This year, the New York Jets hold the 20th overall in the NFL draft. Mike Maccagnan will have fewer options to pick from than he did last year when he drafted Leonard Williams with the 6th overall pick. Maccagnan has been adamant that he drafts best player available (BPA) over need, which he proved last year by taking a defensive lineman in the first round. With the combine over, scouts and journalists have a better idea of a player’s physical skills, as well as where they will go in the draft. With that in mind, in no particular order here are the five 1st round draft picks that I think would help the NY Jets the most this coming season.
Noah Spence OLB/DE Eastern Kentucky/Ohio State: Spence had a lackluster combine, but his play on the field throughout college will make him a first round draft pick. Although Maccagnan drafts BPA, Spence may be the BPA at this spot in the draft and address a position of need. Spence is an OLB/DE hybrid and is projected in the NFL to be a pass rushing specialist, which the Jets desperately need. His 4.8 40 time was slower than people were expecting, but it was still tied for 8th among DEs and faster than consensus top 10 pick Joey Bosa. Additionally, he was top three in the broad jump, which shows strong legs that will help him get power and leverage while pass rushing. The big question marks with Spence come off the field. He has been suspended and kicked off teams multiple times for drug related offenses. Spence could be a diamond in the rough for a team willing to take a chance on him, but he could also continue to struggle with drug problems off the field.
Ezekiel Elliott RB Ohio State: Elliott has been a big reason for Ohio State’s success over the past few seasons. He is far and away the best RB in this draft class with above average speed, power, and catching ability. Elliott is one of the most low risk picks at this spot and with Chris Ivory likely leaving in free agency he could potentially fill a position of need. The question marks for Elliott are twofold. One is whether Maccagnan values RBs enough to draft one in the first round. Second is whether Elliott will be available at this spot. With his talent, Elliott could easily go before pick #20, but in the modern NFL RBs are becoming less and less valuable and this could let him fall to the New York Jets.
Leonard Floyd OLB Georgia: Floyd, like Spence, is another pass rushing prospect, but he is a very different prospect. At 6’6” 244 lbs, Floyd is 4 inches taller than Spence, but he is still 7 lbs. lighter. Floyd moves extremely fast for someone his height running the 40 in 4.6 seconds. Floyd’s main issue is that while he is long and fast, he lacks raw power and he needs to add on weight at the next level to be effective. The question is whether adding that extra weight will slow Floyd down to the point where he is no longer effective as a pass rusher. If both Spence and Floyd are available at #20, Maccagnan will have an interesting choice between two promising, but different, pass rushing prospects.
Reggie Ragland ILB Alabama: Ragland is an old school, run stuffing, downhill inside linebacker. Sound familiar? It should, because Ragland’s potential NFL future sounds a lot like the current David Harris. The combination of Erin Henderson and Demario Davis at the other ILB spot was ineffective last season and will leave the Jets hoping for an upgrade. Ragland has good value at pick #20, fills an immediate need, and can replace Harris as he gets older in the next few seasons. Ragland is not going to be the best pass rusher or coverage linebacker, but he is still serviceable in those areas. The former SEC defensive player of the year could very well have a future in green and white.
Darron Lee OLB Ohio State: Darron Lee is another outside linebacker with pass rush skills, but Lee is a different type of player. Lee is a small linebacker or a big safety and I would not be surprised if he is converted to some type of hybrid in the NFL. He is 6’1” 232lbs, but he ran the 40 in 4.47 seconds, which was the fastest time for any linebacker. Lee has extremely similar measurements to Kam Chancellor and might transition to safety in the NFL if he is too small as a LB in the NFL. A creative defensive coach like Todd Bowles could make good use of Lee’s athleticism and instincts.