New York Jets: Breaking down NFL Draft with Christa Levitas

Property of Christa Levitas and used by permission for The Jet Press
Property of Christa Levitas and used by permission for The Jet Press /
new york jets
new york jets /

Property of Christa Levitas and used by permission for The Jet Press

The New York Jets will soon be handing in their cards of players they will select in the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft. In an exclusive sit down, The Jet Press spends time with draft specialist and sportswriter Christa Levitas.

With the upcoming draft being here faster than a New York minute, it’s always an exciting time for football fans from across the globe get ready to see what direction their favorite team will head in. It’s no different for the Jets as they have a golden opportunity to leave this year’s draft with an infusion of talent ready to make some noise in the future.

Related Story: Top 5 bold predictions for New York Jets in 2016 NFL Draft

The Jets have some needs across the team, especially on their offensive line, linebacker corps and yes, even at quarterback. It’s hard to predict what direction the Jets will head in with all their draft picks but truth of the matter is, they should be able to address their major areas of opportunity and hopefully find some diamonds in the rough.

Of course being an Editor and sportswriter has it perks, especially when you get to network with your fellow colleagues that are truly great at what they do. Such is the case with fellow sportswriter Christa Levitas who was kind enough to spend some time with me as we discussed the upcoming draft, Jets and everything else in between.

Since we are both huge fans of the Jets, we decided to go through the 12 hottest topics heading into the draft as a homage to Joe Namath since he wore the #12. Without further ado, here is my exclusive sit-down with Christa.

Next: 12. Will Muhammad Wilkerson be traded on draft day?

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Property of Christa Levitas and used by permission for The Jet Press

12. Will Muhammad Wilkerson be traded on draft day?

LTJ: Well first off Christa, that’s a great picture of you and one of my all-time favorite Jets, wide receiver Wayne Chrebet! For our readers that might not know, could you please explain who you are, where you write at and who is your all-time favorite player of the Jets?

CL: Hey Luis! Well, my name is Christa Levitas. I have a bachelors with a degree in Marketing from Caldwell University. I have been a Jets fan since birth, my family are Jets fans so I was born into the fandom. My uncle was and is still a season ticket holder as he has two seats as we regularly attend.

I asked him if I could go to a Jets game and my passion for football grew. I currently work for two blog sites, one is where I interview college football players and write about the Jets. The second site is for their college football section where I write primarily college scouting reports and about college football in general.

My all-time favorite Jet is Joe Namath, I’m also an Alabama fan and I have the utmost respect for him.

LTJ: That is pretty cool, Christa! I’m a huge fan of your work and draft profiles/interviews as I read them every opportunity I get. Thank you again for sitting with me to discuss the draft and Jets for this ever huge week. First question right off the bat, do you honestly see Wilkerson being traded on draft day?

CL: I believe general manager Mike Maccagnan is going to do everything he can to check every possible option he has in this year’s draft. I can see Wilkerson more as chip to move up more than down. One thing that might be to his disadvantage is the current contract Wilkerson has, since he’s a great talent.

Trading him would ensure a team they would get a good player. But the question remains is how much is Wilkerson worth? Are teams willing to part a first-round pick and take on his contract that expires next year? I unfortunately don’t think this defensive line-heavy class is working to the Jets favor when it comes to trading Wilkerson.

Right now, I want to say it’s 50/50. There are some reasoning’s such as saving salary cap space to trade Wilkerson and getting something in return. I think Maccagnan might be up for a challenge when it comes to potentially trading him.

LTJ: Agreed, I honestly believe Wilkerson is as good as gone, whether it’s being traded on draft day or in the future. I just sense he’s really upset at the franchise for taking so long to reward him with a big money/long-term contract after everything he’s done for them. Not only is he one of their premier defensive lineman but he’s been a class act off the football field as well.

As much as I’d hate to see him go, it’s just part of the business I guess. I predict the Jets will trade him on draft day either to move up in the order or maybe for a veteran quarterback ready to start next season if Ryan Fitzpatrick is confirmed to no longer be an option in 2016.

Next: 11. What position should the Jets draft if Wilkerson is traded?

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Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) reacts to the crowd in the second half of the Jets 38-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

11. What position should the Jets draft if Wilkerson is traded?

LTJ: Very interesting about Wilkerson, Christa. With that being said, if they do trade him and they move up in this year’s draft, what position would you think they would first address?

