Combine Review: Ten early-round prospects the New York Jets could draft

The Scouting Combine in Indianapolis wrapped up Tuesday, after six days of interviews, tests and the measuring of measurables.  While most pundit discussion is centered on Johnny Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney, both those players will be drafted before the New York Jets make their first selection this May. They’ll still have plenty of talented prospects to choose from, though.

Here’s a review of the Combine performances of six first-round projections and four second-round projections the Jets would have their eye on. I chose prospects based on whether the Jets would likely draft them in the slots the team is in now; therefore, while any Jets fan would love the team to draft star Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, it’s too unlikely to happen without New York trading up. Parenthetical notations next to certain prospects’ names means the draft analysts within those parentheses project the Jets taking said prospect in their latest mock drafts.

First-round Projections:

1. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina (Doug Farrar/SI.com, Charles Davis/NFL.com, Matt Smith/NFL.com, Pete Prisco/CBSSports.com, Rob Rang/CBSSports.com, Walter Football/WalterFootball.com)
6’4, 250 lbs; 33 ¼” arms, 10″ hands
4.60 40-yd dash
24 bench reps
32″ vertical
120″ broad jump

The player most commonly mocked to Gang Green is Ebron, the top tight end prospect of 2014, and he would be hard for the team to pass up if he’s available. He only participated in some drills in Indianapolis, but ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash of all tight ends. Ebron’s 32″ vertical boosts an already sizable 6’4, 250-pound frame over the safeties that will be covering him. ESPN’s Rich Cimini has reported the Jets are interested in Ebron, but so are those two other New York (New Jersey) teams, the Buffalo Bills and the New York Giants, who are both picking ahead of the Jets.

2. Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California (Mel Kiper Jr./ESPN, Don Banks/SI.com, Bucky Brooks/NFL.com, Daniel Jeremiah/NFL.com, Dane Brugler/CBSSports.com)

Southern California football

Marqise Lee

6’0, 192 lbs; 31 ¾” arms, 9 ½” hands
4.52 40-yd dash
38″ vertical jump
127″ broad jump (Tied-Second Longest)
4.01 20-yd shuttle

New York Daily News Jets beat writer Manish Mehta recently reported that important Jets decision-makers are “at the end of their rope” with Stephen Hill, the 2012 second-round pick who has not developed much as a player since his rookie training camp. Even if the Jets sign a free agent wideout, they need to draft another early and develop him. Out of a very deep and top-heavy receiver class, Lee is the favorite to be taken with New York’s first-rounder. His 127″ broad jump was tied for second-longest among receivers, while his 4.52 40 was not blazing but acceptable.

3. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State (Todd McShay/ESPN)
5’10, 189 lbs; 30 ¾” arms, 9 5/8” hands
4.33 40-yd dash
16 bench reps
36″ vertical jump
120″ broad jump
6.76 three-cone drill
3.81 20-yd shuttle
10.72 60-yd shuttle

Almost every respectable mock draft has the Jets taking either Ebron or Lee at 18 overall, but ESPN’s Todd McShay projects both players will be taken before the Jets’ selection. He mocks the 5’9 product of Oregon State to New York. Cooks ran the fastest 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle among wide receivers, even winning $100,000 from Adidas for running the fastest 40 among prospects wearing their gear. He won the 2013 Biletnikoff Award for college football’s top wide receiver, finishing the year with a whopping 128 catches for 1730 yards and 16 touchdowns. However, I see Cooks as a slot guy in the NFL, because of his 5’10 height. The Jets already have a solid slot receiver in Jeremy Kerley; it’s a taller possession receiver they should be looking for.

4. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
6’5, 231 lbs; 35 1/8” arms, 9 5/8” hands
4.53 40-yd dash
12 bench reps
37″ vertical jump
7.08 three-cone drill
4.26 20-yd shuttle
11.58 60-yd shuttle

Two more wide receivers are also very viable options for Gang Green, if available at 18. Mike Evans was Johnny Manziel’s go-to target at Texas A&M, catching 151 balls for 2499 yards and 17 touchdowns in his two years with Mr. Football. Evans posted 40 and vertical jump numbers nearly identical to Lee’s, further blurring the lines as to which guy is the second-best receiver in the draft after Sammy Watkins. Many mock drafts see him going number ten to the Lions, but if Evans is available and Lee is not when the Jets are put on the clock, it would be an easy pick for the Jets. They would aim to develop him into everything they hoped Stephen Hill would be but isn’t.

5. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Florida State football

Kelvin Benjamin

6’5, 240 lbs; 34 7/8” arms, 10 ¼” hands
4.61 40-yd dash
13 bench reps
32.5″ vertical jump
119″ broad jump
7.33 three-cone drill
4.39 20-yd shuttle
12.08 60-yd shuttle

Benjamin led the ACC in receiving touchdowns with fifteen, way up from four in 2012. Jameis Winston certainly had something to do with that, but it also says something that Benjamin caught seven passes in the red zone in 2013 and all seven were touchdowns. Like Evans, Benjamin stands tall at 6’5, but Evans outran him in the 40 (Benjamin posted an unimpressive 4.61) and outjumped him in the vertical by 4.5 inches. In the event that Ebron, Lee, Evans and Cooks are all off the board before number 18, Benjamin wouldn’t be a bad pick by the Jets, but it isn’t the ideal situation either.

6. Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
6’1, 208 lbs; 32 3/8” arms, 9″ hands
4.58 40-yd dash
11 bench reps
33″ vertical jump
119″ broad jump
7.16 three-cone drill
4.16 20-yd shuttle
11.63 60-yd shuttle

I’m of the opinion that the Jets must draft a wide receiver and a tight end in the first two rounds, but the team may choose to fill other needs early, and the best player available on the team’s Big Board may be Hasean “Ha-Ha” Clinton-Dix. Alabama seems to churn out first-round defensive backs every season (last year it was the Jets’ ninth-overall selection Dee Milliner), and the Jets need safety help from somewhere, whether through free agency or the draft. Scouts wish he would bulk up, but if and when he does, Clinton-Dix will make for an upper-echelon starting safety in the NFL, something the Jets could use.

Second-round Projections:

7. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
6’3, 212 lbs; 33 ¼” arms, 10 3/8” hands
4.46 40-yd dash
21 bench reps (Tied-Second Most)
35.5″ vertical jump
120″ broad jump
6.95 three-cone drill
4.18 20-yd shuttle
11.84 60-yd shuttle

If the Jets don’t draft a wideout in round one, they have to have one in round two. Jordan Matthews is my favorite prospect in the entire draft. He revealed his work ethic by requesting game tape of opposing cornerbacks before the Senior Bowl, and Jerry Rice is his mom’s first cousin. That he destroyed Southeastern Conference records for career receptions (262) and receiving yards (3759), playing against the toughest competition in college football, becomes a footnote. The 6’3 Vandy prospect ran a better-than-expected 4.46, a good mix of size and speed. A lack of elite hands is all that holds Matthews back from being considered a first-round talent, though he does have the biggest hands of wide receivers on my list. Matthews interviewed with the Jets at the Combine, according to The Tennessean. He may not be available to the Jets at No. 49 overall, but if he is, he ought to be a no-brainer.

8. Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
6’6, 270 lbs; 34 1/8” arms, 10″ hands
27 bench reps
32″ vertical jump
114″ broad jump
7.57 three-cone drill
4.55 20-yd shuttle
12.19 60-yd shuttle

Likewise, if the Jets do end up with Lee or another good wide receiver in round one, they have to strongly consider a tight end in the second round, such as Troy Niklas. For what it’s worth, a website called Drafttek.com that uses a computer formula to formulate seven-round mock drafts sent Niklas to the Jets at 49 overall. He didn’t run the 40, but he benched 225 pounds 27 times and ran his shuttles and three-cone drill in decent times. He has a much bigger frame than the athletic Ebron, but one criticism of Niklas is his blocking ability on the line.

9. Kyle Van Noy, DE/OLB, Brigham Young (Walter Football/WalterFootball.com, 2nd-round projection)
6’3, 243 lbs; 31 5/8” arms, 9 5/8” hands
4.71 40-yd dash
21 bench reps
32.5″ vertical jump
112″ broad jump
7.22 three-cone drill
4.20 20-yd shuttle

Walter Football is an excellent resource for all things Draft. The site publishes multi-round mock drafts throughout the winter, and in its most recent mock sends pass rusher Kyle Van Noy to New York at 49. Van Noy posted solid numbers in Indy for a second-round projection, and he thrived in a 3-4 defense at BYU, which the Jets also run. The degree of which the Jets need of a young new pass rusher is directly related to whether the team will re-sign free agent linebacker Calvin Pace, who just posted his career high of 10 sacks in 2013.

10. Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
6’6, 314 lbs; 35 3/8” arms, 9 7/8” hands
5.35 40-yd dash
21.5″ vertical jump
106″ broad jump
7.93 three-cone drill
4.95 20-yd shuttle

The Jets could be looking for a new right tackle early in the draft if they don’t re-sign free agent Austin Howard. Until he switched to left tackle his senior season in 2013, Moses played right tackle at Virginia while Oday Aboushi, New York’s fifth-round pick last year, played left. If Jets scouts watched Aboushi in 2012, they ought to have twice the tape on Moses. One important number missing is bench press results, because Moses did not participate in that drill. The bench press measures strength, which matters most for offensive linemen, so it’s a head-scratcher to me why Moses ran the 40 but did not lift. Also, Moses is projected on some boards as a late-first, meaning he may be gone by 49.

Because I only studied first- and second-round projections in this review, one notable prospect I overlooked was Michael Sam, the Missouri defensive end who came out as gay earlier this month. In my next article, I’ll explain whether or not I think Sam would be a good fit in green and white.

Sources: nfl.com/combine

cbssports.com/nfl/draft/prospectrankings/2014

espn.go.com/blog/new-york/jets/post/_/id/35813/ebron-draws-interest-from-jets-giants

tennessean.com/article/20140223/SPORTS01/302230110/Vanderbilt-s-Jordan-Matthews-flashes-40-yard-speed-NFL-Combine

Comments

  1. shermy80 says

    I too really like Mathews! Id love to see them trade down from 18 to mid 20s and take him while adding another pick. Take Niklas in the 2nd rd. And I’d love to see them take another WR in the 3rd like Donte Moncrief he looks like a hard nosed player with stud potential.

    Also like guys like Davante Adams, Brandon Coleman, and Landry , AND Martavis Bryant at WR

    TEs Niklas,Gilmore

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>