Dec 31, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans offensive tackle Jack Conklin (74) during the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2015 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
In this 2016 NFL Mock Draft, with the post-seasons festivities finally finished, the Jets are going back to the drawing board. They will address a major need on their offensive line and continue to build a contender.
NFL Executive of the Year general manager Mike Maccagnan had a nice first offseason last year. He wisely spent his boatloads of free agent money on pricey jewels like Darrelle Revis and James Carpenter. He made acclaimed low-risk trades for veteran outcasts Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall. But he has been quick to admit that this roster is old and slow and in need of an injection of youth and speed.
In terms of free agency, expect a solid professional tight end to be brought into the fold (see Dwayne Allen, Ladarius Green, Vernon Davis). They must re-sign Erin Henderson and get another game-ready inside linebacker (Mason Foster? Jerrell Freeman?) to replace free agent Demario Davis, the small-college star Rex Ryan once envisioned as his next Ray Lewis. The Jets also need a punter in the worst way. You never want to blame one person, but Ryan Quigley may have cost the 2015 team the playoffs with terrible boots in key situations.
As for re-signings, who’d’ve thunk nose tackle Damon Harrison out of Iowa’s William Penn College would become the team’s priority free agent? Not sure why Muhammad Wilkerson is angry about his likely $15M million franchise tag for 2016, but he has shown to be someone who plays well when motivated.
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Recently waived cornerback Antonio Cromartie could still return; he obviously loves being a Jet and would likely take close to veteran minimum money. The ancient Calvin Pace may still be their most dependable outside linebacker.
But the GM’s first draft wasn’t quite all that it was cracked up to be. Sure, they have a nice D-lineman in #6 overall pick Leonard Williams and a promising third-round pass rusher in Lorenzo Mauldin. But second-round deep-threat receiver Devin Smith endured a lost season, and latter-rounders like quarterback Bryce Petty, offensive lineman Jarvis Harrison, and nose tackle Deon Simon remain question marks at best.
The Jets have the No. 20 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, so rest assured “Trader Mike” will not overreach and will always take the best player available. So based on player rankings and watching film and examining Gang Green’s needs, here’s a mock draft based on results after the 2016 NFL Combine including alternate picks. (The Jets lose a sixth round pick in the Fitzpatrick trade, so keep that in mind)
Next: Round 1
Feb 26, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan State Spartans offensive lineman Jack Conklin (11) participates in a drill during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1 (#20) – OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State
Gang Green has the oldest offensive line in the league, with last year’s starting five amassing 43 years of NFL service between them. There’s been much banter about one of the impressive Big Ten man-mountain falling to them at No. 20, such as Conklin or Ohio State’s Taylor Decker.
Both possess the tools to be opening day starters, but if the former Spartan gets past Indianapolis at No. 18, this bruiser who compares favorably to Eagles’ legend Jon Runyan would look quite smashing wearing New York’s green-and-white.
Alternate Pick: OLB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
Smith may not play at all in 2016 due to a gruesome late-season injury, but his Von Miller-ish instincts make him worth the wait if he falls down to their slot, as some predict.
Next: Round 2
Jan 30, 2016; Mobile, AL, USA; South squad tight end Jerell Adams of South Carolina (89) is tackled by North squad safety Miles Killebrew of Southern Utah (25) in the first quarter of the Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Round 2 (#51) – S Miles Killebrew, Southern Utah
This small-college star who played his home games at 8,500-capacity Eccles Stadium in Cedar City, Utah has all the instincts to step right in and play that Deone Bucannon hybrid S/LB role that Bowles so brilliantly executed as the defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals.
Killebrew would be the perfect complement to ballhawk free-safety Marcus Gilchrist and head-thumping strong safety Calvin Pryor. He could dominate when lined up at outside linebacker with Lorenzo Mauldin in key blitz packages.
Alternate Pick: OLB Su’A Cravens, USC
The aggressive defensive back is a similarly rangy, high-motor tackling machine compared to Trojan legend Troy Polamalu — a compliment that should never be taken lightly.
