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2017 NFL Draft: Jets Pre-Free Agency 7-Round Mock Draft

December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker (24) celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Clemson Tigers during the first half of the the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker (24) celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Clemson Tigers during the first half of the the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker (24) celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Clemson Tigers during the first half of the the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL Draft is crucial for the New York Jets as they plan to rebuild for the future. Here’s a full mock draft that would be the first step to a better future right before the free agency frenzy begins.

It’s been an interesting few weeks for the New York Jets and their fans. The longest tenured Jet, center Nick Mangold, and arguably the greatest Jet ever, cornerback Darrelle Revis, were both cut. Brandon Marshall was cut and just signed with the New York Giants. It’s sad to see all of this, but it had to happen.

The Jets are in full-blown rebuild mode now, especially with tough opponents scheduled for next season. While many teams in the NFL have a good young roster, that’s something the Jets do not have. A great 2017 NFL Draft can help the Jets have a quicker rebuild.

The Jets had a miserable season as a secondary last year, as an aging Revis proved he doesn’t have much left in the tank. Meanwhile, safeties Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor both took steps back.

Part of the mess last year was because of the poor offensive line play and poor quarterback play, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Jets will draft a quarterback.

The Atlanta Falcons seem to be the new copy-cat team that rebuilding teams will try to blueprint off of. The Falcons did a really good job of creating depth in their roster and finding hidden gems, like wide receiver Harry Douglas. The Jets need to find hidden gems in this draft, hopefully, this mock draft will find one or two.

Last week the NFL announced compensatory picks and the Jets received an extra third round pick. The Jets now have seven totals picks in this year’s NFL draft. Here’s who I think the Jets should draft in year one of this rebuild.

Next: 1. Malik Hooker, Safety, Ohio State

1. Malik Hooker, Safety, Ohio State

With the 6th overall pick, the Jets need to draft someone who will be a success no matter what. Hooker is that guy, and although the Jets may trade this pick for more picks, Hooker is primed to be a top safety in a few years. Hooker didn’t participate in the 2017 NFL Combine because he had two post-season surgeries. One on a torn labrum and he also had a sports hernia surgery, the guy balled out last year with two major injuries.

Hooker has raw talent, he only had 10 tackles prior to becoming a starter this past season, but that’s when he took advantage of his spotlight. Starting in all 13 games, Hooker had 74 tackles and 7 interceptions. Impressively three of the INT’s were returned for touchdowns. He’s the playmaker the Jets have been missing in the secondary since Darrelle Revis 1.0 was here.

The first team All-Big-Ten safety won’t play great in year one, it’ll take him a few seasons to get accustomed to the pace of the NFL game. Hooker is very raw, so he’ll make some rookie mistakes his freshmen year. However by years two or three, he’ll be a top safety in the NFL.

It would be foolish for the Jets to draft a running back or quarterback this early on. Hooker will be the foundation of the defense by the time the Jets are ready to compete. Hooker is a big play guy, who will help the Jets get more interceptions. last year they were tied for the league worst in takeaway plus/minus, at -20.

Next: 2. Evan Engram, Tight End, Ole Miss

Mar 4, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ole Miss Rebels tight end Evan Engram goes through workout drills during the 2017 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

2. Evan Engram, Tight End, Ole Miss

A tight end! The Jets haven’t had a receiving tight end since Dustin Keller back in 2011. It’s been a non-existent position with wide receiver Quincy Enunwa playing the TE/WR flex position last season. Evan Engram is exactly what the Jets need. This past week at the combine, Engram ran the fasted 40-yard dash for all tight ends, running a 4.42. Engram also had the fourth best vertical jump, jumping 36 inches.

The last tight end the Jets gambled on was Jace Amaro, who lasted barely two seasons. One of Amaro’s problems was that he had small hands. Engram has long arms, at 33.5 inches, and great hands. In his senior season as a Rebel, Engram had 65 catches for 925 yards and eight touchdowns. As a four-year player in the SEC, he should be ready to make an impact in year one.

Engram’s speed is what impressed so many scouts this past weekend, and as a quick riser up the big boards, Engram would give the Jets the ability to pass into the middle of the field without having to stretch their wide receivers. What impresses me the most is his ability to move after the catch. Engram needs to work on is his blocking, but a lot of teams have secondary tight ends now for that anyway.

With big play ability and great hands, Engram would be a core piece going into the rebuild. Engram would give the Jets something they haven’t had since the late 2000’s, a tight end option for whoever is behind center for the Jets. Although it may be a little early in the 2nd round, the Jets should gamble on Engram, as he could be exactly what the Jets have been missing in the passing game.

Next: 3. Fabian Moreau, Cornerback, UCLA

Mar 6, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive back Fabian Moreau does a workout drill during the 2017 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

3. Fabian Moreau, Cornerback, UCLA

Wow, another combine riser, who would’ve guessed? There’s something to be said about performing well at the combine, and Fabian Moreau proved he’s not just some day three pick that could maybe pan out. Moreau ran the second fastest 40 time for defensive backs, posting a 4.35, and had the second best vertical jump, with a 38-inch jump.

Moreau is not a playmaker by any means, but he’d be a great second cornerback option that could maybe turn into a starter. Unfortunately, Moreau ended his 2015 season early with a Lisfranc injury in his left foot. In his senior season, Moreau received All-Pac-12 honorable mention. Moreau lead the UCLA Bruins with 10 pass breakups and he also had two interceptions.