CL: If the Jets do move up in the first round, I’ll be convinced it’s for Paxton Lynch, quarterback out of Memphis. Giving this is a new regime, if they’re moving up in the first round since Wentz and Goff will most likely be gone. That will give me a sign that this regime believes that Lynch can eventually be their guy and want to put their mark now on a potential franchise quarterback.

LTJ: A lot of recent mock drafts I’ve been reading have the Jets drafting Lynch in the first round as he might even drop to No. 20 overall. If the Jets however move up, I would think it’s for the best available offensive lineman or even linebacker. I think the Jets might just stick with what they got in Geno Smith and Bryce Petty and run a competition this summer to deem a new starting quarterback.

I could also see the Jets grabbing some other veteran quarterback out there for insurance purposes in case injuries or a decline in play happen. I think a lot of people are putting too much emphasis on the quarterback situation of the Jets if Fitzpatrick doesn’t return. I think they’ll be just fine as their strengths of the team will be in their running game and defense. They just need a decent quarterback that can manage the clock well and do the basic things.

Next: 10. If he returns, should they still draft another quarterback?

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Dec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws a pass during the third quarter of game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. New York Jets defeat the New England Patriots 26-20 in OT. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

10. If he returns, should they still draft another quarterback?

LTJ: Ah yes Christa, the big elephant of the room is officially out so I’m going to hit you with a few loaded questions now. Speaking about the quarterback situation, what would be the ideal situation if Fitzpatrick does return to the Jets, would they still draft another quarterback in this year’s draft? If Fitzpatrick doesn’t return, would they make such a move for Lynch and then run a competition this summer? For argument’s sake, if they ran a real competition between Lynch, Geno Smith and Bryce Petty, who do you think wins and is deemed the next starting quarterback of the Jets?

CL: In the end of the day, I truly believe Fitzpatrick and the Jets will come to an agreement and will be back. Most likely at some point at the end of the draft. I would honestly not rule out the Jets drafting another quarterback, whether Fitzpatrick is back or not.

Maccagnan spent time with Ron Wolfe and one of Wolfe’s theories was to draft a quarterback until you hit on one. With that said, if Maccagnan really likes a quarterback, I do believe he will draft him. This is not a popular opinion, but if for some strange odd reason the Jets don’t re-sign Fitzpatrick and it comes between Lynch, Smith and Petty, I believe Smith would win.

I don’t think this regime would want to rush Lynch in right away and mostly because he’ll need more experience in this offense, with more starting reps probably given to Petty. Geno would win and I think Lynch is going to face that learning curve, before ultimately competing for the starting position.

LTJ: I agree completely. Whether Fitzpatrick re-signs or not, I think the Jets will draft another quarterback into the mix. I also totally agree with Wolfe that the Jets every single draft should keep drafting a quarterback until they find one worthy of being their next franchise player. Eventually and hopefully soon, they’ll find that quarterback that will bring major success to the position for the next decade.

Next: 9. Should the Jets consider drafting Ezekiel Elliott?

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Nov 28, 2015; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) runs the ball during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

9. Should the Jets consider drafting Ezekiel Elliott?

LTJ: One of the top stars of this year’s draft is running back Ezekiel Elliott. The man has been mocked to various teams across the NFL and even in the top-10 of some mock drafts. Of course on draft day, anything can happen and even the most popular players can drop pretty quickly. Even though they have Matt Forte, Khiry Robinson and Bilal Powell as their new three-headed monster at running back, if Elliott is available at No. 20 and considering he’s the best player overall at the position, would the Jets draft him faster than a New York minute?

CL: The Jets are extremely rich at the running back position. It went from losing Ivory and potentially losing Powell to a loaded backfield with a complete back in Forte, a good back in Powell who can block and relieve Forte and Robinson who I felt was kind of buried on the New Orleans Saints’ depth chart who is ready to emerge on the Jets.

The Jets would be really lucky to have Zeke fall to them if that were to happen. He is a special player who is a notch below Todd Gurley in last year’s draft. I love Elliott and he is one of my favorite players in this year’s draft. He has speed, can catch out of the backfield and he knows how to make a man miss.

I believe Maccagnan since he loaded up the backfield, may potentially try to trade down for more picks if this were to happen. If he couldn’t find anyone to trade down, I think Zeke might potentially look as a possible option for them but I do expect to look for them to trade down before drafting him if that was the case.

