Jake Steinberg, TheJetsBlog.comSince I started writing for TJB, I’ve taken an intense interest into who exactly the Jets are looking at as they approach the draft. Thus, for the past month or so, I’ve been working endlessly to try and find out what players the Jets have planned visits with, are interviewing (whether that means at the Senior Bowl or at the NFL Combine), and what guys the Jets looked at while attending their Pro Days. Many of these guys you will see below haven’t been linked to the Jets anywhere else online, meaning this is the first time you will have heard their names being mentioned in relation to the team. However, I need you to take me at my word; the Jets like these guys. So, without further ado, I present to you the first installment of the Jets 2014 Player Interest List.
SS Nat Berhe (San Diego State) 5-11, 193, 4.46 40yd dash
Projection: 7-UDFA Description: The Jets met with Berhe at the Combine in Indianapolis. Easily one of the most interesting prospects in the draft, Berhe has all the talent in the world. As Tony Pauline noted, “Berhe is a three-year starter who led San Diego State in tackles during his senior and junior campaigns. Totals last year included 99 tackles with 6 PBUs. Posted 94 tackles the prior year. Undersized but quick, rangy safety with a solid game. Keeps the action in front of him, displays a quick burst moving in every direction, and takes proper angles to plays. Shows good recognition, plays heads-up football, and works well with cornerbacks. Easily gets outside the numbers, covers a lot of ground, and shows skill in zone situations. Possesses a terrific burst to the ball out of his plant and is a fierce run defender who goes after opponents.” Berhe is clearly one to watch in the later rounds.
CB Bene Benwikere (San Jose State) 5-11, 195, 4.63 40yd dash
Projection: 7-UDFA Description: The Jets met with Benwikere at the East-West Shrine Game. As you can see from Shawn Zobel’s analysis, Benwikere is probably the most underrated corner in the draft. “Field corner experienced working in Cover 2, Cover 3, and pattern concepts; moves inside to the slot in nickel packages. Smart, instinctive player who plays with good awareness and understanding of his responsibilities on his side of the field. Smooth, fluid athlete with natural change of direction skills. Opens his hips to turn and run with ease; has no trouble opening up off the ball and mirroring a receiver down the field. Displays the ability to work in trail technique, staying in the receiver’s hip pocket before extending out at the last second to deflect the pass away as the ball reaches the receiver. Great awareness and understanding of how to drop back, read the quarterback’s eyes, and break quickly to drive downhill and cut in front of the receiver for the interception. A ball hawk who attacks the ball while it’s in the air. Very instinctive with the ball skills and body control to make plays on the ball that you desire from the position. Has a knack for putting himself in position to make a play on the ball. Shows the ability to climb vertically and win jump ball situations with the receiver. Times his jumps very well and shows the hands to consistently come down with the interception. Plays physically and will throw his body into the mix. Not a consistent impact defender in the run game, but gives enough effort here to think he can improve his tackling technique and play a bigger role here at the next level.”
SS Deone Bucannon (Washington State) 6-1, 211, 4.49 40yd dash
Projection: 2-3 Description: The Jets brought in Bucannon as part of their 30 non-local pre draft visits. He arrived to NY on April 16th, and had his formal interview process the following day at the Jets team facility. Based on Bucannon’s scouting report by CBS, it appears he can come in right away and contribute for a team. “Bucannon boasts an imposing build with broad shoulders and a thick, muscled-up top half. Best attribute may be his explosive hitting, as Bucannon at times appears as though he is shot out of a cannon, unloading on runners and receivers crossing the middle and forcing fumbles. Doesn’t only rely on his big hits to create fumbles, also demonstrating the wherewithal to rip at the ball as he’s making the tackle (career-high three forced fumbles in 2013). Also showed improved range and ball-skills in 2013, recording a career-high six interceptions in 2013 to give him 15 for his career… Enjoyed a solid week of practice at the Senior Bowl. First-team All-American whose dependability near the line of scrimmage with 78 solo tackles (tied for 11th in the country) and three forced fumbles and in coverage — six interceptions — underscores his all-around ability.Bucannon’s ideal size, hard-hitting style and fierce competitive nature are exactly what teams seek safety. However, his limited flexibility and poor awareness and reaction time in coverage are measured shortcomings.”
CB Carrington Byndom (Texas) 5-11, 177, 4.36 40yd dash
Projection: 7-UDFA Description: An all around athlete, Byndom was interviewed by Jets scouts at the East-West Shrine game. After watching film here is what Ian Wharton had to say. “An NFL-size body with room to add muscle to his frame without losing quickness. Good arm length helps contribute to breaking up passes and “winning” at the line of scrimmage in press. He should get more effective when he beefs up with an NFL weight program. Very active defender against the run, he doesn’t shy away from crashing off of the corner to get to the ball-carrier. Most effective when he’s off of the line of scrimmage, in either cover 3 zone or off-man coverage. These allow him to see the ball and use his instincts to feel out the route. Locates the ball quickly when running downfield, parallel with the receiver, by turning his head and staying at the hip of the target. Active hands in coverage without getting too grabby. If he loses the jump ball, he will continue creating havoc on the receiver as he comes down by trying to pry the ball out. Good natural hip fluidity on intermediate and underneath routes keep him from being a liability when in physical mismatches. Uses space well, especially in the red zone. He’ll push the receiver towards the sideline when possible and keeps his eyes on the quarterback, while staying with his assignment. Very experienced player for Mack Brown and the University of Texas after playing in all 51 games possible, starting the last 39 at cornerback consecutively.”
FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama) 6-1, 208, 4.58, 40yd dash
Projection: 1 Description: Clinton-Dix flew to NY for a visit with the Jets on April 24th. Jets scout Jay Mandolesi also attended Clinton-Dix’s Pro Day. Largely regarded as the best safety in the draft, Rob Rang sees a bright future. “Possesses a lanky, athletic build with light feet, excellent fluidity and straight-line speed to handle deep and nickel coverage responsibilities. Good awareness. Tracks the action well, showing impressive key and diagnosis skills to get a jump on the ball or when attacking the line of scrimmage in run support. Decisive. When he sees the play developing Clinton-Dix doesn’t waste time debating, instead exploding towards the ball, showing explosive closing ability. Very good ball-skills. Can climb the ladder and extend outside of his frame to pluck the ball. Physical defender, who looks to deliver the intimidating shot. Clinton-Dix was one of seven true freshmen to earn playing time in 2011 at Alabama and in 2012, he led the team with five interceptions, setting an expectation for a great junior year, and subsequent entry into the 2014 draft. While he posted respectable numbers as a junior — 51 tackles, two INTs, four pass breakups — he wasn’t the consistent big-play finisher he was in 2013, and his season was clouded by a two-game suspension in October for a violation of team rules.Clinton-Dix’s rare combination of size, speed, ball skills and football instincts give him a chance to be one of the best at the next level.”
CB Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State) 5-11, 203, 4.51 40yd dash
Projection: 1 Description: The Jets brought Darqueze in for a pre-draft visit. Despite the fact that the Jets were the only NFL team not to attend his Pro Day, we hear Dennard is very high up on the Jets draft board. Here is Rang’s take: “Well-built for the position with broad shoulders, long arms and good overall musculature. Confident, physical defender on the perimeter at his best providing man to man coverage and when attacking in run support. Doesn’t extend an arm in press coverage, instead quickly turning to run with receivers, demonstrating the fluid hips and acceleration. Leans into receivers and uses the sideline to help narrow the space in which quarterbacks can attack. Good patience and body control to adjust when the ball is thrown. Doesn’t panic, instead reaching to rip the ball away as the receiver attempts to catch it. Good ball skills. Locates the football and shows the hand-eye coordination to pluck it outside of his frame. Very good awareness and competitive spirit against the run. Fights through blocks and will take out the knees of oncoming blockers if necessary to leave teammates in position to make the splashy play. Physical and reliable open-field tackler who wraps his arms to secure the stop. As the first consensus All-American and Thorpe Award winner in school history, Dennard personified Michigan State’s rise as Rose Bowl champions over the 2013-14 season. The three-year starter enjoyed his finest season, allowing just three receptions (on 31 attempts) of 15 yards or more to be completed on him all year long, while recording 14 pass broken up, including four interceptions. These numbers are similar to the production he enjoyed in 2012 (10 PBUs, three interceptions), speaking to the consistency with which he’s become so highly regarded by NFL scouts. Perhaps most impressive is that Dennard’s competitiveness extends to the running game. In an era of cover corners, Dennard plays with reckless abandon, taking on would-be blockers and filling in admirably in run support.”
CB Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech) 6-0, 190, 4.49 40yd dash
Projection: 1-2 Description: Fuller visited the Jets on April 23rd. CBS Sports sums him up best. “Physical demeanor with good length. Excellent toughness and energy — plays like he’s 25 pounds thicker. Good vertical leap and smooth hip action to flip-and-go. Good route recognition and outstanding read-and-react quickness to mirror or plant-and-drive to attack. Above-average anticipation and cover instincts. Studies receivers and does his homework to know what to look for without hesitation. Physical in run support and works hard to get off blocks. Closes in a flash with a fierce attitude. Heady and opportunistic player. Very good ball awareness and NFL ball skills. Good blitzer. Experience playing inside and outside and at safety, linebacker and special teams. A three-star recruit, Fuller played multiple positions over his four-year starting career in Blacksburg — linebacker, safety, cornerback and nickel. An All-ACC performer the past three seasons, Fuller is rangy and light-footed with quick movements, long arms and can play man or zone coverage. Fuller is a string bean with limited room to get much stronger, but he plays bigger than he looks with the confidence and instincts to make plays wherever he lines up.”
CB Keith Lewis (Virginia University of Lynchburg) 5-11, 194, 4.41 40yd dash
Projection: 6-UDFA Description: Due to the fact that he attended such a small school, Lewis had two Pro Days, one at Lynchburg on March 4, and the second at Richmond on March 18. The Jets attended both, with the sole purpose of seeing and working out Lewis. They spent time meeting with him after both Pro Days, showing immense interest. Lewis absolutely tore it up, posting a 4.41 40 time, 3.9 short shuttle, 6.4 three cone drill, 14 reps at 225, and 10’6″ broad jump. The Jets have been in constant contact with Keith ever since, and it appears the interest is absolutely real.
