By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
With draft season just about to heat up, let’s take a look at some of the potential targets the Jets will have their eye on to bolster the offense. The receiving corps is in serious need or one, maybe two impact players and the backfield could also benefit from an infusion of young talent. Which prospects are overrated and which are being slept on a bit and ready for the Jets to snag at great value? Take a look:
RIGHT FIT, RIGHT PRICE
Stedman Bailey WVU 5’10 190 (WR)
What he gives the Jets: A reliable yet underrated athlete who can work out of the slot.
Tavon Austin is the flashier of the two Mountaineer speedsters, but as a pure wide receiving prospect the two are neck and neck. Bailey has provided Geno Smith with a dynamic yet consistent target that could make Mark Sanchez very happy if he is indeed the starter next year. He should produce solid numbers at next level if used correctly.
Eddie Lacy ALABAMA 6’0 220 (RB)
What he gives the Jets: A powerful runner who can either help transition the offense back to the “Ground and Pound” philosophy or provide an inside punch to complement a much needed change of pace back (yet to be acquired).
Lacy follows in the footsteps of twoAlabamalegends at the running back position. Most scouts view him as more limited than both Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, but I’d advise teams not to sleep on Lacy. He utilizes a wicked spin move and might be the best in the nation at keeping his legs churning to move the pile. His upside may not be as big as other prospects, but his running style and apparent value (rated by most sources as a mid-late round prospect) would be a great fit for Gang Green.
Kenjon Barner OREGON 5’11 195 (RB)
What he gives the Jets: Speed that can be utilized as a running back, slot receiver, scat back, or returner.
Barner had a sub-par showing against an NFL caliber front seven that Stanford threw at the Ducks, but speed can’t be taught and he has plenty of quickness and vision as well. His game is reminiscent of a poor man’s Darren Sproles with short, quick strides and positional versatility. Like Sproles his smaller stature allows him to be lost among the big bodied lineman and allows him hit top speed before he is even seen. Barner has super quick feet and can change directions in a flash and will expose a slower than average defense. Plus with his perceived limitations he should be available at terrific value. He is a more cost effective version of Tavon Austin.
Ryan Swope TEXAS A&M 6’1 206 (WR)
What he gives the Jets: Proficient route running and sure handed slot receiver.
Swope won’t wow you physically, but his ability to get open is an important asset nonetheless. I see Swope giving an NFL offense exactly what he gives the Aggies: a hard worker who plays with passion and has a knack for finding holes in a defense.
Mike Gillislee FLORIDA 5’11 209 (RB)
What he gives the Jets: Solid combination of cutting ability, speed and power.
He burst onto the screen after almost no buzz this summer and its easy to see why I really like his game. He is quick to hit the hole with solid straight-line speed but has also showed he can handle a heavy workload and pick up the tough yards inside. As far as overall or complete running backs go he is among the best in my opinion. Guys like Randle or Ellington have more big play potential or overall upside, but Gillislee should become a viable number one option if all pans out favorably in the development process.
Cierre Wood NOTRE DAME 6’0 215 (RB)
What he gives the Jets: Strong runner in traffic with superior burst in tight quarters.
He should be available at an incredible value due to his early season suspension and the current time share with Theo Riddick in the Irish backfield. Wood, a top high school recruit, has all the tools and offers a little bit of everything who would want in a running back prospect.
Quinton Patton LA TECH 6’2 195 (WR)
What he gives the Jets: Play-making ability despite relatively average athletic tools.
Patton is one of the most productive receivers this year ranking third in receiving yards with 1,267 and a major reason the Bulldogs have been able to compete with the big boys and even earn a spot in the top 25. Patton is deceptively fast and breaks off big plays with his ability to make defenders miss after the catch. Don’t get me wrong he’s plenty fast and extremely quick so his 4.56 40 time according to nfldraftscout.com and others is either very misleading or outdated.
Gio Bernard UNC 5’10 205 (RB)
What he gives the Jets: A solid all-around player who many think could develop into a franchise quality back, if he stays healthy.