LTJ: I just don’t see Elliott slipping all the way down to No. 20 overall as he’ll probably end up being taken by the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns or even the New York Giants. He’s an exceptional player that will take the NFL by storm, just not in a green and white uniform.

I like the idea of the Jets trading down if Elliott is still available when they’re on the clock as they could stock up more draft picks which would tremendously bolster the team at various positions. Either way, I’m excited for his career and see what team confidently drafts him knowing the kind of impact player they’re getting at running back.

Next: 8. If Jets do trade down, what would they get in return?

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Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan before a game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

8. If Jets do trade down, what would they get in return?

LTJ: In the event the Jets draft down in this year’s draft, what kind of deal do you think would transpire for their No. 20 overall pick? If they traded down, what would be the ideal position(s) they will be looking to upgrade after such a big move?

If they trade down, I think the ideal positions they could be looking at depending on what they get in return is a speedy pass rusher the Jets have lacked since John Abraham. Would also depend who is there, maybe even a defensive tackle to replace Damon Harrison, since losing him was a loss to the Jets’ defense.

You know, a guy who can stop the run at the defensive tackle position that would really help and benefit the Jets’ defense. Cornerback also comes to mind, to get one to replace Antonio Cromartie. If an offensive tackle falls by time the Jets are on the clock, I can see them possibly selecting him and starting him at right guard. The Jets need to start rebuilding their aging offensive line.

LTJ: For the Jets to trade down from No. 20, I can see them going after the best available linebacker that excels in pass rushing. While I think drafting offensive lineman is the best choice to make, the best ones will probably be gone if the Jets trade down. This year’s draft is stacked with top defensive talent as I can see the Jets trading down and using it as an opportunity to draft a speedy linebacker or a defensive end that adds to their overall pass rush.

Next: 7. If Jets stay at No. 20, what would be their top three picks?

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Oct 29, 2015; Fort Worth, TX, USA; TCU Horned Frogs wide receiver Josh Doctson (9) catches a touchdown pass past West Virginia Mountaineers cornerback Terrell Chestnut (16) during the first quarter at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

7. If Jets stay at No. 20, what would be their top three picks?

LTJ: If the Jets stick to their No. 20 overall pick, who would you say would be their top three picks and why?

I think their top three picks would be cornerback William Jackson out of Houston, defensive tackle Jarren Reed out of Alabama, and my last one would wide receiver Josh Doctson out of TCU. No specific order with my choices. Jackson would make an immediate impact at the cornerback position. Todd Bowles relies heavily on the cornerback position and Jackson would be able to start alongside Darrelle Revis.

Revis isn’t getting any younger and Jackson would serve as a building block moving forward. I think the Jets would take a hard look at Reed if he’s there at No. 20. They lost Damon Harrison during free agency and he played a major role in stopping the run. Reed has a similar playing style to Harrison.

Reed has the ability to stop the run and be an asset in Bowles’ defense. Doctson is a surprise pick, but the Jets could be intrigued to adding another play-maker on offense to add more depth at the wide receiver position. Doctson is a play-maker and would add more speed at the wide receiver position who could also essentially add as a building block moving forward for the Jets.

LTJ: My top three picks for the Jets would be offensive tackle Jack Conklin, linebacker Reggie Ragland and offensive tackle Jason Spriggs. As you can see Christa, I’m all for the Jets actually using their No. 20 overall pick to draft the best available offensive lineman.

Conklin would be the ideal pick for me as he’s everything the Jets could ask for and more. He’s got a high football IQ, brings stability and strength to the position. If Conklin is gone before the Jets are on the clock, I wouldn’t like Ragland since he’s the perfect and speedy linebacker the Jets desperately need on defense.

I would rate Spriggs as the next logical choice for the Jets to make to address their offensive tackle issues should Conklin not be available. Spriggs is similar to Conklin and also has some nice upside to be that anchor on the Jets’ offensive line for years to come. I’ve always believed to win plenty of football games is to win the battle of the trenches!

Next: 6. Who should the Jets draft in the middle rounds?

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Sep 19, 2015; College Park, MD, USA; South Florida Bulls quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) is pressured by Maryland Terrapins lineman Yannick Ngakoue (7) at Byrd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

6. Who should the Jets draft in the middle rounds?

LTJ: The Jets have some pressing needs when it comes to their linebacker corps and I can see them drafting not one but two pass rushers in this year’s draft. I even see the Jets drafting a linebacker or two with their 2nd and 3rd round picks, respectively. In my opinion, I would love to see Yannick Ngakoue and Scooby Wright III on the Jets. What are your thoughts on these aforementioned athletes? Would they make sense for Gang Green?

