It’s time to put aside all the mock drafts, all the smokescreens and all the hype, draft day has finally arrived. If you’re anything like me, you woke up feeling like a kid on Christmas, so let’s jump right in and look at some possible gifts that Jets fans can hope for from Ole’ St. Macc.
Here are the top 5 prospects I think the Jets should consider when they go on the clock tonight.
1.) Jamal Adams, Safety, LSU
To me, there isn’t a safer pick in the entire draft class. Even Texas A&M phenom, and projected #1 overall pick, Myles Garrett is less of a sure thing than Adams. He has the athleticism and fluidity of a corner, the speed and ball skills of a free safety, the physicality and instincts of a strong safety and the presence of a franchise leader. The Jets have been full of quiet players who “lead by example” but it’s time to inject some fire into this roster, Adams can bring a new culture to the building while anchoring the secondary for the next decade.
If the LSU star falls into the Jets lap at six, I have no doubt they will be sprinting the card up, no trade-down, no quarterback, if he’s on the board, Jamal Adams is their pick.
2.) O.J. Howard, Tight End, Alabama
In my latest mock draft I have the Jets taking Howard at six. Much like Adams, Howard is a safe, high-floor prospect with perennial All-Pro potential, who will have more of an impact on an offense than any other player in this entire class. The Jets are in a rebuilding mode where there is no room to gamble; they need to take as many instant-impact, sure-thing players as they can. Today’s NFL is all about creating mismatches, the 6’6″, 250 lb. Howard ran a 4.51 40-yard dash and combined with his catch radius and blocking ability he is by far the most complete tight end prospect to come out of college since Rob Gronkowski. Given the fact that injury concerns forced Gronk into the second round, I see Howard as an even better prospect.
Howard is a true game changer, and for a team with an unsettled quarterback situation, he will be the best friend of whoever is taking snaps this season.
3.) Leonard Fournette, Running Back, LSU
We’ve all been watching Fournette for years now, and since he first broke onto the scene, we have been salivating at the thought of him playing in the NFL. He would change the mindset of the offense from Day 1 and I only put him below Howard because the Jets have a more than formidable pair of RB’s in Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. However, you need to look beyond 2017, Fournette would be the franchise back for years to come.
Again, when your team has a shaky situation at quarterback, you need to do all you can to alleviate their workload. Getting a back like Fournette would not only take the pressure off the quarterback position, but it would open up the passing game as teams inevitably stack the box.
4.) Malik Hooker, Safety, Ohio State
I’d say it’s about a 80-20 split on who the best safety in the draft class is, and while most experts agree on it being Jamal Adams, Ohio State’s Malik Hooker is a very close second. Hooker is a true centerfield safety with the range and ball skills that make scouts drool. Hooker will terrorize opposing quarterbacks from sideline to sideline and essentially eliminate any passes up the seams. He can switch the field better than anyone in the draft and for a team that was turnover starved in their 5-11 season, they need a ballhawk.
If I had to choose a prospect that I felt was the most realistic option for the Jets at six, it would be Hooker. I think there’s about an 70% chance he walks onto the stage tonight with a green and white cap. That would be good news for 2014 first-round pick Calvin Pryor who would likely see his option picked up and permanent action at strong safety.
5.) Marshon Lattimore, Cornerback, Ohio State
What this should really say is: “Trade. Down.” — I’ll admit, I had a hard time filling this fifth slot. No quarterback, or offensive lineman is even close to worth the sixth pick and the elite defensive linemen, Jonathan Allen and Solomon Thomas, don’t fit the team’s needs, so here we are. My concern is that Lattimore has too much injury concern to warrant a sixth pick, especially when the depth in this cornerback class is so deep that you can find starters well into the fourth round. It’s a risk that the team doesn’t need to take when it’s looking for can’t miss prospects.
I toyed with the idea of slotting Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey or Temple LB Haason Reddick here, but I think both are a reach at six. If the Jets can manage to trade down to Cleveland’s 12th pick, those two would be great values.
However, is Marshon Lattimore is healthy, the sixth pick is not a reach, in fact it’s a huge value. Todd Bowles needs physical, press-man cornerbacks to run his defense, and in this draft, Lattimore is the unquestioned best there is. The risks are evident, but at the end of the day, I’d rather risk than reach.