Mike Evans was Johnny Manziel's favorite target at Texas A&M. Credit: Getty Images
After an 8-8 season that shocked the NFL and saved the job of head coach Rex Ryan, the Jets enter this week’s NFL Combine a different team than a year ago. Now they have expectations of being a playoff team.
There are holes to fill, but the Jets have plenty of young talent on the two-deep which means this draft is much more about filling needs than drafting the best available player. Free agency will be a major factor in how things shake out since the Jets have plenty of cap space. They might be able to use Ryan’s charm to lure away some proven players to instantly take them over the hump and into the postseason for the first time since 2010.
1. Wide receiver
If the Jets make a move in free agency to bring on board a high-end wide receiver they might not be looking for a playmaker early on. If they are looking for a target for Geno Smith, they will likely be watching Mike Evans closely at the combine. He has good size at 6-foot-5 but his 40-yard dash time will determine his draft stock, as the former Texas A&M star doesn’t have good separation and runs a bit tight. In the middle rounds, Brandon Coleman out of Rutgers could be good value as injuries derailed his redshirt junior season but he will have great measurables. And Jeremy Gallon could be a nice late-round selection but the Michigan wide receiver will need an impressive combine to solidify his spot in the draft.
The Jets might be in the market for a cornerback, depending in large part on what they do with Antonio Cromartie. After taking Dee Milliner at No. 9 overall a season ago, it is hard to see the Jets using an early pick on a cornerback. That’s why a middle-round talent like Utah’s Keith McGill, who has long arms and good length, could be a good pickup for the Jets. He will need to show enough strength to be effective in press coverage and the 225-pound bench press is always difficult for someone with long arms. Phillip Gaines from Rice could be a great fit for the Jets in the later rounds. Sources tell Metro New York the Jets met with him at the East-West Shrine Game.
3. Outside linebacker
While the Jets will focus mainly on offense, there are needs on the defensive side of the ball. Outside linebacker is a spot they need to develop some good talent for the two-deep. Ronald Powell is a tremendous athlete, but there are injury concerns that weigh heavily despite his freakish measurables. If he can set those questions aside, the former Florida star could be a steal in the middle rounds. There’s also Prince Shembo of Notre Dame and Cal linebacker Khairi Fortt, who should wow scouts coming off the bus. Both players could be a good fit to add depth and develop over the next year or so.