CL: That very well happen. Jets could go and select one early than another one in the mid rounds. I love both prospects. I think both in their owns way are underrated. Ngakoue is a great athlete at the linebacker position. Love his motor at the linebacker position. He would be a good linebacker to consider as a pass rusher specialist.

Scooby Wright III is an intriguing prospect. I love his heart and drive. At one point, I believe he was in talks to be selected early but his size and injury concerned scouts as a player. He was a very productive football player who won various awards for his play such as being named Defensive Player of the Year in his conference. He put up some good numbers for Arizona. I believe with good coaching he will be a steal.

LTJ: Excellent insight as always, Christa. I think if the Jets landed both Ngakoue and Wright in this year’s draft, it would be a nice infusion into the Jets’ defense. Their overall pass rush would be much-improved and combining these linebackers with guys like Lorenzo Mauldin and David Harris, the Jets’ defense will be exciting and aggressive to watch come next season.

Next: 5. Who will have the better career of top two quarterbacks?

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Aug 30, 2014; Ames, IA, USA; North Dakota State Bison quarterback Carson Wentz (11) looks over the line against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

5. Who will have the better career of top two quarterbacks?

LTJ: The Los Angeles Rams made a blockbuster trade this offseason with the Tennessee Titans to move up to the No. 1 overall spot in this year’s draft. Recently, the Philadelphia Eagles made a blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Browns to move up to the No. 2 overall spot. With that being said, it’s evident they will both draft the top two quarterbacks with their respective picks. Who will have the better NFL career and why between Jared Goff and Carsen Wentz?

CL: I love both quarterbacks. I think Goff might come into the league more NFL ready to start and be the starting quarterback for whichever of these two teams get him. He will need to learn how to learn and master an NFL offense as he might face a learning curve, but both may have a tough transition heading into the NFL.

Goff is mobile, can make all the throws but lacks that elite arm strength. Wentz on the other hand is a big quarterback, athletic, and can make the throws needed while handling pressure in the pocket. I think both have the potential to be good quarterbacks in the NFL. If I had to choose between the two, it would have to be Wentz eventually over time.

LTJ: Neither quarterback really excites me but I agree with you, Wentz looks to be the better prospect at the position. His college stats are quite impressive as he totaled 5,115 passing yards, 392 completions, 45 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and an overall quarterback rating of 153.9.

Wentz is the more complete quarterback since he can beat you through the air or on the ground. It looks like he’ll more than likely end up on the Los Angeles Rams which will be an excited part of NFL history as he’s perfect for what they’re trying to establish in the city of angels.

Next: 4. What late-round picks should the Jets consider?

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Feb 27, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Auburn Tigers wide receiver Duke Williams catches a pass during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

4. What late-round picks should the Jets consider?

LTJ: The best general managers know the secret to any draft is to find those hidden diamonds in the rough outside the first few rounds. What late-round picks do you think the Jets should go after and what positions would you think they would ideally like to upgrade towards the later rounds of this year’s draft?

CL: One player I’m intrigued by that hasn’t been getting much attention since his bar altercation at Auburn is Duke Williams. At one point he was rated as one of the top wide receivers before the whole incident took place. Now I believe he is projected to be a 7th round draft pick, if that.

He is a talented wide receiver who has good hands. But character issues may scare him away. Another player, I saw in the NFLPA Bowl that was impressive was Jatavis Brown, who comes across as undersized. He has a lot of upside and potential and can be a play-maker on special teams as well.

Another player to look for Victor Ochi out of Stony Brook who even though he is from a small school, has a lot of talent and could prove help for the Jets’ pass rush. If he falls, one player I’m intrigued by as a situational player for the Jets is Eric Striker out of Oklahoma. Granted, he is undersized but he did well against bigger competition in college football.

Striker looks like a safety but he is fast, can get to the quarterback and has good cover skills. Another guy I like for the Jets is Tevin Carter, who is a linebacker that can play both safety positions. Raw but his ability to be a hybrid would be an asset in Bowles’ defense.

LTJ: Very interesting selections there, Christa. For me, I look at the later-rounds of a draft as where general managers truly make their key selections. A ton of preparation goes into scouting reports and the later rounds of the draft I can see the Jets grab another wide receiver, cornerback and linebacker.

