New York Jets: 3 Mid-Round Wide Receiver Targets in 2017 NFL Draft

The New York Jets need to add quality wide receiver depth in the 2017 NFL Draft. Here are three prospects they should consider drafting in the middle rounds.

The 2017 NFL Draft is less than four weeks away now and the New York Jets have some very important decisions to make as they rebuild their roster. One position that needs upgrading is wide receiver, now that Brandon Marshall has signed with the New York Giants. Although an enigma at times, the Jets will miss Marshall’s production because he was a true No. 1 wide receiver in the league when healthy.

As presently constituted, the wide receiver depth chart for Gang Green leaves something to be desired. Quincy Enunwa was the exception last year—the former sixth-round pick (2014) enjoyed his best season to date with 58 receptions for a team-high 857 yards and four touchdowns. Enunwa has some real upside and should continue to improve. He was one of the very few bright spots in a dismal 2016 campaign for New York.

Elsewhere, questions abound. Eric Decker played in just three games in 2016 due to rotator cuff surgery but is expected back by training camp. At age 30 though, how effective will he be going forward? New York’s other receivers—Charone Peake, Robby Anderson, Jalin Marshall, draft bust Devin Smith and newly-acquired Quinton Patton—are largely unproven. Their upside appears to be limited.

Let’s take a look at three wide receivers the Jets should consider drafting in the middle rounds of this year’s draft. Any of these players would provide Gang Green with excellent value at that point.

Jan 24, 2017; Mobile, AL, USA; North squad wide receiver Zay Jones of East Carolina (7) catches a pass during practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

3. Zay Jones, East Carolina

Height: 6-1
Weight: 202 pounds

The Dallas, TX native played in a pass-happy offense for the Pirates last year and it showed. Jones set a NCAA record with 158 receptions for 1,746 yards and eight touchdowns. In fact, he is the all-time leader in career receptions (399). He clocked an impressive 40-yard dash time of 4.45 seconds at the NFL Combine and performed very well at the Senior Bowl.

Although not known for blazing speed like John Ross of Washington, Jones has a quick burst off the line of scrimmage and is considered a solid route runner with good hands. NFL.com gave this more detailed scouting report on Jones:

Hands catcher outside the hashes and snatches it away from his frame. Swallows ball into his frame to protect it when working over the middle. Tape shows a willingness to run head-first into traffic and make the tough catch when hit is imminent. Can win all day when it comes to finishing catches at the high point. Extremely driven to succeed. Plays with good focus and footwork on catches near the sideline. Has experience working from outside and the slot.

Although he is not a game-breaking talent like Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants (few are), Jones is a solid possession receiver and he’d be a welcome addition to New York’s roster.

Nov 28, 2015; Auburn, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver ArDarius Stewart (13) hauls in a 34-yard touchdown pass in the end zone against the Auburn Tigers during the third quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

2. ArDarius Stewart, Alabama

Height: 5-11
Weight: 204 pounds

Despite playing in a run-heavy offense, Stewart was a major factor why the Crimson Tide advanced to college football’s championship game. Stewart was named first-team All-SEC after a campaign in which he had 54 receptions for 864 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior—not bad numbers for a team that ranked 87th in the nation with 210 passing yards per game. He also added 68 rushing yards on just eight carries.

Stewart was impressive as well during Alabama’s championship run in 2015 with 63 catches for 700 yards and four touchdowns. Although he is just under 6-0, Stewart is known for making the tough catch in traffic and he has fine speed and burst off the line of scrimmage.

Pro Football Focus gave this detailed scouting report on the Fultondale, AL native:

 Stewart has solid speed and acceleration, wasting no time in getting up to top speed. His after-the-catch ability is among the best in this class, and the reason that Alabama used him on jet sweeps as often as they did. Stewart knows how to read zones and is very good at finding holes in them for his quarterback to make a big throw. One issue with Stewart is that he has played almost exclusively against zone defenses, and there’s reason to think he’ll struggle early on against man coverage. But he’s a great mid-round option for any receiver-needy team.

The Jets can certainly use a tough, gritty receiver of Stewart’s ability and there is another important attribute he possesses: Stewart is a winner. That’s exactly the type of player New York needs.

January 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Chris Godwin (12) runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Southern California Trojans during the second half of the 2017 Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

1. Chris Godwin, Penn State

Height: 6-1
Weight: 209 pounds

Some players perform their best on the big stage and that’s exactly what Godwin did against USC in the 2017 Rose Bowl, recording nine catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns. That culminated an excellent season for the speedy wideout (59 receptions for 982 yards and 11 touchdowns).

Godwin had an excellent workout at the NFL Combine and was clocked at 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He is known as a solid route runner (especially the post route) and can beat his man deep—seven of his touchdown receptions came from passes thrown from 20 yards or more. Godwin can also make the tough, acrobatic catch in traffic and has a reputation for being a very strong blocker in the running game.

Pro Football Focus gave Godwin a pretty impressive review:

He was a great deep threat for Penn State mainly because of his ability to win at the catch point. He uses his body well to keep defenders off of him and can high point the ball. He’s a solid route-runner with tools to develop further. One of his attributes that NFL teams will like most is his tenacious run-blocking. Godwin was our 10th-highest-graded run-blocker among all college receivers last season. While there are some issues, such as his speed sometimes not showing up on tape and lack of open-field explosiveness, Godwin remains a solid prospect. He should find a role with the team that drafts him and one day may work himself into a consistent role as an intermediate/deep receiving threat.

Selecting Godwin in the draft would provide the Jets with a dynamic vertical threat, a player that can win one-on-one matchups with cornerbacks and can also burn them deep on post routes. He would be a no-brainer selection from round three on.

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