2016 NFL Mock Draft: NY Jets select Ezekiel Elliott

Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Buckeyes defeated the Fighting Irish 44-28. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Buckeyes defeated the Fighting Irish 44-28. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Buckeyes defeated the Fighting Irish 44-28. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In this 2016 NFL Mock Draft, the NY Jets take a premier running back while also upgrading other key parts of the team.

The 2016 NFL Combine is already underway for college players hoping to be selected in the 2016 NFL Draft. Free agency follows right behind that event with the opening date of March 9th, when teams can officially sign pending free agents. With those dates in mind, NFL fans have already begun to debate the needs of their teams and have begun to choose the selections that they think their general managers should make in the draft.

I’ve been criticized in the past for not publishing a “Mock Draft.” My take on the draft in the past has always consisted of a number of articles featuring players I’ve thought the Jets might pursue in the draft instead. This year, as many of my readers already know, I’m typing one handed due to a shoulder injury that will require surgery at the beginning of next month to repair.

As a result of my injury, I thought it best to consolidate my planned articles into the more “traditional” mock draft format. This is a very early version, the combine and free agency signings have the potential to change the entire Jet approach to the upcoming draft, so please keep that in mind. Hopefully I can follow this article up closer to the draft, but for now here’s my take.

Next: Jets take an elite running back

Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Round 1 – Running Back Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State)

Now many will point out that running backs aren’t often taken in the first round any longer, but I believe Elliott is the real deal and worth the pick at #20 for the Jets. With Chris Ivory likely signing elsewhere, and a lack luster group behind him, the Jets will need to give Chan Gailey a potent weapon in the backfield for his running game.

Elliot clearly has the skills to step in day one and assume that role for the Jets. Elliott stands six foot tall and carries 225 pounds of muscle behind his run game. His game is a combination of power and allusiveness, he can both run over linebackers or cut on a dime to avoid them. He still could use work on his blocking game, and become more consistent in the passing game, but there is little doubt he has the skill set to improve in both areas. If Elliott makes it to #20, the Jets would be foolish not to pull the trigger.

Next: Jets go offensive tackle in Round 2

Nov 28, 2015; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers center Jake Reed (50) and offensive tackle Jason Spriggs (78) walk off the field carrying the Old Oaken Bucket after the victory against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross Ade Stadium. Indiana defeats Purdue 54-36. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Round 2 – Offensive Tackle Jason Spriggs (Indiana)

With their second pick in the draft, the Jets choose offensive tackle Jason Spriggs out of Indiana University. The Jets have neglected their offensive line for far too long, the core of the group is aging rapidly, and others are simply playing sub par football. At least in my mind, the offensive line has grown into the largest need for the football team.

If, as I suspect, Taylor Decker and the other top tackles are gone by the time the Jets choose in the first round, Spriggs is the next best thing. Spriggs measures out at 6’6 and tips the scales at 301 pounds. Spriggs will need to bulk up a bit in an NFL weight room, but the talent is undeniable.

Spriggs played left tackle at Indiana, but will need to work on his game before he settles into the position in the NFL. Spriggs has ideal length, quick feet and he’s fairly disciplined when blocking. I see him being able to start at right tackle for the Jets, and after adding weight and muscle, he could be seen as a candidate for left tackle. Jets will need both in the next two years, so Spriggs will warrant a closer look for the team.

Next: Jets address tight end position in Round 3

Nov 14, 2015; Champaign, IL, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes tight end Nick Vannett (81) makes a catch against Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Taylor Barton (3) during the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium. Ohio State defats Illinois 28-3. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Round 3 – Tight End Nick Vannett (Ohio State)

The Jets were horrendous at tight end the past couple of years and their efforts to fix the position last season, fell far short of the goal. Many have told me that the Jets have plenty of tight ends returning in 2016, but I don’t see any of them fitting their needs.

Vannett stands 6’6 tall and weighs in at 260 pounds. He’s more of the traditional inline tight end than the “hybrid” tight ends the Jets currently possess, and his ferocious blocking skills make him the perfect fit for the Jets. Vannett isn’t going to wow Jet fans in the passing game, but his blocking skills will.

