- Rich Wilhelm
Who Should the Jets Pick at #20? Six Names That Make Sense
In order to see a team’s biggest needs, you have to examine a roster from top to bottom. When dissecting the New York Jets roster it is clear to see that there are three big holes. These positions of need are outside linebacker, offensive line and quarterback. The order of these needs depends on the particular fan looking at the team. Let’s start with outside linebacker.
The New York Jets need a pass rusher in the worst way. The last pure pass rusher the team had was John Abraham and he has not been on the roster since 2005. Looking at the current roster there is one rising star and a bunch of question marks at the outside linebacker position. The only clear cut starter is Lorenzo Mauldin who had a substantial 2015-2016 season. Behind Mauldin you have Freddie Bishop, Trevor Reily, Deion Barnes, Julian Howsare, Julian Stanford and Josh Martin in no particular order. When asking an NFL fan if they know any of these players the consensus would be a resounding “no”. Out of the six players in the NFL draft that make sense at 20, the top prospect is an outside linebacker.
The most intriguing name that could tickle the Jets fancy is Leonard Floyd out of Georgia. Leonard Floyd has ideal size at 6’6”, 244 lbs. Leonard Floyd is also fast on the field and ran a 4.60 forty-yard dash. Watching Leonard Floyd at Georgia, fans could see that he has a nose for the ball and is very quick with how he changes direction on the field. Floyd is also excellent in man coverage and can cover running backs. A linebacker effectively covering a running back is not the norm for the New York Jets. The biggest weakness for Floyd is his strength. Floyd essentially is built like a wide receiver and doesn’t make any highlight tackles. Floyd needs to be a workout warrior in order to get his muscle weight up. Bottom line is Leonard Floyd has the skills to be head and shoulders above the current roster and the Jets would be lucky if he falls to 20.
The next prospect that would make sense for the Jets is not an outside linebacker per say but could play the outside linebacker position if needed. The player I am referring to is one of the biggest wildcards in the draft. He is a pure talent with off the field issues. He is a high risk, high reward player known as Noah Spence out of Eastern Kentucky. Formally an Ohio State Buckeye, Spence is 6’2”, 251lbs with a motor that is undeniable. Spence was a former first-team All-Big Ten pick in 2013 as a Sophomore. Spence failed not one but two drug tests and was banned from the Big Ten. Spence got treatment for his Ecstasy addition and completely turned his life around. Spence received his degree while racking up 22.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks last season. Spence has so many strengths it is hard to pass up on him at 20 if he is there. Like Floyd, Spence can cover running backs. Unlike Floyd, Spence has the strength to make solid tackles rather that drag down tackles. Spence lacks speed at times and ran a 4.80 forty-yard dash but he gains speed like no other player in the draft. Noah Spence would fit ideally into this already powerful New York Jets defense.
Although Alabama’s Reggie Ragland plays inside linebacker, he is a name to watch. The Jets are thin at inside linebacker with only four players on the roster. These players are starter David Harris, split time starters Erin Henderson and Bruce Carter and depth player Taiwan Jones. Ragland measures in at 6’1”, 247lbs which is smallest out of the three linebackers listed. When they say big things come in small packages they might as well be referring to Ragland. It does not matter who the offensive player was, Ragland would hit them as hard as he could. In zone coverage Ragland was fantastic at Alabama. Although Ragland ran a 4.72 forty-yard dash his speed is in question as far as an NFL standpoint. Ragland also needs work in man to man coverage and may struggle in covering running backs which as stated before is the norm for the New York Jets defense. Ragland did get better at covering running backs as his college career went on and his missed tackles dropped dramatically.
The next two players that the Jets could take at 20 go hand in hand with each other. These offensive tackles alternate positions in mock drafts on a daily basis. The problem for the New York Jets is the players usually go before the Jets pick. I am referring to Jack Conklin and Taylor Decker. Even with the signing of Ryan Clady, the Jets depth chart at offensive tackle is suspect. The starter opposite Ryan Clady is Breno Giacomini who graded out as one of the worst tackles in the NFL per Pro Football Focus, 69th out of 76 to be exact. If the Jets are lucky enough to get Decker or Conklin, they could eventually take over for the struggling Giacomini. Behind Clady and Giacomini is Brent Qvale who is getting praise from the coaching staff but needs more time. Behind Qvale is Ijalana, Hickey, Davis and Okoye. No real household names in that group.
Let’s breakdown Jack Conklin and Taylor Decker. The player most likely to be gone at 20 is Jack Conklin. Conklin is 6’6” 308lbs out of Michigan State. When looking at Jack Conklin it is hard not to think of a player such as Jon Runyan. What Conklin lacks in speed and athleticism he makes up in recovery and strength. The only issue with Conklin in the NFL is the speed factor from edge rushers. The Jets have been spoiled for the past decade with D’Brickashaw Ferguson so fans may be upset when Conklin gives up a sack or two. With time to mature, Conklin should be a top 20 tackle in the league.
Taylor Decker has Jack Conklin beat in both size and weight coming in at 6’7”, 310 lbs. Taylor Decker was the leader of the Ohio State offensive line which is an honor within itself. Decker was a three-year starter and has incredible strength. Decker is also very good at blocking on passing downs. The issue with Decker is his footwork and his speed. Decker is a big man who relies on his hands and seems to forget his feet on some plays. The way the NFL talent is on defense there is a good change Decker could end up on his back if this weakness is not fixed. With that being said the Jets have the staff to help him with what he needs and would be a value pick at 20.
The last player on the list is a reach to some and a complete steal for others. He is referred to as the bust of the draft or the best quarterback prospect long-term. Paxton Lynch is a quarterback that has everything you would ask for in an NFL player. Standing at 6’7”, 244lbs, Paxton has the ideal size for a quarterback. Even after a knee injury that cost Paxton half his senior season he still ran a 4.86 forty-yard dash. If not for the knee injury Paxton may be fighting for the top quarterback pick in the upcoming draft. Paxton is a scrambler and he is very good at evading the defense. Paxton has a beautiful deep ball and puts a little extra on all the balls he throws. The most important thing about Lynch is he does not turn the ball over. Paxton is a true dual threat who many are comparing to Marcus Mariota. Paxton does need to improve on accuracy when receivers are on the run. He also needs to work on his spiral and running less to avoid injury. Defensive players in the NFL are not as easy to avoid as college players. Reach or not, Lynch has the look of a franchise quarterback.
When ranking these players in order of importance you have to look at the biggest hole out of the three listed. A quarterback is the cornerstone of a franchise and without one your team is not moving forward. If Ryan Fitzpatrick signs with the team it would skew Paxton Lynch’s position. Currently the Jets and the Jets fan do not know the progress Geno Smith and Bryce Petty have taken which also keeps Paxton Lynch high on this list. Although quarterback is important, Lynch is not my number one prospect at 20. Out of the 6 players listed I would put Lynch at 4th.
The Jets need a linebacker plain and simple. This upcoming draft is deeper with late round quarterbacks than it is with late round linebackers. For this reason, my rank is as follows.
If the Jets end up with any of these players, they should have an improved team.