CB Tevrin Brandon (Monmouth University) 5-9, 183, 4.34 40yd dash
Projection: UDFA Description: Brandon started his career at UConn, but was dismissed in March 2012, following an arrest. He then transferred to Monmouth in New Jersey, where he instantly became the leader of the defense. The Jets attended Brandon’s Pro Day and met with him, while also bringing him in as part of their Local Pro Day. We hear Brandon caught the eye of GM John Idzik at 1 Jets Drive, who was extremely impressed with his workout. Brandon is definitely one to watch as the Jets look to sign some UDFA’s following the draft.
SS Dezmen Southward (University of Wisconsin) 6-0, 211, 4.40 40yd dash
Projection: 5-6 Description: Jets DB coach Tim McDonald flew down to Madison to personally attend Southward’s Pro Day, where he recorded a vertical jump of 42 inches. We hear McDonald came away feeling very good about Southward. Here is Tony Pauline’s scouting report. Full-time starter the past two seasons totaling 69 tackles as a junior, then defending six passes last season. Underrated safety with excellent size. Aggressively goes after runners and displays an explosive closing burst. Plays heads-up football, keeps the action in front of him, and effectively picks up coverage assignments. Contorts to knock away passes. Better than average range, showing the ability to get outside the numbers in pass coverage or run defense. Southward was a forceful defender at Wisconsin and has shown terrific development the past three seasons. He offers potential as a zone safety though some scouts feel Southward can also line-up at cornerback.”
CB Dexter McDougle (Maryland) 5-10, 196, 4.50 40yd dash
Projection: 5-6 Description: McDougle visited the Jets on April 22nd. McDougle stated at his Pro Day that the Jets are one of the 3 teams that have shown the most interest in him. Here is Wharton’s take. “He has a thick, muscular frame that matches up well with stronger receivers. When he lines up directly over the receiver, he has quick, active feet that help him trigger and break towards the ball on curl routes. His ability to blanket receivers on intermediate routes gave him multiple opportunities in each game he played in during 2013. Good distance speed allows him to run with most receivers. He doesn’t have the elite 4.35 40-yard dash time that teams love, but his 4.5-type speed is good for the coverages he is best for. Although he only played three games in 2013 due to a shoulder injury, his burn percentage was 89 percent, which is excellent. His ability to cover intermediate and deep routes was impressive. He plays the ball well because he keeps his eyes on both the receiver and the quarterback throughout the play. He doesn’t lose track of the receiver, showing the ability to stay on the hip of the receiver. He’s a good blitzer off of the edge with his speed and elusiveness. His hips are fluid, showing the ability to change direction quickly without having to round off routes. That quickness helps cover quick outs and double-moves downfield. He fits best in off-man and Cover 3 schemes due to his skills and physical traits. He primarily played in off-man at Maryland, so if he’s fully recovered from injury, he could earn snaps early in his career in that coverage scheme.”
CB Bradley Roby (Ohio State) 5-11, 194, 4.39 40yd dash
Projection: 1 Description: John Idzik attended Roby’s Pro Day where he spent time with Roby’s mother following the workout. Jets contingent also took Roby out to dinner the night before his workout. Here’s what Dan Kadar had to say. “Compiling 13 pass breakups and three interceptions in 2013, Roby has flashed reliable hands when he locates the ball. Roby’s ball skills are also on display on special teams, where he’s shown he can block punts (he even scored a touchdown blocking one against Northwestern in 2013). Needs to learn to time his jumps better – Abbrederis really took advantage in that area. Roby’s biggest strength is his ability to run and cover against any type of wide receiver. When he’s playing disciplined, Roby possesses impressive agility to mirror wide receivers, particularly on underneath routes. He’s certainly fast enough to keep up on vertical routes against speed receivers. Bigger and stronger wide receivers can give Roby trouble because of his lacking physicality. This is especially notable on jump ball plays. He does, however, know how to body up receivers so they don’t create a large window for the quarterback. Roby’s athleticism makes him one of the better off man cornerbacks in this year’s draft. He is fluid in his backpedal and doesn’t give up more space than he can close on. When he sees the ball in the air, Roby can close on it in a hurry. Has some experience in zone as well, and should be able to play it in the NFL. Roby’s natural athleticism often bails out his lack of technique and instincts. That’s what a 4.04 three-cone and a 38.5-inch vertical leap will do for a player. Too often Roby gets burned because he’ll have his eyes in the backfield. In turn, this will lead to Roby gambling on a throw and often missing out. A willing player against the run, Roby doesn’t have the strength to always win here successfully. Blockers can neutralize him and ball carriers can run him over. If Roby can add some strength, he could be an asset in this area. It’s unrelated to run support, but with nowhere else to put it, it’s noteworthy that Roby is a capable blitzer. A wonderfully gifted athlete, Roby has the skills to be a shutdown cornerback in the NFL. His lapses in discipline – on and off the field – are the only things stopping him.”
