where you see what people think about the Jets’ needs, who would fit, etc. One thing I don’t like about mock drafts, though, are how they tend to mirror each other. It seems like all the mock draft guys settle in on 2, 3, 4 prospects that a team is going to take, especially when a team is picking as high as the Jets. Many times, if not most times, teams take someone that no one predicted they would. I believe this happened last year, as I don’t think many, if ANY, thought the Jets would take Darron Lee. Even as the Jets were on the clock, it didn’t seem like a pick many believed would happen. But the Jets threw us a curveball and took Lee. It happens all the time.

We’ve all seen the usual suspects. Most mocks have us taking Ohio State CB Marshon Lattimore, Safeties Malik Hooker of Ohio State or (if they haven’t mocked him earlier) Jamal Adams of LSU, QBs DeShaun Watson of Clemson or Mitchell Trubisky of North Carolina (whichever falls), or LSU RB Leonard Fournette. 95% of the mocks I’ve seen have one of these guys to the Jets. However, the Jets are going to scout and view and consider a much broader variety of players who could come off the board at 6 (or in a trade down). We don’t know how the Jets are going to stack their board or who they think is worthy of that #6 pick. Here are some guys that shouldn’t shock you if the Jets decide to draft this guy in the first round.

COREY DAVIS, WR, WESTERN MICHIGAN or MIKE WILLIAMS, WR, CLEMSON

I personally have Corey Davis pegged as our “shocker!!!” pick at #6. It has flown under the radar, but wide receiver is a real need for the Jets. The team has cut Brandon Marshall, and we don’t know if Eric Decker is next. Even if Decker stays for one more year, I can’t see him here beyond 2017. Quincy Enunwa appears to be a keeper on one side, though he is best utilized as a move guy in the middle of the field. The team got some surprising contributions from undrafted FA Robby Anderson, but that was in an extremely specific role, and his production mostly came on streetball type plays against inferior competition or during blowouts. He’s tall and has great speed but he has a long way to go before he’s something more than a 9 route guy on a bad team. The rest of the WR depth chart is a bunch of question marks. A future #1 type guy is something the Jets direly need, especially when (IF) the Jets settle on a QB of the future. If a WR is the Jets top rated player, do not be surprised if the Jets go with one.

Corey Davis and Mike Williams are thought by many to be the top 2 WR in the class. My personal favorite is Corey Davis, the NCAA record holder for most receiving yards in a college career. He separates on the ground incredibly well with his speed, agility and route running. He’s far from a small guy at 6-2, 205, and I think he’s more capable of winning in the air than given credit for. Unfortunately he hasn’t been able to be put on the stopwatch due to an injury, which could in of itself hurt his stock, but it appears that it’s not an injury that should hamper him into the season.

Mike Williams is a different style guy, as he is going to separate in the air. He’ll be one of the best jump ball targets in the NFL from the minute he steps on the field. He’s a bit rudimentary in his routes, but like Mike Evans, it might not matter. He ran a 4.50 flat at the Clemson pro day which is faster than I think a lot of people would’ve pegged, so he should be able to stress a defense with an ability to get behind some people.

Both of these guys have a lot of talent and have been projected in the 9-14 area. But is it a stretch that a team at 6 dips into that pool?

JOHN ROSS, WR, WASHINGTON

I know I listed Davis and Williams together, but I’m putting Ross separately. That’s because he’s a real wild card. If his medicals check out, who knows where this guy can go. There are a couple things that teams will “overdraft,” at least compared to their perceived stock: quarterbacks, guys on either side of the line, and productive speed (and not ridiculously small). And Ross was productive speed, with 17 touchdowns last season. He’s not just a fast guy though (and with a 4.22 40, he’s incredibly fast), but he’s an excellent route runner who I think will be able to separate at all three levels, and he’s 5-11, 188 pounds so he’s bigger than DeSean Jackson (listed at 5-10, 175) and Antonio Brown (listed at 5-10, 181). To add to his 40, he also had a vert good 37 inch vertical, so there’s some potential to climb the ladder for errant passes. There could be a team in the top 10 that falls in love with his speed and takes him. Maybe the Jets are that team.

