Sep 26, 2015; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats linebacker Scooby Wright III (33) during the fourth quarter against the UCLA Bruins at Arizona Stadium. UCLA won 56-30. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Jets have many priorities to address via the 2016 NFL Draft. From their pass rush, offensive line and even special teams, if they have another solid draft class they will be contenders again in 2016.
In the NFL, the best teams know just how important the draft is. Sure, many love the frenzy of free agency with top players getting out-of-this-world contracts to defect to other teams but the smarter teams know that’s now how you win championships.
To be competitive enough to earn a ticket to the NFL Playoffs and even possibly an appearance in the Super Bowl, it’s all about making smart draft picks. A combination of players that can immediately contribute and those that will be major contributions in the future is what it’s all about.
For the Jets, they addressed a few areas of need via free agency but due to their salary cap implications, they didn’t have the huge kind of spending spree like last season. General manager Mike Maccagnan has done a good job so far this offseason but like last year, there is a ton of confidence he will once again truly shine come draft weekend.
Without further ado, here are the top five priorities for the Jets heading into this year’s draft.
Next: 5. It can't just be the Marshall & Decker show
Oct 17, 2015; Waco, TX, USA; Baylor Bears wide receiver Corey Coleman (1) catches a pass as West Virginia Mountaineers cornerback Daryl Worley (7) defends during the first quarter at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
5. It can’t just be the Marshall & Decker show
Last season, the Jets’ offense enjoyed much success to the point of breaking franchise records with receptions (109) and touchdowns (31). It was quite the show last year for fans everywhere to enjoy but the common theme was pretty much the efforts of just Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker leading the way.
One can only imagine how much more potent the Jets’ offense could have been last season if they had a viable No. 3 receiving threat. The next best wide receiver outside of Marshall and Decker was Bilal Powell.
That’s right, a running back was the third best receiving threat for the Jets last season. Powell totaled 388 receiving yards on 47 receptions for two touchdowns. With the release of Jeremy Kerley, the Jets need to draft another receiver to even things out.
While it’s not recommended for the Jets to go wide receiver with their No. 20 overall pick, they can get a very good option in the second or third round of this year’s draft.
Next: 4. Much needed help on special teams
Feb 29, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive back Jonathan Jones runs the 40 yard dash during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
4. Much needed help on special teams
Last season, the special teams of the Jets were abysmal. They went the entire year without a single touchdown contributed by their special teams unit. It was so bad, the Jets had to terminate special teams coordinator Bobby April during the offseason since he wasn’t getting the job done effectively.
Besides the sloppy tackling, the Jets need to find a consistent special teams kickoff/punt returner in this year’s draft. Whether they get a speedy cornerback or elusive wide receiver, the Jets need a dynamic player that can take one to the house and at the very least, give them much better field positioning.
The Jets had 22 fair catches last season which is terrible considering their opponents combined had 14. Once the Jets find a quality return specialist, it will put them in the same situation as other teams last year to get some much-needed support from this unit to have everything clicking on all cylinders.
With plenty of nice options in this year’s draft, it would be wise of the Jets to draft a player specifically for this role in either the third or fourth round of this year’s draft.
Next: 3. One more quarterback
Feb 27, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott throws a pass during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
3. One more quarterback
One can never have enough quarterbacks, especially when it comes to the Jets. At the time of this writing, the Jets and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick are still far apart in contract negotiations as there is no guarantee he’ll be back next season with the team.
Officially on the roster are only Geno Smith and Bryce Petty. While Smith could be up to the task of leading the Jets come next season, if history proves itself yet again with him, they might be in some serious trouble with the most important position on the team. Petty is far from ready to be a viable starting option as he needs more development and coaching heading into his sophomore season.
More options are always better than less options since the Jets haven’t had an established franchise quarterback since the days Joe Namath was under center. It would make a lot of sense for them to draft another quarterback in the middle to late rounds of this year’s draft.
Many scenarios can happen next season with the Jets at quarterback. It’s better to be safe than sorry and have readily available options in case injuries happen or in the event that Fitzpatrick takes his talents elsewhere.
Next: 2. Faster pass rushers
Dec 31, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Reggie Ragland (19) during the game against the Michigan State Spartans in the 2015 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
2. Faster pass rushers
It’s no secret that the Jets’ defense did good for the most part last season but they lacked a consistent pass rush. Their linebacker corps is also in dire need of some upgraded youth and aggression to push the envelope next season.
Now, the No. 20 overall pick has been a hot topic this offseason as to what direction the Jets should head in. While they also have needs to add youth to their offensive line, it’s important they bring in at least one or two pass rushing specialists to get to the quarterback consistently.
Last season, the Jets did well in getting to the quarterback with 39.0 sacks on the year. Only thing is, when you play quarterbacks like the Jets will next season in Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck, if a defense gives them enough time in the pocket they will absolutely make them pay dearly.
The faster you get to the quarterback to keep him antsy all game long is key in the NFL. The Denver Broncos proved that defense wins championships as the Jets will want to continue adding top talent to this part of the team to continue its momentum. Make no mistake about it, if they can launch a more potent pass rush in 2016, they will once again surprise the football world with their final results.
Next: 1. Bolstering offensive line
Feb 26, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats offensive lineman Parker Ehringer on left and Michigan State Spartans offensive lineman Jack Conklin on right participate in workout drills during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
1. Bolstering offensive line
To win plenty of football games means to win the battle of the trenches. If it’s anything the football world learned from a team like the Dallas Cowboys is that they will always have success on offense thanks to their incredible offensive line. Sure, drafting an offensive lineman isn’t as exciting as other positions but it’s the smartest move to make for any franchise.
The truth of the matter is the Jets’ offensive line is getting older and while they did an admirable job last season, they must start developing their replacements now. Drafting a versatile offensive lineman that can efficiently handle guard and tackle responsibilities would be key here for the Jets.
Not only would it help in protecting the quarterback and doing a better job at establishing the run, it’s also very important to have quality depth ready and able to step in to take care of business in case injuries occur. Last season when center Nick Mangold missed playing time, it clearly showed on offense that it wasn’t the same.
The Jets should use their No. 20 overall pick on the best available offensive lineman when they’re on the clock. It’s easily their top priority heading into draft weekend and should hopefully be right on top of their draft board.