CB Antone Exum (Virginia Tech) 6-0, 213, 4.59 40yd dash
Projection: 5-6 Description: Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman attended Exum’s Pro Day to personally check him out. DT was quoted as saying he was extremely impressed with Exum’s tape. Here is Rang’s scouting report. “Looks the part of an NFL safety, boasting broad shoulders and a thick frame, overall. Possesses a low, quick backpedal and fluid turning motion. Accelerates smoothly, showing good athleticism and straight-line speed to handle man coverage duties. Size and explosive leaping ability make him a difficult matchup for receivers in jump-ball situations. Shows good hand-eye coordination to knock away the ball once he locates it in the air. Flashes physicality as a hitter, as well as the vision and speed to take proper angles in pursuit. Highly versatile defender with experience playing three different positions in a pro-style scheme that has produced a number of NFL defensive backs. Quality special teams performer who projects well as a defender on kick and punt coverage units. Given the increasing complexity of passing attacks in the NFL, hybrid defensive backs capable of lining up in man coverage or dropping back deep in more of a traditional safety role have never held more value. Given Exum’s experience at free safety, rover and cornerback, that might be music to his ears. Exum initially worked at free safety with the Hokies, playing in all 14 games and starting five in 2010 after redshirting his first season on campus. His first of two consecutive All-ACC campaigns also came primarily at free safety in 2011, when he led Virginia Tech with 89 tackles and posted 10 passes broken up, two forced fumbles and an interception. Exum’s star really began to ascend in 2012 when he made the transition to cornerback and enjoyed his most prolific campaign, leading the team with five interceptions, amongst 16 passes broken up. Unfortunately, 2013 was a nightmare for Exum as he suffered a torn ACL and lateral meniscus in his right knee while playing in a pickup basketball game in January. When he was able to return late in the season, Exum suffered a second injury – a sprained left ankle – which sidelined him for the remainder of the year. Exum’s senior campaign was limited to just three games in which he record four tackles and one pass defended.” Speaking of his injury, Dennis Thurman also said he truly believed once healthy Exum will be back to his previous self.
SS Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois) 5-11, 193, 4.48 40yd dash
Projection: 1 Description: The Jets sent a scout to Ward’s Pro Day. Here is what WalterFootball had to say about Ward. “The NFL is a passing-driven league, and safeties with the ability to play some man coverage are a hot commodity. That makes Ward one of the more intriguing safeties in the 2014 NFL Draft. While Ward is undersized, his pass-coverage skills are special, and he looks like he will be an asset as a defender of slot receivers. Starting early in his career, Ward was an impact defender for Northern Illinois. He recorded 100 tackles, an interception and four passes broken up as a sophomore in 2011. The next season, Ward was even better with 104 tackles and three interceptions. He finished his junior year with a good game against Florida State and its talented wide receivers. In 2013, Ward had 95 tackles with seven interceptions and 10 passes defended. He followed that up with an impressive week of practice at the Senior Bowl. Ward did really well matching up in coverage against the all-star receivers. He picked them up down field and kept them from getting open. Ward did well in one-on-ones and looks ready to compete at the next level. Ward’s best trait for the NFL is his ability to line up and cover slot receivers. His quickness, flexibility and fluid athleticism allow him to line up at the line of scrimmage or pick up slot receivers in off-man coverage. Ward will be a real asset to his defense when going against dangerous slot receivers. In the deep part of the field, Ward covers a lot of ground and is very smart about getting in position to defend deep wide outs. Coaches should be able to trust Ward as the deep safety over the top who can help his cornerbacks. Ward was a good run-defender in college, as his tackle totals indicate. He tackles well and does a nice job of weaving through blockers. Ward is smart about how he tackles by taking the legs out from underneath backs. However, Ward is undersized and could have some issues with power backs. The size could be a detriment for Ward in covering receiving tight ends and big wide receivers. He has the skills to match up on them and prevent separation, but tight ends and tall receivers will be able to make catches over him. Ward’s size is the biggest negative, and if he were larger, he could be a first-round prospect. For the NFL, Ward will work well as a free safety who plays center field. His ability to match up on slot receivers will be a real asset for his defense. With Ward’s coverage abilities, he should be a second-day pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.”
FS Calvin Pryor (Louisville) 5-11, 207, 4.58 40yd dash
Projection: 1-2 Description: John Idzik attended Louisville’s Pro Day and also brought Pryor in for a pre-draft visit. CBS has more. “Prototype body type with good anticipation and explosive closing speed. Reliable open-field tackler and intimidating presence. Lowers his shoulder on impact to create collisions in run support and when protecting the middle of the field in coverage. Good vision and spatial awareness to slip amongst the mass of humanity near the line of scrimmage to locate the ball. Shows no desire for self-preservation when taking on blockers, dropping to take them out at the knees and often is able to take out the ballcarrier. Very good ball skills. Can extend and pluck outside of his frame and shows excellent awareness to get his feet inbounds. Hakeem Smith and Pryor formed one of the best safety tandems in the country in 2013, compiling 69 tackles, including 5.5 for loss, three interceptions and two forced fumbles, on his way to earning 2013 All-American Athletic Conference first-team honors.Has prototypical size and athleticism for the position and is one of the most well-round safeties in the class with explosive downhill reaction to the run, strong awareness in coverage and versatility to hold his own on the outside or in the slot. Pryor has elite tools and potential if he can harness his sledgehammer playing style with disciplined intensity.”
