The New York Jets were remarkably ill-equipped to start a rookie second-round pick at quarterback last season, but were forced to throw Geno Smith into the fire after Mark Sanchez underwent shoulder surgery. There were ups and downs, but a void of offensive weapons made life difficult as Smith went through typical growing pains.
The Jets are looking to flip the script in 2014 with the signing of wide receiver Eric Decker and quarterback Michael Vick in free agnecy. Smith will have competition for the job, a bigger target in the passing game and the returning backfield duo of Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory. It s a good start to the offseason, but work still must be done to find offensive playmakers, either through free agency or the .
The Jets are in good position for offensive upgrades with the No. 18 pick in a draft that is loaded with wide receiver talent. While elite talents Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans are likely long gone by the time New York picks, a number of proven threats will still be available. The choices include LSU s Odell Beckham, Oregon State s Brandin Cooks, USC s Marqise Lee and Florida State s Kelvin Benjamin.
With Decker in the fold, the Jets can find a quick, shifty starter or slot receiver to pair with Decker and Jacoby Jones. Cooks has evoked comparisons to Baltimore Ravens star Steve Smith for his speed, size and desire and could fill a need for the Jets. Likewise for Beckham and Lee, who enter the draft after productive careers.
Here s a look at five players the Jets could consider with the No. 18 pick, in our predicted order of priority:
5. Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA: The Jets could stand to strengthen the interior of their offensive line and are in good position to do it with the No. 18 pick, if they so choose. Su a Filo is a cut above the draft s other guard prospects with a high-character profile and the size (6-4, 307 pounds) and athleticism to play six games at left tackle last season. While a reach this early, Su a-Filo could be an immediate asset and low-risk option for the Jets.
4. Marqise Lee, WR, USC: Lee s stock has fallen after an injury-plagued season at USC that also featured multiple coaching changes. He s a polished route-runner and good athlete who put up huge numbers with better health and quarterback play as a sophomore in 2012. Lee is a first-round talent with better functional skill than Beckham and Cooks, but could fall behind them in the pecking order after being out-performed at the NFL combine.
3. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State: If cornerback is the route the Jets take in the first round, they re unlikely to find top value with the No. 18 pick. Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert will likely be long gone by now, leaving Roby, Kyle Fuller and Jason Verrett as the most likely candidates for the draft s No. 3 cornerback. Of the trio, Roby has the highest ceiling with elite speed and quickness, but comes with a little baggage in his personality and so-so junior season.
2. Odell Beckham, WR, LSU: Beckham and Brandin Cooks are both rising up draft boards on the strength of film study and workout performances. Beckham has consistently gone higher in mock drafts for his route-running ability and hands, as well as the impact he can make in the return game. In terms of measurables, though, Beckham has fallen short of Cooks production, speed, strength and quickness.
1. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: The Jets should be tempted to take the confident, fearless Cooks, who fits the mold of a star in New York City. He s undersized but ultra-productive, and he turned heads at the NFL combine with a 4.33 in the 40 that cemented his status as a first-round pick. He s been compared favorably to current Baltimore Ravens wideout Steve Smith, who laid the foundation for small guys to get serious consideration as perimeter threats.
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