Believe it or not, the official start of the 2014 NFL draft is less than two days away. That means, of course, that it is the perfect time to make some predictions on what will be one of the deepest drafts in recent memory.
This offseason, the Jets have upgraded their roster tremendously, adding useful pieces at almost every once-lacking position on the team. The draft gives the Jets an opportunity to culminate the transaction period on a high note, provided they play the valuable hand they have been dealt in the right ways. The Jets have 12 picks in this draft, tied for most with the St. Louis Rams, and with those dozens picks comes an ample chance to further improve their already remodeled roster. In this article, however, we will take a magnifying glass to Day 1 of the draft, which consists only of the first round.
In the first round, the Jets have a multitude of options, which presents a dilemma to the team; bolster their receiving corps to provide another option for presumed starting quarterback, Geno Smith, or select a solid cornerback with high potential who can play opposite Dee Milliner. This predicament is sure to spark a debate between Jet fans, and there is no perfect solution to the problem. However, the best possible solution for the Jets may depend on what talent is available in later rounds for the Jets to select.
In the past few weeks, the Jets have shown an interest in former USC WR Marqise Lee and former LSU wideout Odell Beckham Jr. There is a good chance that the Jets will choose one of the two prospects, pending they are still available when the Jets draft at pick 18. Both prospects have a high ceiling and above-average athleticism, which is something the Jets are looking for in this draft. In fact, Lee has explicitly stated his desire to join the Jets, but it is completely possible that he and Beckham Jr. are both off the board by the time the middle of the first round rolls around.
On the other hand, if the Jets sway in the direction of improving their defense, they will have the opportunity to choose from their pick of the lot of cornerbacks. CB Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State and Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State are attractive options for the Gang Green, as they both possess a physicality and a unique ability to stick with a receiver which will immediately bolster the Jets’ previously porous secondary. Dennard, a Thorpe award winner and consensus First-team All-American, may have the edge in experience over Gilbert, but what Gilbert lacks in know-how, he will make up with a strong work ethic. It is really a toss-up between the two cornerbacks, and just like the potential choice between Lee and Beckham Jr., this decision will come down to who is left on the draft board come the 18th pick.
In making their decision to pick offense or defense in the first round, the Jets should take note of the lack of game-breaking wide receiver talent in the later rounds. If the Jets’ only chance to snag a dynamic receiver lies in their first round pick, then John Itzik should be decisive in choosing either Lee or Beckham Jr. This argument is furthered even more by the deep pool of cornerbacks in the draft. The Jets can rely on selecting a cornerback, even two, with their remaining eleven picks. That cornerback might be less polished than Dennard or Gilbert, but that will be the price the Jets have to pay for selecting a wideout in the first round. They can always groom a cornerback into a solid player, provided he has the work ethic and physical tools to succeed in the league, and that is a risk the Jets should be willing to take in the upcoming draft.
The Verdict: Select either Marquise Lee or Odell Beckham Jr. with the 18th pick. In many mock drafts, Beckham Jr. is predicted to go earlier than #18, possibly at #13 to the Rams. Lee’s stock has fallen in many mock drafts, but only because of injury concerns and his relatively small frame. If the decision comes down to choosing one of the two prospects, the Jets should choose Lee. He has the potential to be like Victor Cruz or possibly even better, and he has game-changing speed that is hard to find anywhere. In no way am I trying to indicate that Beckham is a bad player, but if the Jets have to choose between the wideouts, then Lee should be their guy.
The Jets can find a solid cornerback in the later rounds of the draft whom they will be able to groom into a dependable player. The Gang Green should not miss the opportunity to select a possibly game-changing receiver. Plus, Lee’s or Beckham Jr.’s selection would be just one more solid option for Geno Smith to work with, which is something the Jets were sorely lacking last year. Ultimately, the decision is up to GM John Itzik and the Jets’ front office, but as fans, we can tirelessly argue about this difficult dilemma. Let the debates commence.