Are you sick of hearing draft analysts talk about Johnny Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney yet?
The good news is that there is now less than a week until the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The media will not stop covering first-round potential superstars like Manziel and Clowney once they are finally drafted, but one of the greatest joys of draft day is watching the middle rounds tick by, doing new research each time your team makes another selection. I’m looking forward to next Friday and Saturday maybe a bit more than Thursday.
With that in mind, here are four mid- and late-round sleepers I think would help the New York Jets.
Dezmen Southward, SS, Wisconsin: We all want to see Dawan Landry have some competition for the starting strong safety job. Southward is 6-0, 211 pounds, and ran a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day. NFL.com lists him as a projected fourth- or fifth-rounder, and CBS Sports ranks him as the fourth-best strong safety in the class. Jets personnel reportedly visited with Southward while at Wisconsin’s pro day.
Bennett Jackson, CB, Notre Dame: The Jets need cornerback help. Drafting some isn’t the full solution, but it’s an important part of it. They need at least two, so look for them to be searching the late rounds. It’s not easy to find cornerbacks as tall as Seattle’s Richard Sherman and (formerly) Brandon Browner, but the 6-0 Jackson will do just fine. He was recruited originally as a wide receiver, and showed off his receiver hands and speed in returning an interception for a touchdown against Purdue last year. Jackson is also dynamic in the return game, another facet that makes him worth a serious look in the sixth and seventh rounds.
Prince Shembo, OLB, Notre Dame: Sorry for having two Fighting Irish players on this list, but Shembo cannot be ignored, and not just because of his awesome name. National Football Post’s scouting report of Shembo gives him a grade of “B,” which is pretty good when you consider most outlets project him to fall to the sixth round. Shembo’s 2013 highlight was a three-sack game against Arizona State. He played 3-4 outside ’backer at Notre Dame, so he’s a scheme fit, and the Jets need a young project at that position to develop into Calvin Pace’s eventual replacement.
Kain Colter, WR, Northwestern: I expect the Jets, having 12 picks, to do a few things: Trade up somewhere on day one or two; draft more than one cornerback and more than one wide receiver; and take a flyer on a guy like Kain Colter. Colter is the former Northwestern quarterback leading the charge to unionize Northwestern University’s football team, but he is working out in preparation for the draft at the same time. The Jets somehow played more Wildcat formation last season with Marty Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator than they did in their one year under Tony Sparano, its de facto “creator.” Colter can line up in any skill position and contribute, which would work especially well in gadget plays like these.