As I discussed earlier this week, the New York Jets have improved their offense to the point of unrecognizability. Michael Vick will compete with Geno Smith for the starting quarterback job while also serving as a seasoned mentor. Eric Decker and Jacoby Ford are quality upgrades to what was one of the weakest receiving corps in the league. Chris Johnson adds explosive play-making ability and makes a great complement to Chris Ivory. Even Breno Giacomini is a bit of an upgrade over Austin Howard at right tackle.
The only piece missing from the puzzle is a dynamic tight end.
The Jets had hoped Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow, Jr. would make for a good combo at tight end, but with Winslow in some awkward law trouble, only Cumberland was re-signed this off-season (to a three-year, $3.7 million deal). Cumberland is no TE1, and the next-best on the depth chart is Zach Sudfeld. Since wide receiver has now been addressed, there’s no question that tight end is the Jets’ biggest need going into the draft.
There’s Eric Ebron of North Carolina, who’s being projected as high as no. 9 to Buffalo. Many mock drafts matched the Jets to Ebron a month ago, but the world was a very different place a month ago, and now it might take a miracle (or a trade) for the Jets to land the top tight end in the draft.
There’s Jace Amaro of Texas Tech and Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington – one of whom ought to be available in the second round if the Jets can’t snag Ebron. Amaro, in particular, seems to be the most likely. New York Daily News’s Manish Mehta reported Amaro will be one of the Jets’ “Top 30 visits” next week, after Idzik came back from Amaro’s pro day March 14 apparently impressed.
There’s no reason the Jets can’t double-dip and look for another tight end in a later round, too. USC’s Xavier Grimble and Dixie State’s Joe Don Duncan are two later-round names I like. (Don’t get me wrong – these are names I like. Grimble? Joe Don? Who knows what the Jets think.)
Now, about that seven-round not-a-mock I’ve been promising. I’m amazed at how early mock drafts get published anymore – even a month out from the draft is pushing it a bit. The following is not a mock draft because I can’t take into consideration what the other 31 teams are going to do. It’s really a collection of potential picks that I think suit the Jets’ needs best. So here.
Round 1, pick 18: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Is it a pipe dream if they don’t trade up? It’s hard to imagine Ebron falling this far now, but in a perfect world, the Jets would draft him in round one.
Round 2, pick 49: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
I’ve already written extensively about my man-crush on this prospect. Despite signing two wideouts in free agency, the Jets still need someone they can develop and keep long-term. I’d take a guy with Matthews’ bloodline and work ethic any day.
Round 3, pick 80: Chris Smith, DE/OLB, Arkansas
Time to return focus to the defense. Smith, who recorded a total of 18 sacks between his junior and senior seasons, projects as a 3-4 OLB in the league, and the Jets need another young paws-rusher at this position.
Round 4, pick 104: Craig Loston, S, LSU
Multiple sources place Loston between the third and fifth rounds. A strong safety who can push Dawan Landry for playing time on defense, Loston also played well on special teams coverage for Thomas McGaughey, LSU’s former coordinator now with the Jets.
Round 4, pick 115: Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue
Yeah, we can start taking cornerbacks now. The Jets have no seasoned veteran to guide the young’ens without Antonio Cromartie, but the team does need to find help at the position. Allen made six interceptions last year on an otherwise terrible Purdue squad.
Round 4, pick 137: Bryan Stork, C, Florida State
Nick Mangold won’t live forever, unfortunately, but Stork is more than a backup center. He made starts at both guard positions for the Seminoles as well.
Round 5, pick 154: Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty
Another mid-round corner for depth, a luxury afforded to them by their mass amount of picks. The small-school Aikens has big size – only a few cornerback prospects are 6’1 (his height) or taller, fitting the big-secondary mold Seattle proved successful.
Round 6, pick 195: Cornelius Lucas, OT, Kansas State
6’8, 316 pounds. How much more could you want out of a late-round lineman?
Round 6, pick 209: Lamin Barrow, ILB, LSU
The Jets need some depth at inside linebacker, too, but very few prospects that should be available here came from 3-4 defenses. Barrow would be best suited to play inside in the Jets’ scheme, and he’s another prospect McGaughey is familiar with.
Round 6, pick 210: Tom Hornsey, P, Memphis
Rooting for this for irony’s sake: Hornsey is transplanted from Geelong, Australia, home of the Geelong Cats, the Australian Football League team former Jets punter Ben Graham played for before coming stateside. Hornsey has a strong leg but needs more development from a coach like McGaughey.
Round 6, pick 213: Kain Colter, WR, Northwestern
The former player running the movement to unionize the Northwestern football team has also been preparing for the draft, and not at QB, the position we know him as. Colter spent time running and catching in college before becoming the full-time starting quarterback. Imagine the Jets using Colter as a triple-threat read-option guy, the way they used to play Brad Smith.
Round 7, pick 233: Kevin Graf, OT, USC
One more O-lineman for depth. With the Jets getting to make this many picks, Graf may not even make the team.