After falling backwards last season following a solid year, can the New York Jets get back on track in the 2017 NFL Draft? They come close in this 7-round mock draft.
After winning 10 games in 2015, the New York Jets felt like a team that was on the cusp of something special. They were bringing back all their big name players like quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker and cornerback Darrelle Revis. They even added running back Matt Forte to the mix, which was heralded by many as a great move.
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Then the season started, and the Jets were a mess. They finished in last place in the AFC East with a record of 5-11. They eventually benched Fitzpatrick for the ever-awful Geno Smith and then went back to Fitz when Smith got hurt. Eventually they tried out former fourth-round pick Bryce Petty, but he too was just awful for them. For some reason though they never tried out rookie second-round pick Christian Hackenberg, so he remains a giant question mark despite his early draft status.
With the 2017 NFL Draft approaching slowly, the Jets hope they can begin to remedy some of the messes on their roster from last year. They find themselves suddenly with a lot of holes, which makes the direction they will head in the draft a mystery. With this seven-round mock draft we try and unravel that mystery early.
Sep 17, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs the ball against Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive back Brandon Bryant (1) during the second quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1, Pick 6: Leonard Fournette, RB — LSU
The Jets offense was a mess in 2016. Despite having some talented receivers and a running back as well-known as Matt Forte they just couldn’t get the ball moving. The problem was that Forte was just too beat up by the time he came to New York, as were their wideouts last season.
Brandon Marshall is one of the greats, but he is nearing the end. Moreover, Eric Decker missed most of the season due to injury. Should they both be healthy, the Jets will be fine at receiver. That’s without even mentioning the talented Quincy Enunwa.
However, they need to do something to give this offense a shot in the arm. That’s why they go with one of the better running back prospects in recent memory with the sixth overall pick. LSU’s Leonard Fournette was a beast for the Tigers running for 3,830 yards and 40 touchdowns in his career. At 6-1 and 230 pounds, he’s an absolute battering ram, but also has the speed to break free. Fournette showed this burst by averaging 6.2 yards per carry throughout his career.
His addition to the roster takes pressure off their big receivers, who may find more space to operate with safeties moved up to stop the rookie runner. He also would help whoever starts at quarterback for the Jets as his running would minimize the mistakes that have plagued that position recently.
Oct 17, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Gareon Conley (8) encourages the fans to make more noise during the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won the game 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Round 2, Pick 7: Gareon Conley, CB — Ohio State
The Jets were thin at cornerback entering the offseason as Darrelle Revis visibly lost a step last season. Their other starter, Buster Skrine, wasn’t much better as opposing offenses attacked him often as well. They finished the season surrendering 243.6 yards per game through the air and 25.6 points. Things got even murkier when Revis became involved in some off-field issues. He was arraigned on five criminal charges and has a hearing next month.
The Jets needed someone to slow down offenses before Revis’ troubles and may need even more help now. With that in mind they target a secondary member in Ohio State’s Gareon Conley. At 6-1 and 195 pounds, Conley has the length that NFL scouts covet at the position. He also has displayed solid speed throughout his career and is considered a press corner that is better suited for man-to-man coverage, which fits what New York does.
Conley wasn’t the best corner for the Buckeyes, but that could play into New York’s hands. While he isn’t as exciting of a player as teammate Marshon Lattimore, he is arguably a first-round talent that could be there in the second round. Targeting a player like Conley allows them to help their struggling offense early while still finding a quality starter in round two.
Jan 24, 2017; Mobile, AL, USA; South squad tight end Gerald Everett of South Alabama (12) catches a pass in front of safety Justin Evans of Texas A&M (14) during practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
Round 3, Pick 6: Gerald Everett, TE — South Alabama
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, this tight end prospect used to play basketball before his days on the football field. On top of his limited experience, Gerald Everett played at South Alabama, a small school in the Sun Belt Conference. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t caught the attention of some scouts as the 2017 NFL Draft approaches. Here’s what an anonymous “AFC area scout” said via Everett’s NFL.com Draft Profile:
“He’s got all the tools. He could end up being one of the top pass catching tight ends in the league. There is question about whether he can handle a full playbook, but I think that is overblown. Cut him loose and let him make a bunch of plays.”
Everett spent his freshman season at UAB in Conference USA before transferring to South Alabama. For his career the 6-4, 240-pound tight end caught 107 passes for 1,584 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The Jets meanwhile have struggled mightily at the tight end spot. They claimed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers second round pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins in hopes he could help solidify the spot. The result was just ten receptions on the season. While Everett isn’t a sure thing thanks to his experience and the competition he faced, he does offer tremendous upside especially for a third-round selection.