REUBEN FOSTER, ILB, ALABAMA

Seems unbelievable that an ILB would be taken 6th overall. Seems even more unbelievable that the Jets would go ILB in the first round after they went ILB in the first round last draft with Darron Lee. Yet, when you pop on the tape, you can see why it may happen. If you listen to some, Foster is one of the top 3 prospects in this draft. This guy just makes it happen. Blitzing, pass coverage, stopping the run, going sideline to sideline, tackling... he excels at it all. Foster has the top notch instincts to get down hill and attack the hole before the running back can get through it. He’s the most talented and complete LB prospect since Kuechly.

The Jets flirted with Dont’a Hightower, sending him cupcakes and hosting him in Florham Park before he went back to the Evil Empire. And while there are games played between division rivals, I have to believe that was more than simply trying to raise. I mean, they got him cupcakes! That’s putting on the full court press for a player. The team wants to get younger, better, and faster at ILB. It makes perfect sense since Harris is at the end of the road. If the Jets were willing to drop 11 million on an ILB, is it that big a stretch to use the #6 pick on one? Especially if the guy might just be the top guy on the board.

CAM ROBINSON, OT, ALABAMA

This tackle class isn’t great but I just can’t see the top 10 going by without an offensive lineman being taken. These guys just tend to rise during the process and on draft day. We saw Eric Fisher go from 2nd round prospect to #1 pick. We saw Jason Smith go from who the heck knows to #2 pick. If I have to peg one OL who’s going to go higher than we all think, it’s Cam Robinson.

Cam came into the year as the top offensive lineman and a projected top 5 pick, and really didn’t do much to drop his stock. He didn’t play bad, or even all that differently from before. He’s still a guy who has the potential to be a dominant, franchise blocker. He’s an imposing 6-6, 322. He moved much better at the Combine than people thought he would. Once this guy gets his punch on a DE, that guy is stopped. He has some warts in his balance and finishing blocks, but I think that can be helped with coaching.

Admittedly, I think the signing of Beachum makes this less likely. The way Beachum’s contract is structured, there’s still a huge dead money hit if they cut him after 2017. That said, there’s still a savings if he’s cut. The Jets still may do it if Beachum really struggles, or if there is a ready made replacement. This could be a situation where Robinson starts his rookie year at RT, then moves to the left side in a year. The Jets need to infuse the line with young talent. Well, good young talent.

SOLOMON THOMAS, DL, STANFORD

The Jets have been in a perpetual search for edge rush help since trading away John Abraham for a first round pick in the 2006 draft. The man they drafted with that pick, Nick Mangold, came and went in a career that has established him as one of the best players in franchise history. This is to say that the Jets haven’t had a good edge rusher in a LONG time. Part of this can be blamed on a lack of trying, as their only first round attempt at a true “edge” player was Vernon Gholston. Yeah. Although the Jets have 3 defensive linemen who can win anywhere along the line (I think), a true edge presence can bring the defense to a different level.

Behind Myles Garrett, there is a battle for that #2 edge spot. Seemingly the consensus is that Solomon Thomas is that guy. It’s almost strange how little attention he has gotten from the Jets fan base because they could really use a guy like him, particularly if Sheldon is moved. He can set the edge and rush from the outside and has the ability to kick inside on passing downs in some sort of a “NASCAR” package. He has often been projected in this area, but rarely ever to the Jets. He could be an excellent piece.