In 2o14, Vannett did catch five touchdowns in a game, but he was used primarily as a blocker during his college career. There is no doubting Vannett’s talents, he’s an elite blocker and is elusive enough to sneak out of the formation in the passing game. Simply put, he is rated as the top blocking tight end in this draft, and will fill a huge need for the Jets’ offense.

Next: Jets add linebacker in Round 4

Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view of the podium on stage before the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Round 4 – Linebacker Kamalei Correa (Boise State)

Correa is a bit undersized for an NFL linebacker, but more than makes up for it with speed and athleticism. Correa stands only 6’2 tall and weighs in at 245 pounds. Correa is a mix of speed and power, he gets after opposing quarterbacks with his speed while offering power moves as well.

He also offers versatility at the position, having experience putting his hands in the dirt and playing upright. Correa has potential, he’s not as polished as some of the other edge rushers in this draft, but he’d make a solid special teams player initially and could contribute as a situational pass rusher in his first year as well. I think he’s a decent prospect in the fourth round for the Jets.

Next: Jets bolster offensive line in Round 5

Jan 26, 2016; Fairhope, AL, USA; South squad offensive guard Connor McGovern of Missouri (60) and South squad defensive end Jarran Reed of Alabama (90) battle in a drill during Senior Bowl practice at Fairhope Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

Round 5 – Offensive Guard Connor McGovern (Missouri)

Brian Winters can’t be depended on to be a full time starter in the NFL and will need to be replaced sooner then later. The Jets’ need at guard isn’t as desperate as their need for a tackle, but it is close. McGovern has the potential to fix that problem as he develops.

McGovern could turn into a serious steal for a team down the line, and that is why I’m proposing the Jets give him a good long look here. McGovern is a versatile guard who also has experience playing both tackle positions at the college level. He measures out at impressive 6’4 and tips the scales at 305 pounds.

He has quick feet and possesses good initial burst out of his stance, he may have some trouble with quicker defensive linemen at the pro level, but in the power game he’s unstoppable. His game is based on strength and his awareness should impress many in this category.

In college at Missouri, McGovern has proven to be a weight room warrior, setting school record for squats (690 pounds, 5 times) and unofficially squatting 780 pounds. He’s a big strong guard and with proper coaching, has the potential to become a starter as a pro.

Next: Jets use final pick on a quarterback

Jan 30, 2016; Mobile, AL, USA; South squad quarterback Jake Coker of Alabama (14) makes a throw under pressure by North squad defensive tackle Sheldon Day of Notre Dame (91) in he first quarter of the Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Round 7 – Quarterback Jake Coker (Alabama)

With the Jets’ quarterback situation still a big question going forward, they might want to give the late-round nod to Coker. He is a raw prospect as he started his college career at Florida State before landing at Alabama in 2014. Coker lost 2013 to NCAA transfer rules, and played behind Blake Simms.

I think Coker is worth a look, he has adequate arm strength and his 6’6/235 pounds frame gives him ideal size. Couple that with the fact that he backed up both E.J. Manuel and Jameis Winston at Florida, he played in a pro style offense that the Jets can afford to use a late rounder on him in hopes of developing the raw skills he possesses.

There you have it, my early take on some of the players the Jets might consider in this draft. I know my priority is offense for this mock draft, while others have set the priority to the defensive side of the ball. It’s my contention that the Jets have a much greater need on the offensive side of the football, than they do on the defensive side. The Jets haven’t taken an offensive player in the first round since they took Mark Sanchez there, back in 2009.

More jets: NY Jets 2015 Spotlight: Sheldon Richardson

The time has come to upgrade the Jets’ offense in my opinion. The Jets have a need for upgrades across the offensive line and this draft offers a chance to build for the future. What’s your take on the draft and the needs of the Jets?

We’re taking your mock drafts today,  if you’d like to offer them up. It is way too early to get an accurate read on this draft, but I thought it would be fun to kick around a few names, so please leave a comment below and help us discuss Jet football!!