CB Jason Verrett (TCU) 5-10, 189, 4.38 40yd dash
Projection: 1-2 Description: Verrett visited the Jets on April 21st. Dane Brugler breaks it down. “Fluid body type with smooth hips to easily turn and adjust his frame. Excellent short-area burst and flexibility to seamlessly redirect his footwork to mirror receivers in space. Very good feel on an island ? baits and drives on throws with burst and timing. Improved instincts and awareness, not afraid to come off his man to make a play. Excellent ballskills and confidence to undercut routes and finish with the interception. Quick read/react skills. Adequate strength for his size and very active in run support. Will hold his ground at the point of attack. Very aggressive with the ball in the air and attacks it. Smart and sound with his cover assignments, always playing alert. Routinely made ?wow? plays on special teams coverage, including a blocked field goal in 2012. Heady player with high football character. Productive as a three-year starter, combining for 43 passes defended and nine interceptions in college. Verrett struggled with academics out of high school and went the JUCO route (Santa Rosa JC) for a season before enrolling at TCU. He earned a starting job right away and despite a rocky start, he showed steady improvement and had an All-American junior season in 2012, tallying 22 passes defended. Verrett battled injuries as a senior, but he was still productive and earned Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2013 ? shut down several of the conference?s top receivers and caused offenses to stop looking to his side of the field. He is like a magnet to the ball with excellent timing to plant, drive and arrive when the ball does with aggressive ballhawking skills. Verrett is scrappy and loves to play sticky and physical, which will cause some penalties, but it?s easy to love his confident mentality. His lack of size likely limits his NFL ceiling, but he has the easy change of direction skills, light feet and physical and mental toughness to shine in the NFL, ideally suited as an inside nickel corner.”
CB Rashaad Reynolds (Oregon State) 5-10, 189, 4.51 40yd dash
Projection: 3-4 Description: Jets interviewed Reynolds at the East West Shrine Game. Here’s Rang on Reynolds. “Sports a compact, well-developed frame and looks the part of an NFL cornerback, demonstrating the quickness, fluidity and competitiveness in run support scouts are looking for. Asked to handle a variety of coverage responsibilities in OSU’s scheme, including press-man, off-man and zone principles. Shows a quick, low backpedal to give ground quickly and can break downhill in a flash to close. Good straight-line speed to handle vertical routes. Tracks the ball well, showing very good leaping ability, excellent timing and the hand-eye coordination to snatch passes at their highest point. Good awareness to drop his deep responsibilities and come up in run support or to make the open-field tackle on underneath receivers. Aggressively fights through receiver blocks and throws his body into the path of would-be blockers to funnel running backs back inside, rather than allowing them the corner. Voted a team captain. Good athlete. Also participated on Oregon State’s track team, running the 60 meters. A former high school wrestler, it’s no surprise that one of Reynolds’ strengths is his reputation for being willing to stick his nose into the action in run defense. A quarterback and cornerback in high school who was a three-time all-city player out of Pacoima, Calif., Reynolds was recruited as a cornerback and redshirted in 2009. He played in all 12 games as a redshirt freshman, serving as one of the team’s top gunners on the coverage units. He entered the starting secondary in 2011, starting all 12 games after Brandon Hardin suffered a season-ending shoulder surgery. Reynolds took advantage of the opportunity, finishing with 68 tackles and eight passes broken up.Reynolds earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 as a junior, posting 16 passes defensed, including five in one half against Arizona. He also had five interceptions and was second on the team with 75 tackles.After being limited during spring practice in 2013 by a knee injury, Reynolds returned healthy in the fall and went on to play in all 13 games. He finished with 61 tackles, 3.5 for loss, a sack and a career-high six interceptions. He broke up four passes and had 10 passes defensed to go along with a pair of forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Reynolds was voted Second Team All-Pac-12 by the league’s coaches.”
CB Keith McGill (Utah) 6-3, 211, 4.51 40yd dash
Projection: 2-3 Description: McGill came in for a visit on April 22nd. We hear that McGill is very high up on the Jets draft board. Here’s Wharton. “Standing at over 6’3″, McGill is easily the largest defensive back in the 2014 NFL draft class. His size has coaches and scouts drooling over what they could do with a player this big and athletic. Ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and was a top performer in the vertical and broad jumps. Recognizes plays quickly and starts the play by backpedaling or attacking the line of scrimmage with efficiency. By starting the play in the right direction, McGill cuts down on wasted movement. Incredible length helps break up passes at the last second while in coverage. He can overcome mistakes with his size and still get a hand on the ball. Strong enough to disrupt receivers at the line and jam them on their routes. By disrupting the timing of the offense, the defense gains an advantage. Good ball skills in zone coverage, where he can focus on keeping the receiver in front of him and stay facing the line of scrimmage. Good closing burst helps provide interception opportunities. He was able to jam Arizona State star wide receiver Jaelen Strong in 2013, which helps project McGill’s NFL potential. He can line up against big receivers or slower tight ends in the slot and be a true asset to the defense. Possesses special teams value after playing as a gunner in 2013. Has positional versatility and likely fits better long term as a safety in a Kam Chancellor role. As much as teams love the size and straight-line speed McGill has, they shouldn’t overlook how much he struggles moving laterally. He’ll have to play as large as he is to succeed; even then, don’t expect him to be put on an island without safety help over top. He fits best with a press-man or on-ball zone defense that can use his strength and help cover his weaknesses at corner. His long term might include switching to become a full-time safety due to physical limitations.”
