Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comJust yesterday, Jets head coach Rex Ryan (and general manager John Idzik) were spotted at the LSU Pro Day. Here’s a picture of Ryan with his twin Rob, DC of the Saints. While LSU always has a substantial pipeline to the NFL, the big name this year (other than the surging Zach Mettenberger) is the team’s promising receiver, Odell Beckham, Jr..
Over the last few weeks, Rex Ryan, John Idzik and offensive coordinator Marty Morhinweg have been seen far and wide attending the Pro Days of some of the best receivers in this class and it just so happens that wide receiver is one of the strongest and deepest positions in this draft class.
With questions at quarterback and a Jets offense searching for an identity, wide receiver is one of the biggest needs for this team. There’s not been six receivers picked in the first round since 2009 and 2014 might be the year to meet or break that number. After passing up on DeSean Jackson among a number of other free agent receivers, selecting a receiver with one of the Jets first two draft picks looks like a very likely outcome. While this is a highly talented group, after the first two players the field starts to spread out. Do you want a ready-made average sized receiver? A small speedster who can get behind a defense? A hulking behemoth with technique concerns? We’ll use this series to work through a number of the receivers expected to be drafted in the first two days of the NFL draft.
Without inside knowledge, it’s almost impossible to know who the Jets will rank where at the receiver position, but here’s what we suspect.
Out of reach (trade only)
These players are likely top ten NFL draft picks, especially with the news last week that the Bucs (a team with a top ten pick) traded away Mike Williams to the Bills.
1. Sammy Watkins (6-1 211) – Clemson
Watkins is so good he is regularly compared to Calvin Johnson and it doesn’t seem a stretch. Coming out of college, Watkins is one of the most complete receivers ready to step into a large NFL role and be almost any team’s top receiver from day one.
2. Mike Evans (6-4 231) – Texas A&M
Evans made a living out of catching Johnny Manziel jump balls in college and has the speed, physicality and size to be a highly productive NFL receiver within his first year as a pro.
On the radar (in the mix)
At least one and maybe two of these players might be gone by the time comes for the Jets to make their selection at18.
3. Brandin Cooks (5-10 189) - Oregon State
Cooks is considered an elite athlete with explosive feet and burst … a bigger and slightly slower Tavon Austin. Cooks does lack ideal size and will be limited in terms of how much more he can bulk up which might be a concern against man coverage. On tape Cooks displays excellent body control and has the stop and start to get himself into the open. Once in the open, Cooks has the vision and patience to move between defenders to devastating effect in terms of yards after the catch. His acceleration, coupled with high end speed project him to become an electric playmaker in the NFL. Cooks has solid technique that he’ll bring to the NFL as college’s 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner and the nation’s top receiver.
The Jets have shown some interest in Cooks, sending Marty Mornhinweg to his Pro Day. It’s no small thing that it was Morhinweg who attended. Morhinweg watched DeSean Jackson up close during their time together in Philly and the Jets have been looking for a Tavon Austin / DeSean Jackson element to add to this offense since last year. The Jets are planning to bring in Cooks for an April visit prior the Draft to get a closer look.
4. Odell Beckham Jr. (5-11 198) – LSU
While he isn’t the fastest player, Beckham is a smooth athlete with good acceleration. Beckham has good burst out of his cuts to move past press coverage and he is most dangerous once the ball is in his hands. Beckham has demonstrated some of the best field vision and redirects his momentum extremely well. Beckham is considered an electric playmaker with excellent technique and has gotten much better during his college career at bringing in the football and limiting drops.
Beckham only has average height and strength, but would do well with an NFL strength program. Beckham might lack the elite speed which could him a little more susceptible working agains the middle of a defense because he’ll be tackled from behind or could be more likely to cause durability issues. Beckham needs work as a blocker.
5. Marquise Lee (5-11 192) – USC
Lee has explosive straight-line speed that will be a cause for concern for NFL cornerbacks, that said, he doesn’t have the best timed speed. Regardless, Lee is a fluid athlete, capable who can change directions quickly and get in and out of cuts quick which is only magnified by his solid route-running. Lee’s vision and elusiveness make him great after the catch and he is a natural receiver able to pluck the the ball effortlessly over the should anywhere on the field. While he can be aggressive and plays bigger than his size he’s still not a size-speed freak like Watkins or Evans and has struggled with injuries in 2013. Lee is an extremely competitive player and is better on film than on the measurement sheet. Known for his technique, he’d land well in a timing based NFL offense. The Jets must be somewhat interested as they spent time with Lee after the USC Pro Day.