DEREK BARNETT, EDGE, TENNESSEE

Barnett isn’t the long, freaky edge screamer that I usually drool over, but I’m a big fan of his game. He has great snap count anticipation. His bend is good and with his 3 cone time has the potential to get better. He can win with his hands. He can set the edge against the run. He was incredibly productive in college (broke Reggie White’s sack record at Tennessee). To top it off, the guy can’t even legally drink alcohol until June as he’s only 20 years old. Physically he still has time and room to develop. He may not be that super twitchy guy or run a fast 40 but guess what? Neither did Terrell Suggs, and he’s only put up 115 sacks over his career. Some guys don’t have that special measurable to point to... they’re just great football players. Barnett, to me, is just a great football player. Edge talent has a way of sneaking up the board. If the Jets are hungry presence, Barnett is a potential pick.

OJ HOWARD, TE, ALABAMA

This one has been picking up steam, so maybe this isn’t totally from left field. It would be odd to see a TE go this high (the last TE to be drafted 6th or higher was Vernon Davis in 2006), but there’s 2 variables here:

  1. This class is a very strange class.
  2. OJ might be the best TE prospect since Vernon.

This class is not your typical class. In the NFL there’s really 4 cornerstone positions: Quarterback, Left tackle, edge rusher, and cornerback. And I hesitate to put cornerback on that list. But when you have top tier players at those 3 or 4 positions, they go in the top of the draft. Right after those, you are probably looking at WR, and defensive tackle. In this class, however, your best prospects after Myles Garrett include running backs (Fournette, Cook), inside linebacker (Foster), safeties (Adams, Hooker), and TE (Howard). These are probably the least valued positions for teams, yet they are the pool to choose from in this draft. You don’t have top notch QB prospects, you don’t have a great tackle class, and you don’t have a bunch of top of the draft edge rushers. The circumstances are set up for a guy like Howard to come off the board this early.

The talent is obvious and undeniable. He has a nearly 6-6, 250 pound frame. He combines that with incredible athleticism, speed, and agility. People were excited when Leonard Fournette ran a 4.51 at 240 pounds, but Howard ran the same time at 11 pounds heavier. Howard also had the best marks in an incredibly athletic TE class in the 3-cone, 20 yard shuttle, and 60 yard shuttle, displaying his potential to change direction and run routes. Unlike most TEs who are that athletic (looking at you, Jared Cook and Eric Ebron), Howard is actually a very good and willing run blocker. Howard is also excellent with the ball in his hands, averaging 7 yards after catch per reception. He flashed dominance in his team’s biggest games, tearing up Clemson for 208 yards and 106 yards in back to back championship games. He has big hands (10 inches) and, according to Senior Bowl reports, was catching everything.

There’s a question as to why such a talented target did not flash more dominance in the college ranks. He had 602 yards in 2015 (this including his 208 yard performance against Clemson), and 595 yards last season. He only scored 5 touchdowns over these past 2 years. Admittedly, his moderate production is concerning. That said, when I watch him on film, I don’t see a guy who’s coasting. I see a guy who worked to help the offense any way he could. Alabama had a freshman QB in Hurts who, while talented, isn’t a great thrower. They are and will always be a run-first team. On the outside, you had ArDarius Stewart, who was also at the Combine this year, and of course Calvin Ridley on the other side, who might be the first receiver off the board in next year’s draft. There simply wasn’t a ton of pie to go around. OJ ate what he could get his hands on. He’s a projection in the pros but his talent is tantilizing.

The Jets, of course, have had the league worst TEs for the past couple years. Some blame this on Chan Gailey, but the fact of the matter is, Gailey has used TEs when he had talent at the position (Tony Gonzalez quickly comes to mind). The Jets have had nothing at TE basically since Keller left. But I think it might be too rigid to just call Howard a TE. He’s a potential mismatch in the passing game who can be an asset in the run game. The Jets could certainly use as many assets on offense as they can get.


None of this is to say that the Jets WON’T draft a Hooker, Adams, Fournette, QB, or Lattimore. Certainly, those guys all are excellent talents who fit needs on this team. On this team, you can throw a dart at a depth chart and find a weak position. In a month we will find out how the Jets have stacked their board.