FS A.J. Marshall (Wake Forest) 5-11, 189, 4.69 40yd dash
Projection: 6-UDFA Description: Marshall met with the Jets at the East-West Shrine game. He happens to be best friends with current Jets safety Josh Bush, who has taken his former Wake Forest teammate under his wing. Here’s Wharton again. “Marshall is an experienced and versatile player coming out of Wake Forest, after he played in 44 games in his career and split time between cornerback and safety. In addition to his positional versatility, Marshall can line up at either safety spot as well. He was listed as a strong safety, but Wake’s defense had mirror safeties, which means both starters are able to fill the role of the other. This provides more balance to the defense and a sense of unpredictability, since the offense won’t be given as many hints pre-snap due to where the safeties line up. Aggressive at jumping underneath routes that slot receivers and tight ends run. The positive is this creates turnover opportunities or defensed passes. He played mostly in zone coverage, where he had to read the play quickly and react simultaneously. As a willing run defender, he crashed from a deep safety position to get involved in tackles often. He also didn’t hurt his team by taking bad pursuit angles, limiting the yards that the ball-carrier gained. Attacks the ball when he’s nearby. He acts as if he were the offensive player fighting for the ball. Possesses enough closing burst and range to be responsible for half of the field in zone coverage. He’d fit into schemes that run a lot of Cover 2 man or zone. After he broke his fibula midseason, he returned for the 2014 NFL Shrine Game, showing toughness and determination to be on the radar of NFL teams. Marshall doesn’t have great eyes, instincts or physical abilities on the field. He’s a good player that needs development and in time can be a special teams ace and solid backup, which has value. For a team looking for overall team depth that runs a defensive scheme with two high zone safeties, Marshall can make an impact.”
CB Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State) 6-0, 202, 4.37 40yd dash
Projection: 1 Description: Gilbert visited the Jets on April 22nd. Rang takes a look at him. “In terms of pure athleticism, Gilbert is the class of the 2014 draft. He possesses remarkably light feet, allowing him to quickly drop in his backpedal while keeping his eyes trained on his receiver (and also sneaking a peek on the quarterback). The depth gained allows him to be patient when flipping his hips to turn and run downfield or plant and explode in either direction as receivers attempt to cross in front of him. Gilbert changes directions fluidly and has impressive acceleration to handle deep coverage responsibilities against speedy receivers. Gilbert possesses prototypical height and overall frame for the position with broad shoulders and long arms. He extends well to snatch the ball out of the air and times his leap well. Gilbert is a willing tackler, who closes quickly and effectively. Whether on kick returns or after interceptions, Gilbert’s patience, vision and acceleration make him a threat to go the distance. Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard may have earned the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back but Gilbert could get the last laugh when it comes to the NFL. Given the way that the passing game has taken over the NFL, the value of defenders capable of creating turnovers has never been higher – and no one is better at this than Gilbert – a dynamic athlete who led the Big 12 with seven interceptions in 2013 (two of which he returned for touchdowns) and has returned six kickoffs for scores over his career in Stillwater, as well. That mark put him just one kickoff return touchdown shy of the NCAA career record of seven, held jointly by Clemson’s C.J. Spiller (2006-09) and Houston’s Tyron Carrier (2008-11).While scouts will certainly appreciate Gilbert’s big play prowess (as well as his size and speed), it is important to recall the struggles with consistency that he suffered through as a junior after a breakout 2011 season.”
