The New York Jets were a mess in 2016 and may need a complete overhaul, who might they target in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft to start that process?
After a 2016 season that was tough at best, the New York Jets hope to find some difference makers in the 2017 NFL Draft. The good news is they draft in the top ten (sixth overall) and will have a ton of choices when trying to make an impact selection. The bad news is hey have a lot of holes to fill.
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The quarterback situation has to be the most glaring. After leading the team to ten wins in 2015, Ryan Fitzpatrick took a step back this past season. Well, actually he took about three or four steps back. He was eventually benched for Geno Smith, who promptly got hurt. The Jets then reverted to starting Fitzpatrick. Later they gave Bryce Petty a chance, which showed why they went back to Fitzpatrick despite all his interceptions. The position is in as much flux as ever heading into 2017.
Outside of quarterback, they could use some youth at running back as well as the offensive line positions. Defensively New York isn’t set either with their cornerback position in dire need, especially with the uncertainty surrounding veteran Darrelle Revis amid his legal trouble.
With all those spots needing to be addressed here are five potential options for the Jets in the first round of the draft.
Oct 22, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) catches a pass as Mississippi Rebels linebacker Detric Bing-Dukes (43) defends during the first quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
5. Leonard Fournette, RB – LSU
The Dallas Cowboys proved something to the NFL with their 2014-16 seasons. In the first of those three seasons, they had the NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray. He kept their defense off the field and the well-rested unit was surprisingly effective en route to a 12-4 season. He left via free agency and the Cowboys fell to 4-12 the following season.
They again became a double-digit winning team in 2016 and their defense which was much maligned the previous year was again decent. The biggest difference for the team was adding running back Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick. Again they leaned on the run and kept their defense fresh and effective.
The Jets have better defensive playmakers than Dallas and could do wonders for them by selecting a clock killer like Leonard Fournette out of LSU. The 230-pound back is a bruising runner who rushed for 3,830 yards and 40 touchdowns in three seasons for the Tigers. He would instantly help whoever lines up under center while keeping the Jets defense from being overworked again in 2017.
Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) during the second half of a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
4. Jabrill Peppers, LB/S – Michigan
The starting safeties for the Jets in 2016 were Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor. Gilchrist came over as a free agent and played decent, but Pryor hasn’t lived up to his first-round status. With an upgrade needed in the back end of the secondary New York can look at the explosive Jabrill Peppers from Michigan in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Peppers is an athletic player who lined up at both safety and linebacker for the Wolverines. At 6-1 and 205 pounds he fits best at safety size wise in the NFL. However there are questions about whether or not he can step up to the plate when it comes to coverage. What he can do though is tackle.
Peppers had 66 tackles in 2016, with an impressive 13 going for a loss. New York head coach Todd Bowles has a defensive background and could surely find a spot for Peppers to play. While that most likely would be as an in the box safety, Peppers could also fill in as a linebacker in some packages as well, allowing the Jets to put another safety in coverage.
Of course that same “flexibility” he offers could be considered a negative to some. Perhaps NFL teams would prefer a more traditional safety rather than a guy who is a “tweener” like Peppers.
December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Marshon Lattimore (2) tackles Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) in the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
3. Marshon Lattimore, CB – Ohio State
We already mentioned that starting cornerback Darrelle Revis got into some hot water this offseason. With his availability in question corner becomes an even bigger need than it already was. And heading into the offseason it was a huge need.
Revis and fellow starter Buster Skrine struggled mightily in 2016. The Jets could very well look to the 2017 NFL Draft to fix the problems they had in pass coverage. One of the best rated corners coming into the league is Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore.
Lattimore stands 6-0, which gives him plenty of height to match up with any receiver. He is also a willing tackler who can hold up as he is just under 200 pounds. What’s most impressive is Lattimore loses nothing in speed or athleticism with his good size.
The only issue with Lattimore is he played just one full season of college ball. After an injury-plagued redshirt freshman season he managed to stay on the field for every game in 2016. The result was him proving to be an amazing player that could help New York right away.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) throws the ball against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
2. Deshaun Watson, QB – Clemson
It has become painfully obvious that the Jets have no plan at quarterback. Geno Smith was a second-round pick in 2013, and he’s been bad. He was replaced by veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick who was good for one year and awful the next. There’s also Bryce Petty, who was a fourth-round selection in 2015 and has had limited experience. The little he has played though has been very discouraging. More discouraging is the fact that the team wouldn’t even try 2016 second round pick Christian Hackenberg last season even as everyone else struggled.
Maybe they will finally luck into something in the 2017 NFL Draft. All the rumors seem to be centered around the Cleveland Browns going with defensive end Myles Garrett first overall. There’s also talk San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan may not want the team to go quarterback with their second overall pick. Should those two stick with these philosophies, the Jets may very well see Clemson signal caller Deshaun Watson on the board when it’s their turn to pick.
No hesitation is needed. If this scenario falls New York would be wise to finally grab a guy the fans could get behind. Watson is coming off a National Championship and a 41 touchdown passing season. He has also topped the 4,000-yard mark in each of the past two seasons for Clemson. There may be some question about if he isn’t worthy of a first-round pick, but there’s really no question he is a starter in the NFL—which is more than what can be said about the current group the Jets have.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Cam Robinson (74) in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against the Clemson Tigers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
1. Cam Robinson, OT – Alabama
Offensive line was a need for the New York Jets heading into the offseason. It became a bigger need after cutting veteran right tackle Breno Giacomini recently. The move away from him means the Jets believe there are better options and they could very well look to the 2017 NFL Draft to try and fill his spot.
Should they be in the market for a first round tackle, the best choice is Alabama’s Cam Robinson. Obviously the best thing that can be said about any ‘Bama product is that they played in a pro style system with a fantastic coach in Nick Saban. However, that’s not where the pleasantries with the big tackle end in the slightest.
He also went up against the best of the beatbox playing in the SEC. The 6-6 Robinson weighs in at 326 pounds and, although he spent his whole collegiate career at left tackle, there are some concerns about his ability to play that position in the pros. While proficient in the run game, there are flaws in his pass blocking and consistency. He needs some work, but in New York he could play on the right side while he corrects the flaws in his game that give scouts pause.