Christian Goewey's Top Jets Draft Targets
Photo credit: MGoBlog/Flickr
Tomorrow night, the Jets will once again head into the draft with a high pick and a lot of pressure. Since their roster has plenty of holes, they can go in just about any direction. Here are five guys that I believe they should target:
Jamal Adams, Safety, LSU – Adams is a vocal leader that people at LSU rave about. He has a Brian Dawkins-like passion and energy to his game that makes him a special player. In addition, he is an extremely good tackler, which often earns him the limited label of a “box safety.” Don’t let that label fool you though. Adams is also great in coverage and very versatile. He can cover tight ends and receivers, giving his defensive coordinator the option to put him just about anywhere on the field. The Jets secondary was abysmal last year with busted coverages occurring seemingly every week. Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist just aren’t sufficient on the back end and don’t make enough plays. In fact, only three teams had less takeaways than the Jets last season. Adams can come into that defense and set the tone. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he ended up being a team captain for the next 10-plus years. He’s one of the safest picks in this draft. The biggest question will be if he’s there at #6, and the Jets apparently don’t think he will be, according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine.
Malik Hooker, Safety, Ohio State – To me, Hooker presents arguably the most upside of any defensive back in this class. That’s saying a lot, considering this is one of the deepest DB drafts in decades. He possesses elite range, instincts, and ball skills, earning him comparisons to Ed Reed and Earl Thomas. He profiles perfectly in single-high coverage and can alter the course of a game because of the fear he puts into opposing quarterbacks. Signal-callers just won’t want to test the seams knowing this guy is patrolling the area. Hooker makes some absurd plays, like his Willie Mays-like grab against Clemson last season. Now, he does take some really poor routes to ball carriers when trying to make a tackle. Hooker played just two years of high school football, with basketball being his first love, and started only one year at Ohio State (last season). So, his poor routes can be attributed to his lack of experience. With more reps, Hooker should be able to take more efficient angles. The other concern is health, as Hooker is rehabbing from surgeries in January on a torn labrum and a hernia. Good news is, he told NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones at Ohio State’s Pro Day that he feels he’ll be ready for training camp. Fortunately, there have been no setbacks. Overall, Hooker proved he can be a special player after making a huge impact last season as a Buckeye with 7 interceptions in 13 games.
Reuben Foster, Linebacker, Alabama – Foster has had about as rough a pre-draft process as anyone, with his stock taking hits seemingly week after week. There are questions about his character and background, which were somewhat raised by his heated exchange with a hospital worker that sent him home from the combine. Personally, I feel that situation was overblown. However, there are also notable medical concerns, one being his right rotator cuff, which he had surgery on in February. Last Monday, Inside the Pylon’s Shane Alexander reported that his rotator cuff hadn’t healed yet and could need another surgery. Then Foster’s agent, Malki Kawa, expectedly tweeted that the Alabama linebacker was ahead of schedule and would be ready for training camp. He also tweeted more positive news on Monday. In addition, last week Foster disclosed to NFL.com that his urine sample from the combine was reported as dilute, which is “treated like a positive test.”
These are all legitimate concerns but Foster is still a top-10 player in the draft. The 2016 Butkus Award winner led Alabama’s vaunted defense with 115 tackles and 13 for a loss, including 5 sacks. At 6’0’’ and 229 lbs., Foster is a game-changing middle linebacker that lays jarring hits on opposing ball-carriers and provides solid coverage. He can really penetrate the gap and stuff the run. In addition, he has great speed and athleticism, making him a sideline-to-sideline linebacker. Foster is the kind of pick that simply changes your defense. I know Jets fans will be screaming that linebacker is not a huge need when there are many holes to fill. To that I say, would you pick Luke Kuechly or Bobby Wagner early in the first round? I hope the answer is “yes.” Foster has that kind of upside. In addition, the Jets pursued Patriots linebacker and then free agent Dont’a Hightower this offseason, perhaps proving their willingness to move on from veteran David Harris. Overall, the Jets need as many good football players as they can get. GM Mike Maccagnan has preached his best player available philosophy over and over and we saw it come to fruition with the Leonard Williams pick a couple of years ago (I think most fans are happy about that pick now). Given the medical concerns, Foster will probably fall but I still see him going top-20. Picking him at perhaps #12 after a trade with Cleveland, may be the perfect spot. A defense led by Williams, Foster, and Darron Lee would be a promising nucleus.