CB Phillip Gaines (Rice) 6-0, 193, 4.38 40yd dash
Projection: 2 Description: Jets spent a lot of time with Gaines at the East-West Shrine Game. Behind the Steel Curtain does a fantastic job of explaining who exactly Gaines is. “When you think about college football programs that produce NFL talent Rice, isn’t one that comes to mind immediately. Joining Conference USA in 2005 after formerly being in the Western Atlantic Conference (WAC) its players do not receive the national attention even if they deserve it. One player deserving is the Owls cornerback Phillip Gaines. Gaines has been the Owls best cover corner over the last two years. In 2012 he amassed 33 tackles, two tackles for loss and a ridiculous 18 passes defensed. In 2013 Gaines wasn’t targeted as much however he finished with 36 tackles, four tackles for loss, four interceptions, and nine passes defensed. He earned 1st-team All-Conference USA honors for both of those years. He finished his college career 38 career pass break ups which is a Rice record. Gaines measured in at the NFL Combine at 6-foot, 193 pounds with 31 7/8 inch arm length. At the Combine he show cased probably his best asset, his athleticism. Gaines ran a 4.38s 40-yard dash (second fastest of all CB’s at the Combine behind Gilbert’s 4.37), he completed the 3-cone drill in 6.67s (second fastest of all CBs and fifth fastest of all players at the Combine) and completed the 20-yard shuffle in 4.04s. ( fourth fastest among all CBs at the Combine.) On tape Gaines athleticism shows up frequently. He has a quick backpedal and he keeps his center-of-gravity low. His footwork is impressive and he shows off very quick feet. He confirmed this at the Combine easily moving through every drill. He has the athletic ability to backpedal or shuffle and still make a play on any route. He effortlessly flips his hips to mirror a receiver through the route. The explosion out of his backpedal is apparent. Great closing speed allows him to cover up any mistakes in his reads or gambles he takes. However Gaines is much more than just an athlete. He has tremendous awareness in zone coverage. Gaines has feels the routes behind him and flows with the QBs eyes to the football. He has an obviously high football I.Q. and it shows up in games. He sees the field incredibly well and uses this awareness along with his speed to make plays on throws that may not originally have been in his zone. As a captain of the Owls Gaines showed leadership as well as toughness. Despite his size he isn’t afraid to tackle and help in run support which is a plus for any cornerback. It isn’t hard to see why Gaines was targeted only 40 times all year and allowed only 13 receptions in 2013 or on 32.5 percent of the passes thrown his way . With nine pass break ups and four interceptions, he had his hand on the ball 13 times of the 40 targets. This means that Gaines had his hands on the football almost 1 out of every 3 passes in 2013. That number is the same as Kyle Fuller and is better than top corners Gilbert (3.93), Dennard (4.25) and Roby (4.93). Of the other corners projected to go on or before Day 2 of the draft only Verrett (2.75) had a better pass defensed rate. Phillip Gaines is a long, athletic corner with excellent vision and movement skills. He will need to improve his strength to handle NFL receivers in man-to-man coverage. Gaines however displays good football I.Q. and awareness to suggest that he can excel in a zone scheme. The Steelers would be remiss to not look in to Gaines as a potential replacement for Ike Taylor. He possess all the necessary skills they desire. I have read that he is projected to go in the middle rounds but that doesn’t match what I see on tape. Don’t be surprise when Gaines ends up being drafted on Day 2 of the 2014 NFL draft because his play justifies just that.”
CB Lew Toler (Rutgers) 5-10, 190, 4.50 40yd dash
Projection: UDFA Description: The Jets brought in Toler as part of their local workouts. They also attended his Pro Day. Dan Duggan explains his story. “A fifth-year defensive back who transferred from Western Michigan, Toler became a starting cornerback in the second game of the season and held the position until he suffered a broken left arm against Louisville on October 10th. Toler broke his humerus, which is the bone in the upper arm, and missed the rest of the season. Toler was in a sling for two months and wasn’t fully medically cleared until last month. When his arm healed he focused on training for Wednesday’s pro day, where he ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash. After missing more than half of his senior season, Toler knows he has work to do to get on the NFL radar.”
FS Jeremy Deering (Rutgers) 6-1, 209, 4.41 40yd dash
Projection: UDFA Description: Deering was invited to workout at the Jets facility for their Local Pro Day following his Pro Day at Rutgers, which the Jets attended. Here is Tony Pauline. “Former receiver who moved to safety last season and started 10 games. Physical athlete still trying to find a position on the football field. Displays speed in a straight-line or laterally, has range in centerfield, and the ability to get outside the numbers to the flanks. Plays big, squares into tackles, and wraps up. Very athletic. Deering is an athletic prospect who showed flashes during his four years at Rutgers but never developed at any single position. He’s a developmental prospect whose best chance at the next level is on coverage units.”
FS Stephen Obeng-Agyapong (Penn State) 5-11, 210, 4.58 40yd dash
Projection: UDFA Description: The Bronx native was brought in by the Jets as part of their Local Pro Day. While he is listed as a FS, he played a lot of hybrid box safety/WLB this year. The safety-turned-linebacker had 34 tackles this season, including 20 solo tackles. He also forced and recovered a fumble along with an interception in the first game of the season against Syracuse. He’s likely to be an undrafted free agent.
CB Kendall James (Maine) 5-11, 180, 4.44 40yd dash
Projection: 6-7 Description: James, who Mel Kiper Jr. called the “the biggest sleeper of the mid-round corner(backs) group,” was brought into 1 Jets Drive on their Local Pro Day. Here is Ian Wharton. “Great speed and quickness allow him to run with any receiver and route, unlike some cornerbacks who are linear athletes, only being able to post an impressive 40-yard dash time due to straight-line speed. James also has great lateral agility that will help him play either outside cornerback or slot corner, which requires short area speed over distance speed. Played his best in off-man coverage. He can close quickly on underneath routes or turn his hips and run with receivers on deep routes. Keeps his head up and eyes on the quarterback throughout the play. He can play in zone coverage and find the ball quickly, giving the defense a chance for a turnover. Adds good value as a special teamer, where he starred for Maine. He gives great effort on every snap and can tackle elusive returners. Aggressive when jumping routes but doesn’t do so recklessly. He reads the offense effectively and notices subtle hints by the quarterback and receiver. Sticks his nose in every running play, which is important for a potential slot cornerback. He looks comfortable roaming around the line of scrimmage. It takes a tough mindset to play slot, and James isn’t lacking a tough mindset. Great productivity while at Maine, showing he isn’t just a track athlete. Great leaping helps overcome lack of height when in traffic. Has the speed and agility to be a potential kick returner, although he doesn’t have much experience there now. James has great speed, quickness and ability to stick with receivers on all routes. His biggest issue right now is his small frame and lack of length. He competes hard every play and should be a rotational or slot cornerback throughout his career. If he had ideal size and frame, he’d be a Day 2-type player, but the NFL is getting bigger, not smaller.”