I mentioned these three positions since players that go this late in the draft tend to be key components on special teams as they get use to life in the NFL. As we all know, the special teams of the Jets last season was one of the worst I’ve ever seen in quite some time. Hopefully some speedy players that can be gunners on special teams or even kickoff/punt returners would be great to add to the Jets.

Next: 3. Which draftee was your most favorite to interview?

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

3. Which draftee was your most favorite to interview?

LTJ: You’ve done some incredible work over the past couple of years with your draft profiles and interviews. I know you’ve done many, but which player was your most favorite interview and why?

CL: First in for most, I want to thank you for your kind words and for being a loyal reader. I’m honestly very appreciative of the opportunity of being able to interview college athletes and having the opportunity to learn more about their background. Each and every one of them are extremely talented and I wish them all the best moving forward.

I honestly love each and every one of the interviews I’ve conducted over the years. Everyday is a new opportunity to learn about a player and their background. You’re never going to find two players alike. My page from my interviews and my articles at Locker Room Update is located here to see all the ones I’ve done: Locker Room Update – Christa Levitas. They truly deserve to be noticed and recognized and I want to help them gain more exposure.

LTJ: That’s very awesome, Christa! I haven’t interviewed as many players as you have, but for me, it would be Brandon Marshall of the Jets. He was so down to earth and truly a pleasure to speak to. We spoke during Super Bowl week, to read the interview, check it out here: Exclusive interview with Brandon Marshall

Next: 2. Who is this year's draft overall best defender?

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Feb 29, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive back Jalen Ramsey runs workout drills during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

2. Who is this year’s draft overall best defender?

LTJ: This year’s draft like you said, is really stacked with top defensive talent. If you could only pick just one, who in your opinion would you say is this year’s best all-around defender, regardless of position?

CL: If I had to pick one player defensively it would be Jalen Ramsey out of Florida State. He is a great athlete who is explosive and has great hands. He can play safety, slot cornerback and outside cornerback. You can move him around in a defensive secondary and he will excel. He is also great at covering anyone he’s assigned to. He’s very smart and aggressive, which will prove to bring major success in the NFL. Teams were scared to throw at him in college football, can only imagine come the pros.

LTJ: Excellent choice, Christa! For me, in a heartbeat it’s defensive end Joey Bosa. My goodness, he’s just an absolute freak of nature. At 6’6 and 275 pounds, the man will become a household name in his rookie season, mark my words.

In his collegiate career at Ohio State, Bosa totaled 148 tackles, 26.0 sacks and five forced fumbles. In my dreams he would be drafted by the Jets but I know that won’t happen sadly. Either way, he’s going to have such a great career in the NFL.

Next: 1. What is your prediction for the Jets this upcoming season?

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Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; A general view of a New York Jets helmet and an NFL football during the game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

1. What is your prediction for the Jets this upcoming season?

LTJ: The NFL recently released schedules for every team that got football fanatics excited for what next season brings. If you could look into Christa’s crystal ball, you know, the one next to your Jets football and computer keyboard, what final record will the Jets have when it’s all said and done? Will they make the NFL Playoffs?

CL: That’s difficult. A lot of people mention the difficulty of schedule the Jets are facing. A lot of factors play a part in that all such as injuries, how free agents pan out, how rookies play and so much more.

The Jets added a lot of key play-makers on offense such as Matt Forte, bringing back Powell and re-signing Khirby Robinson. They lost Harrison which is a major blow to the Jets’ defensive line. I believe this team has a lot of talent. It’s really hard to give a true prediction until August, when you see the final team pan out but I think they have a chance to possibly make a run in the playoffs.

LTJ: I think the Jets will once again surprise many in 2016. I love their new three-headed monster at running back and honestly believe the Jets will pickup the momentum they established from last season. I predict their rushing attack and stout defense will once again earn them many wins but this time around, they’ll actually make the playoffs.

The leadership the Jets have both at the management level and with their players speaks very highly of the potential this team has this upcoming season. They have all the pieces in place to make a serious run but as always, my mentality is to take things one day at a time and in this case, one game at a time. So my final answer will be they’ll win enough games to make the playoffs in what should be an incredible season for the Jets.

More jets: Top 5 reasons why Christian Hackenberg makes sense for the Jets

Once again Christa, it’s truly a pleasure in your company and I appreciate you spending time with me breaking down the draft and Jets for our readers here at The Jet Press. Please follow Christa on Twitter to get all her latest work and to stay connected.