Over the past three seasons, the Jets have had just 13 combined draft picks, in large part due to the team moving up to pick Mark Sanchez at No. 5 in the 2009 NFL draft.
This year, sitting on 10 picks, general manager Mike Tannenbaum has the flexibility to move up in the draft and yet still add some depth to a team that was hard hit by injuries last year.
Conventional wisdom — and most mock drafts — holds that the Jets will likely take either a defensive lineman or outside linebacker with their first-round pick, No. 16 overall.
“We’d just like to add a little depth at that position,” Tannenbaum said. “Also, I think we need to look at, I think seven of the eight outside linebackers on our board were college defensive ends. That’s just the way it is.”
The names that resonate the most with the Jets are North Carolina’s Quinton Coples, South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram and Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw — all of whom could fit well in the Jets’ 3-4 scheme.
“Coples is a phenomenal athlete. He probably played better as a junior than he did this season,” said vice president of college scouting Joey Clinkscales. “Obviously, Ingram, this was his breakout year; he is a one-year starter. And Courtney Upshaw, they won a national championship. He’s a physical, strong, aggressive player.”
1. Trent Richardson, running back, Alabama — Don’t laugh. Given the number of picks that the Jets have this year, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Tannenbaum move up to the third pick and grab a marquee running back. With no LaDainian Tomlinson this year, the Jets could use another running back and Richardson could grow into a franchise-type player at the position.
2. Quinton Coples, defensive end, North Carolina — Consider the Jets interested, especially since head coach Rex Ryan ran Coples’ drills during his pro day. At 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, Coples has the size the Jets love at defensive end, but questions persist about his motor and overall work rate. Still, he’d be a prototypical Ryan player — someone whom he thinks he can coach up.
3. Dontari Poe, nose tackle, Memphis — He inevitably draws comparison to Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata, but Poe never showed consistency at Memphis. His combine numbers, including a 4.91 time in the 40 and 44 reps on the bench press, show a player with remarkable intangibles. But will that translate to the field? It hasn’t yet.
4. Stephen Hill, wide receiver, Georgia Tech — He’s not a name often mentioned with the Jets, but if their war room wanted to trade out of their pick and go later in the first round, Hill could be there for the taking. His combine numbers were good and he has experience blocking in the option. That’s something which could translate well to the Tim Tebow-inspired Wildcat package and the Jets’ renewed emphasis on rushing the ball.
1. Dan Di Lella, quarterback, Albany — Di Lella impressed at the Rutgers Pro Day, where he was an invited participant. He’s strong and raw and the Jets have traditionally carried four quarterbacks, meaning he could make the team. Plus, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano is familiar with him; his son also played at Albany.
2. Delano Johnson, defensive end/outside linebacker, Bowie State — A former high school basketball standout who was offered a walk-on scholarship at Maryland, Johnson chose football and a smaller program in Bowie State, but comes out of Division II football an impressive physical specimen. He’s still learning the game, but his size and speed is hard to ignore at any level and he reminds some of former Jet and current Dolphins linebacker Jamaal Westerman.
3. Ronnie Cameron, defensive tackle, Old Dominion — Another player under the radar, Cameron has risen up many draft boards and is now being eyed by both the Jets and the Colts. His upper body is strong and while his lower body needs some work, Cameron has good hip flexibility and strong technique. He might be a better fit in the 4-3, but he’s certainly a player who could wind up being a late-round steal.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.