Bernard has risen up draft boards to the point that I think he may actually be overvalued a bit (some have him in the first round or even top 20 range). In this era of NFL football running backs simply aren’t valuable enough to justify a first round selection. Trent Richardson, Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin are some of the exceptions of course. I just don’t think the super sophomore is a big enough overall talent, and even if he is he has the injury risk to knock him back down. He does have very intriguing qualities like vision to find the hole, balance to stay on his feet through traffic and enough speed to break away from most defenders.
Justin Hunter TENNESSEE 6’4 200 (WR)
What he gives the Jets: Huge upside and also a bit of a project.
Hunter is the full package, at least on paper. At 6’4 and with 4.4 speed he is the ideal prospect in terms of measureables. His main drawback is that he’s coming off an ACL injury that is always worthy of caution. He has seemed to return much of his pre-injury speed but even before his procedure hadn’t quite produced at a big clip relative to both his talent and the fact he has a more than capable Tyler Bray throwing him the ball. A terrific prospect who could very well develop into a star, but that sounds an awful lot like Stephen Hill to me.
Aaron Dobson MARSHALL 6’3 203 (WR)
What he gives the Jets: A big physical specimen who would be a nice red zone option.
I actually think he is approaching his true value now that he’s slipped out of the top 5 WR discussion, but with a major lack of production this year the Jets can’t afford to gamble on the physically gifted Dobson.
HIGH PRICE, HIGH REWARD?
Andre Ellington CLEMSON 5’10 190 (RB)
What he gives the Jets: “Splash” plays that score points quickly and open up running and throwing lanes for Sanchez and other backs.
An incredibly quick and explosive back who can produce the proverbial “home run” play, Ellington is one of the top backs in the country. His speed should give any offense a big play threat while opening up the defense as a whole. Ellington isn’t the most powerful runner, but has shown he can more than handle the inside runs that aren’t his strength but are necessary to keep defenders honest. He may take relatively high pick to snag, but needless to say I’m high on his guy and he should still be around in the second or third round and if things play out in the Jets favor he would be a steal.
Joseph Randle OK ST 6’1 200 (RB)
What he brings the Jets: Big-time potential but probably a big price tag as well.
Randle looks like the real deal, but often runs through gaping holes in the Cowboys spread attack. He isn’t a quick stop and start type, but rather seems to glide across the field and loses almost no momentum changing course, he’s just that smooth in and out of cuts. He also shows exemplary skills as a receiver out of the backfield and excellent blitz pickup and overall blocking ability to be a terrific third down option. He isn’t a bruiser by any means but shows an impressive amount of physicality when taking on defenders. If he falls out of the top 50 or even 100 he could be in play for the Jets, but I don’t expect that to happen.
Keenan Allen CAL 6’2 215 (WR)
What he gives the Jets: A big frame and excellent after the catch ability.
I’m a big fan of Allen and have had him steadily on the top of my 2013 WR rankings all year but I’m not sold on any receiver in this class being worthy of a top 10 overall selection. Before his injury, which could actually push him down a bit and make him a better value, he was projected to go in the first 10 or even 5 selections as several teams are in need of a true #1 WR. Unless his injury status pushes him down considerably the Jets will be better off taking a high potential pass rusher with their top pick, especially if picking in the top 12 or so.
Stepfan Taylor STANFORD 5’11 208 (RB)
What he gives the Jets: A consistent blocker who runs with vision and power.
Taylor started the year buried on most prospect lists due to his lack of speed, but behind a physical offensive line he has produced ever since he has gotten a chance. His running style and ability as a blocker would be ideal for the Jets, yet I think he has risen a little further than is warranted despite looking like a top notch value pick as recently as a few weeks ago.
Cordarrelle Patterson TENNESSEE 6’3 200 (WR)
What he gives the Jets: Good height and explosive potential.
Yes he is also very similar to Justin Hunter and therefore Stephen Hill, but should be available later and shows even more explosion and the ability to accelerate up field quicker than Hunter, displayed by him returning punts with much success even at 6’3 and change.