Who should Jets and Giants target at NFL Combine?
The annual meat market known as the NFL Combine starts Thursday. It has always been the top place for talent evaluators to break down the top prospects in the upcoming draft. It’s more than just the 40-yard dash, as players are interviewed, tested and accurately measured as opposed to their inflated roster stats.
Both the Jets and Giants have some holes to fill in the draft and Metro takes a look at the three biggest positional needs on each squad and a few players they could target in the draft. Be sure to keep an eye on them over the weekend in Indianapolis.
A year after failing to properly defend their Super Bowl title by missing the playoffs, the Giants need to add depth after a year of injury struggles.
The Giants had a notoriously weak secondary last year, tied for the league high with 8.1 yards per pass attempt. They can’t rely on Corey Webster and the secondary is truly lacking a playmaker other team’s need to scheme around. The prototype here is the man who plays across town, Darrelle Revis, and while the Giants can address this via free agency they would be wise to use one of their Top-2 picks on a cornerback for the future.
Round 1 target: Jonathan Banks (Mississippi State) — He possesses the ideal size to play the position at the next level and he’s a good tackler in the box. An all-around good fit for the Giants.
Rounds 2-3 target: Robert Alford (Southeast Louisiana) — No, he is not as physically strong or impressive as Banks but he is fast and covers a lot of turf. He played against lesser competition, but has tremendous upside.
Rounds 4-7 target: Blidi Wreh-Wilson (UConn) — He had a knee injury two years ago so question marks exist about his health. He has struggled with consistency for the Huskies but he has tremendous physical tools.
The aging Giants could use an infusion of youth almost anywhere along the offensive line, but tackles are always at a premium. Right tackle David Diehl just completed his 10th NFL season and his window is fast closing. He, like Webster, risk being cut this offseason.
Round 1 target: D.J. Fluker (Alabama) — Fluker was part of the offensive line that powered the Crimson Tide to consecutive national championships. He’s strong but needs to reshape his body and slim down a tad. But he has the pedigree head coach Tom Coughlin loves in draft picks.
Rounds 2-3 target: Terron Armstead (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) — He isn’t a big name in the draft but he has outstanding measurables and with good coaching could become an ideal downfield blocker, something the Giants love in their linemen.
Rounds 4-7 target: Reid Fragel (Ohio State) — He has room to grow on his frame but is a sound player. He also has some of the better feet in this draft for linemen.
With Martellus Bennett likely testing the free agent market, the Giants could use a tight end who can catch and block — something they haven’t had since Kevin Boss left as a free agent two years ago.
Round 1 target: Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame) — No question Eifert would be a dream fit for the Giants and he showed his stuff last year in leading Notre Dame in receptions. He’s an underrated blocker as well.
Rounds 2-3 target: Travis Kelce (Cincinnati) — He is another well-rounded tight end hailing from a school that is producing NFL caliber players at the position. Little known before this last year, he was an All-Big East selection after 40 catches in his senior season.
Rounds 4-7 target: Nick Kasa (Colorado) — Kasa played defensive end up until last season but made a solid transition his senior season to the offensive side of the ball. He’s athletic but raw.
There’s a lot of rebuilding work to be done with the Jets on both side of the ball and their draft day could be flipped if they add more picks by trading away their star Darrelle Revis.
With likely three of their four starting linebackers not coming back, or expected to play a diminished role, head coach Rex Ryan’s famed 3-4 defense needs some versatile linebackers to provide depth. Pronto.
Round 1 target: Jarvis Jones (Georgia) — This is the name most linked in mock drafts with the Jets. He’s a strong and sure tackler but sometimes seems to play a bit slow. His teammate, Alec Ogletree, might have more upside but also has a track record of arrests and suspensions.
Rounds 2-3 target: Khaseem Greene (Rutgers) — The local star is one of the faster linebackers in the draft and he’s as good against the run as against the pass. He could be an ideal fit midway through the second round for a team that needs a playmaker at linebacker.
Rounds 4-7 target: Zaviar Gooden (Missouri) — Gooden is another fast linebacker but is suspect in stopping the run. If the Jets want a project, he could be a good value but he’s more a situational player.
LaRon Landry is coming off a Pro Bowl season and might be too pricey for the Jets to keep. Eric Smith was cut earlier this week in a move to gain more room under the salary cap. A nice safety could help solidify the defense, even as the pass defense was outstanding last year.
Round 1 target: Eric Reid (LSU) — He could jump into the first round with a good showing in the 40-yard dash but his bread and butter is as a physical safety and a sure tackler. He has good size and could fit the Jets defense if they decide to trade back from No. 9 to later in the first round.
Rounds 2-3 target: Tony Jefferson (Oklahoma) — Jefferson isn’t big but he’s a solid safety and a smart football player. He could be a good fit in a backend that has lost some veteran experience.
Rounds 4-7 target: Josh Evans (Florida) — Evans might be a steal in the fifth round, as a player who is a real ball hawk. He does need to refine his technique but has ideal size at the position and room to grow on his frame.
Four years of Shonn Greene didn’t see the player develop into an elite running back. If the Jets are stuck with Mark Sanchez as quarterback then bolstering the offense with a good running game and an elite running back might be the best way to go.
Round 1 target: Giovani Bernard (North Carolina) — Bernard averaged 122 rushing yards per game last year for the Tar Heels. His low center of gravity and build is reminiscent of Ravens running Ray Rice. He could be a nice battering ram for the Jets.
Rounds 2-3 target: Andre Ellington (Clemson) — The burner will be in demand because he might well run a 4.4 40-yard dash at the combine. He’s a consistent runner and while he needs to add size, he did average 5.1 yards per carry last year.
Rounds 4-7 target: Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina) — The still-injured Lattimore was a Heisman contender until a horrific knee injury cut his season short. If the Jets don’t mind taking on board a risk a la Willis McGahee, Lattimore could be the biggest home run hitter in this year’s draft.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.