O.J. Howard, Tight End, Alabama – 6’6’’, 251 lbs., and a 4.51 forty sums him up pretty well. Of course, they’re just measurables but they pop out on tape constantly. Howard is the tight end that you mold in Madden. He can do it all. We saw that in the last two national championship games, as he combined for 9 catches, 314 yards, and 3 TDs. Those were his two best games in college, which makes it somewhat bittersweet considering it showed how poor a job Lane Kiffin and the Alabama coaching staff did at utilizing their star tight end. The Jets can’t go wrong picking Howard, whether it’s at #6 or later on in a trade down scenario. Some say it’s too high for a “luxury position” like tight end. That’s just a misguided statement. Howard isn’t just a tight end, he’s a guy you can build your offense around a la Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen, Travis Kelce and Jimmy Graham. While the Jets have a solid, young receiving core, they no longer have a true #1 option with Brandon Marshall gone. Howard fits that role and would be a huge safety blanket for any young QB the Jets throw in there. His blend of size, speed, and athleticism gives him a strong chance to make an impact at the NFL level on Day 1. A highly productive tight end would be a welcomed addition to the Jets, who have rendered the position virtually nonexistent over the past few years.
Jonathan Allen, Defensive End, Alabama – Another Alabama stud with a rare combination of power and athleticism. Not only that, Allen at 6’3’’ and 286 lbs., has great quickness and agility making him effective at any spot on the defensive line. He’s a ferocious pass rusher from the inside and outside, having amassed 28 sacks over his collegiate career, including 22.5 in his last two years. Besides his aforementioned physical traits, Allen’s incredible hand usage allows him to get to the quarterback frequently. In addition to his pure talent, Allen is a leader and a player who can set the tone in the locker room like Jamal Adams. On the downside, there is concern about his shoulders, as each suffer from arthritis. And of course, he’s not necessarily a need for the Jets, at least according to the majority of their fan base. I can’t say much about the injuries, as I’m not a doctor, but as for the latter point, I disagree.
The Jets’ defensive line used to be really strong but after dismal performances from Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson last season, it’s not as complete as we thought. With each playing in 15 games in 2016, Richardson and Wilkerson combined for 6 sacks. To be fair, Richardson’s lack of production can partly be attributed to the coaching staff not placing him in an effective position, while Wilkerson was coming off a broken leg. Still, considering their talent and past seasons, their play was wildly discouraging. Even more discouraging were their apparent maturity issues, mainly with Richardson. Neither came off as strong leaders who took accountability, with the telling moment being a first quarter benching in Week 9 against Miami for what the New York Daily News reported as being late to a team meeting. In addition, a source told NJ Advance Media that the two are often late or miss meetings. Richardson, with all his past mishaps ranging from a high-speed car chase to a Snapchat blunder and a total of two suspensions, has been in trade rumors for some time. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if he was traded this weekend. If Wilkerson doesn’t produce this year, there’s a solid chance he could be cut after the season. How so much can change in just a year, huh? Like I said with Foster above, the Leonard Williams pick looks awfully good now, while the futures of Richardson and Wilkerson in green and white fade. The Jets don’t just need good football players, they need high character players, who can lead. A locker room with Leonard Williams, Jonathan Allen, and Darron Lee should lead to a better and more positive environment, and of course, improved play on the field.
No quarterbacks, no cornerbacks, and no Leonard Fournette! I know, the last omission will probably haunt me. Fournette was once my top target but given his ankle concerns, bruising style, and just the overall abundance of running back prospects, I kept him off the list. With that said, Fournette would be a great pick, who would give the Jets an identity (something they desperately need). As for the quarterbacks, I actually really like Trubisky and Watson. I just don’t believe the Jets would be good for the development of either and I shouldn’t have to explain why. A lot of fans are comparing Watson to Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott because of his intangibles but both were placed in the absolute perfect situations. Wilson went to a team with a monster running game, a dominant defense, a great coaching staff, and one heck of a home-field advantage. Prescott also had an unbelievable rushing attack, the best offensive line in football, and a coaching staff that settled him in at the perfect pace. Also, neither had the pressure of being asked to start right away. Wilson surprisingly beat out Matt Flynn and we all know what happened in Dallas last year. Lastly, I didn’t include a cornerback because there are so many good ones that will be available later in the draft. The consensus top corner, Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore, could be great but he’s going to have to stay on the field, which is in doubt given a history of serious hamstring issues.
Anyway, the Jets will have plenty of options in a very deep draft. They need to not only hit on talent but character as well, since the draft is where the foundation of your team is built. I believe any one of the above players would be an exciting addition to the team.