Next: Round 3
Jan 10, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes tight end Nick Vannett (81) during practice in preparation for the CFP National Championship at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Round 3 (#83) – TE Nick Vannett, Ohio State
It is no secret that last season, the Jets had no tight end game, with four-year starter Jeff Cumberland relegated to special teams and Kellen Davis blocking. The organization has shown that they are neither going to waiting around for 2014 second-round underachiever Jace Amaro, nor are they big believers in recent signees Adrien Robinson and Brandon Bostick nor undrafted free agent project Wes Saxton. Jr. Vannett is the type of rugged “lunchpail” footballer that would fit in perfectly playing Bowles-ball at MetLife.
Alternate Pick: RB Alex Collins, Arkansas
Next: Round 4
Nov 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins running back Paul Perkins (24) runs with the ball against the Southern California Trojans during the game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Round 4 (#115) – RB Paul Perkins, UCLA
The Jets desperately need an explosive young running back, but they likely won’t be able to get Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott. earmarked as the next Edgerrin James. Perkins — not even ranked as a top-ten running back prospect in some charts — is that classic slasher tailback, and a ready-to-play future replacement for Powell.
Macccagnan could choose to wait even later in the draft, and take a flyer on a hungry FBS grinder like Illinois State’s Marshaun Coprich, Richmond’s Jacobi Green or converted Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds.
Alternate Pick: OG Spencer Drango, Baylor
The big nasty behind the Baylor’s mega rushing attack, is ready to step alongside James Carpenter, and put Brian Winters back where he belongs, as the first man off the bench.
Next: Round 5
Jan 26, 2016; Mobile, AL, USA; North squad offensive tackle Joe Haeg of North Dakota State (59) blocks in a drill during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5 (#145) – OT Joe Haeg, North Dakota State
Maccagnan is regarded for his ability to scout O-linemen, so don’t be surprised if he spends two draft picks on a project like this protector of rising draft star quarterback Carson Wentz — huge, fast and versatile, having played on both sides of the line.
Haeg and Conklin could anchor the Jets’ blocking game at tackle for the next decade. They better do something if the offseason plan is to save cap money by cutting serviceable Breno Giacomini and replacing him with John Idzik practice squadder Brent Qvale.
Alternate Pick: OLB/DE Victor Ochi, Stony Brook
Local rooting interest for this underdog trying to become the first NFL draft pick in Seawolves history, but Ochi’s the type of mean, hungry outside pursuer this team so craves.
Next: Round 7
Dec 21, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers quarterback Brandon Doughty (12) throws a pass against the South Florida Bulls during the second half in the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Round 7 (#209) – QB Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky
It’s been said the Jets might reach in the first round for a quarterback like Paxton Lynch out of Memphis. But look for them to take a second- or third-day flyer on a high-upside passer like Bowling Green’s Manziel-ian game-changer Matt Johnson, or Doughty who threw for nearly 10,000 yards and 100 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
One could say Doughty’s done it against weak opponents, but that’s what ex Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum felt before he cut Danny Woodhead, who rushed for 7,962 yards at Chadron State.
Since a seventh-round pick has a history of producing high-caliber athletes, here’s a few extra alternate picks to end the Jets’ draft class on a high note.
ILB Nick Kwiatkowski, West Virginia
A ferocious over-achiever who has exceeded expectations. Who cares about his Combine times and reps: isn’t this the type of blue-collar kid every team wants on their roster?
WR Jaydon Mickens, Washington
This electrifying Los Angeles-bred flanker with explosive punt return skills soared last year on the Pac 12 stage. Draft evaluators concur Mickens could be a great late-round value pick, but a few of them have also worried that he’s too small for the pro game and needs to bulk up — which could effect his elusiveness. The pint-sized slot receiver sounds little like 2014 John Idzik draft bust Jalen Saunders and more like a hungry, hard-working baller ready to replace the now replaceable Jeremy Kerley.
P Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
This two-time SEC punting leader who broke Shane Lechler’s records as an Aggie, is a tough grinder with a nasty “knuckle” kick known to wreak havoc on top-flight opponents.