The former running back still needs a few years to adjust to the NFL level. Moreau could be a great piece in the newly constructed secondary the Jets are building for the future. As a press-man defender, the Jets will have to utilize him early on as a slot cornerback so he can get some reps, luckily for the Jets, they don’t have depth in the secondary and Moreau could see action very early on in his rookie season.

I’m not calling Moreau the next Revis or Antonio Cromartie, but Moreau has potential to become a starting cornerback in this league. If the Jets do draft Hooker then they have two hopeful starters in the secondary come 2018 or 2019.

Next: 3. Joe Williams, Running Back, Utah

Dec 28, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Utah Utes running back Joe Williams (28) carries the ball ahead of an Indiana Hoosiers defender during the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium. The Utah Utes defeated the Indiana Hoosiers 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

3. Joe Williams, Running Back, Utah

This would be the Jets compensatory 3rd round pick, pick number 107. Another combine star from this past weekend, Joe Williams had several questions about his athletic ability, but he proved that that is no longer the case. At the combine, Williams posted great numbers. Williams had the second best 40 time and 20-yard shuttle for running backs, posting a 4.41, and a 4.19 respectively.

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Williams produced, finishing his senior season with 1,407 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, and was named team MVP after the 2016 season. The former transfer from the University of Connecticut retired for a month prior to this past season. Williams retired because he was physically and mentally burned out. After playing two games, then missing a month, Williams rejoined the Utes and had an incredible first game back. With only one week of practice, Williams rushed for 179 yards and scored a touchdown with his 34 carries, in a 19-14 win over Oregon State.

The 5’11, 205 lbs. running back had fumbling issues in the past and didn’t have “elite” agility going into the combine, but with great numbers, his stock has risen. Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan last week said he would be willing to trade down in each round, and that all picks were available to trade for, but in this scenario, the Jets would end up with a talented running back for the future. They won’t have to use Williams too much in his rookie season with veterans Matt Forte and Bilal Powell still on the roster.

The upside for Williams is that he’s a proven running back with combine numbers better than anyone thought he would have thought, the downside is obviously his commitment issues and putting him into a rebuilding situation could phase him. Overall I believe this would be a solid pick moving forward.

Next: 5. Bryan Cox, Defensive End, Florida

Nov 7, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive lineman Bryan Cox (94) rushes during the first half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

5. Bryan Cox, Defensive End, Florida

Cox is the son of the former three-time all-pro linebacker Bryan Cox, who also played and coached for the Jets. Cox Jr. is an aggressive pass rusher who could take a few years to develop while learning under Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams, and Sheldon Richardson.

Cox played as a reserve in his freshmen year but still managed to see the field and produce two sacks. Following his post-season surgery on his hip after his sophomore season, Cox had his best season as a junior. Cox had 45 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. Injuries plagued his final season, but he had nine tackles vs the Tennessee Volunteers. Cox had an average performance for defensive ends at the combine, showing that he needed to get stronger and agile in the seven months or so until the NFL season is here.

Cox could most likely play as a pass-rushing linebacker for the Jets and or replace and fill in for Richardson if he does indeed get traded. The Jets have had a great pass rush from their defensive ends (except for last season) and Cox is a little more versatile from the outside, and plays very physical. The injury plagued senior season hurt Cox and drafting him in the 5th round could almost be a steal for the Jets.

Next: 6. Zane Gonzalez, Kicker, Arizona State

Sep 10, 2016; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils kicker Zane Gonzalez (5) against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

6. Zane Gonzalez, Kicker, Arizona State

Why spend money on a veteran kicker in free agency when you can draft the best kicker in the draft? Zane Gonzalez holds the FBS record for 96 made field goals in a career, making 83% of all his kicks as a four-year starter. As a first-team All-American and All-Pac 12 in his senior year, he hit 23-25 FG attempts. What’s impressive is that he hit seven of nine kicks from 50 yards or more.

There’s no guarantee that he would be available in the 6th round as a team could surprise people and draft him way earlier than they should. The Jets should draft him so they’ll be guaranteed a kicker for a few years at a cheap price.

The only downside to Gonzalez is that he gave up three kick return touchdowns, which obviously was not his fault. Automatic touchbacks would be nice from a starting kicker, though. It’s not an exciting pick, but it fills a need and allows the Jets to save money.

Next: 7. Artavis Scott, Wide Receiver, Clemson

Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Artavis Scott (3) returns a punt during the first quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

7. Artavis Scott, Wide Receiver, Clemson

The national championship-winning true-junior declared early for the draft, ending it on top. Impressively, Scott graduated a year early, which shows he’s smart and committed. His numbers awkwardly decreased each year, for the most part, catching and scoring less, with the emergence of teammates, and fellow wide receivers, Mike Williams, and Hunter Renfrow. A potential slot wide receiver with punt and kick returning abilities, Scott would be a steal in the 7th round. Scott would be reunited former Clemson wide receiver, and current Jet, Charone Peake.

He’s a small guy, but the NFL has proven that size doesn’t matter. He’ll be a return man the first few years but has the potential to turn into a slot receiver one day. His production was never really a question, especially in his freshmen year. Though, he wasn’t the first option in his sophomore or junior season. The Jets could use him as a wide receiver version of the late Joe McKnight, a great return man. Hopefully, he’d be able to develop into a third or fourth wide receiver.

Next: Coffee with the Jets: Several QB options are already gone

His competitive edge is what separates him from other 7th round wide receivers. Scott played in back to back national championships, winning the latter one. He’s a winner and because he’d be joining a rebuilding team, he can bring that winning vibe to the big apple. 7th round picks are extremely hit or miss, so Scott doesn’t have high expectations.

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