Oct 22, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks running back Rawleigh Williams (22) runs behind the block of lineman Dan Skipper (70) during the second quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Round 4, Pick 31: Dan Skipper, OT — Arkansas
Talk about a mammoth player. Arkansas offensive tackle Dan Skipper measures in at nearly 7-feet tall. The 6-10, 319-pound tackle towers over the rest of his offensive linemen and is the selection for the o-line needy Jets in the fourth-round. The unfortunate thing about Skipper is his size, which sets him apart, may actually work against him.
While NFL tackles are usually the tallest players on their team, it’s very rare to see a guy as big as Skipper. Currently there are no players in the league as tall as he is, and the reason for that is because it’s hard to win leverage battles against smaller defensive linemen when there is such a long reach down.
Still, Skipper is intriguing because he was a really good player for the Razorbacks. He played both left and right tackle for the Hogs and earned second team All-SEC in 2015 and followed that up with first team honors last season. Skipper also had a knack for blocking field goals, which could give him a leg up on other similarly ranked prospects since he can help in more ways than just line depth. Although, depth on the O-line is something the Jets can really use.
Oct 15, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Ole Miss Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly (10) passes in the second quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5, Pick 6: Chad Kelly, QB — Ole Miss
In the fifth round, the New York Jets once again select a quarterback. It’s a never ending battle in the Big Apple to find that franchise guy. They tried throwing a 2013 second round dart at West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, and that didn’t stick. They then tried a fourth-rounder on Baylor gun slinger Bryce Petty, and he hasn’t wowed anyone. In 2016 they again selected a quarterback, this time Christian Hackenberg of Penn State in round two. The jury is out on him, but the team insistence on keeping him sidelined while everyone else stunk it up last season isn’t encouraging.
So here they try the nephew of former Buffalo Bills great Jim Kelly. It would be fun to see the Hall of Fame quarterback and his family start pulling for the J-E-T-S thanks to family ties, but it also could be a smart move.
Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly took a rough path to his NFL dream. He was originally a member of the Clemson Tigers, but was kicked off the team for his off field issues. He then took the community college route to find his way back to major college football with Ole Miss. The Rebels gave him a chance to showcase his talent and in 2015 he threw for over 4,000 yards while tossing 31 touchdowns.
The next year had some ups and downs, and a torn ACL ended his 2016 season. Still he put enough good tape out there to get drafted, but there were enough inconsistencies in his game to keep him available into the middle-to-late rounds.
Oct 17, 2015; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman Al-Quadin Muhammad (8) lines up at the line of scrimmage against Virginia Tech Hokies during the first half at Sun Life Stadium. Miami won 30-20. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
A lot has been made of the relationship between defensive end Sheldon Richardson and the Jets. Apparently they tried to trade him in 2016, with rumors circulating that they initiated the talks between them and the Dallas Cowboys. As the story went, they wanted too much for him. But if in fact they did call, that means the Jets don’t see him as a long term member of their team.
So they use their sixth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft to try and unearth a gem that could potentially ease the loss of such a player. Miami defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad would fit as a pass rushing outside linebacker in the Jets system, and can be had for a relatively low price. He’s a talented player for the Hurricanes, but was suspended for all of 2014 for punching a teammate in the face. He was then kicked off the team permanently in 2016, although the reasons there were never disclosed.
It’s a risky pick, and the Jets may not be interested in a teammate puncher after the way former linebacker IK Enemkpali sucker-punched Geno Smith and sent the quarterback position in the Big Apple further into a spiral. Then again, that worked out for them, because when Smith was sidelined from said sucker-punch, his replacement took over and it led to one of the better seasons in recent team history.
Nov 26, 2016; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb (27) reacts with guard Greg Pyke (73) and tight end Jeb Blazevich (83) after scoring a touchdown against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Georgia Tech defeated Georgia 28-27. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Round 7, Pick 6: Greg Pyke, G — Georgia
With their final pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the New York Jets grab an SEC offensive lineman in Greg Pyke of the Georgia Bulldogs. Pyke has great size at 6-6 and 325-pounds. He was able to play on the outside for the Dawgs as a tackle, but also played inside as a guard. He is considered to be a guard prospect at the next level.
While there is some debate about whether or not Pyke has the strength to be an every down NFL player, he did play for a well respected pro-style school in the SEC. Others like David Andrews left that same school with similar questions about his ability to translate to the NFL. Andrews went undrafted and then started 11 games as a rookie for the New England Patriots in 2015. This past season, Andrews started all 16 games and was able to win a ring with the Jets’ divisional rival.
With a selection in the final round, New York could do a lot worse than taking a shot on a player who went up against the very best in the SEC. Pyke would be able to offer a versatile player that can provide depth at guard while also having the knowledge and ability to play tackle in a pinch. Players that can cover multiple spots like that often find themselves active on game days, even above better players at times who don’t offer such flexibility.