CB Reuben Johnson (Stony Brook) 5-10, 190, 4.56 40yd dash
Projection: UDFA Description: Johnson was at the Jets facility for their Local Pro Day. He transferred to Stony Brook in 2013 after leaving Cincinnati. He was off to a great start this season, starting two games before suffering a season-ending knee injury in week three. He made six tackles, including 1.5 for loss, at Buffalo on September 14th. He was also named the CAA Defensive Player of the Week on September 9th. He recorded two fumble recoveries, forced a fumble and added four tackles in Stony Brook debut at Rhode Island on September 7th. According to a Stony Brook press release, “Johnson played three seasons for the Cincinnati, appearing in 31 games. Statistically, his sophomore season was his best as Johnson started 11 of 12 games, recording 62 tackles, including 11 against Louisville and eight against Oklahoma, five pass breakups, a sack and an interception. The south New Jersey native played in eight games in 2011, making six tackles. He did not play last season due to an injury and served as a student assistant under former coach Butch Jones. Johnson played in 11 games as a true freshman on a Cincinnati squad that earned a BCS bid to the Sugar Bowl. A three-star recruit who starred in football and track, Johnson was rated as one of the top seniors in the state.”
SS Chris Poston (Emporia State) 6-1, 195, 4.50 40yd dash
Projection: UDFA Description: Former Jet and current scout Aaron Glenn watched Poston this season and we hear he came away extremely impressed. Poston was named first-team All-MIAA despite missing four games with a broken thumb. He had four interceptions in seven games and added 38 tackles on the season.
SS Ahmad Dixon (Baylor) 6-0, 212, 4.64 40yd dash
Projection: 6 Description: Jets defensive backs coach Tim McDonald flew to check out Dixon’s Pro Day. Here’s what Brugler’s scouting report on Dixon. “Extremely fast downhill and loves to get his hands dirty in the run game, striking through his target with strong hands to finish. Dixon has an accurate first step with the quickness and range to play both sidelines with an alert, active mentality. Displays the feet and overall body coordination to hold up on an island if needed. Excellent size/speed athlete with the fluidity and natural speed to cover the entire field, making plays behind the line of scrimmage and in the deep half of the field. Works hard to shed blocks to make open-field stops and is a physical tackler. He is confident in coverage to jump routes and aggressively go after the ball. Born and raised in Waco, Dixon had a roller coaster recruitment that included commitments to Texas and Tennessee before he finally decided to stay home and attend Baylor. He started two seasons at the team’s nickel “Bear” position, which is a hybrid LB/S role, but moved to safety for his senior year in 2013. Baylor is known for its explosive offensive attack, but the Bears have some playmakers on defense as well, most notably Dixon, who patrols the entire field. Dixon might be the top SS prospect for the 2014 Draft.”
CB Demetri Goodson (Baylor) 5-11, 194, 4.52 40yd dash
Projection: 3-4 Description: Demetri is Mike Goodson’s brother. He was a former Gonzaga point guard, who quit to transfer to Baylor to pursue a football career. Jets defensive backs coach Tim McDonald attended his Pro Day. Here’s Draft Insider. “Full-time starter as a senior finishing the year with 26 tackles, 3 INTs, and 10 PBUs. Played in just four games the prior year struggling with a broken arm. Nice-sized college cornerback who projects as a dime back at the next level. Fluid backpedaling, quickly transitions off the line, and stays with assignments. Smooth flipping his hips to transition to any area of the field, shows athleticism, and plays heads-up football. Quick up the field to defend the run, squares into opponents, and wraps up when tackling. Goodson is an athletic prospect who showed terrific development last season and offers ability in either a zone system or backed off the line of scrimmage. He comes with a special teams mentality, which is added value.”
FS Terrence Brooks (Florida State) 5-11, 198, 4.42 40yd dash
Projection: 2-3 Description: Rex Ryan and John Idzik were both at his Pro Day on March 18th. This is Ian Wharton said about the free safety. “Extremely rangy deep safety that allowed the Florida State defense to play aggressive fronts and not have to keep extra defensive backs in coverage. Proved to be capable of reading and covering the downfield seam route by tight ends when in zone coverage. Understands his own capabilities very well, as he will let the quarterback see the receiver open in his assigned zone, then jump the route after the quarterback releases the pass. Being able to manipulate quarterback into thinking the receiver is open is a difficult skill, but Brooks demonstrated this throughout his 2013 season. Locates and tracks the ball very well once the pass is released. Most safeties in this class will drop their eyes to reach the receiver before the reception is completed to jar the ball loose, but Brooks plays the ball, creating more opportunities for defensed passes and interceptions. Possesses a strong closing burst to reach the intended receiver or ball-carrier to finish the play. Very efficient at recognizing routes, often breaking with the receiver that the quarterback is looking at. The lack of wasted movement indicates strong instincts and the ability to process information quickly. He’s able to read plays well and maintain impressive gap integrity. He doesn’t overcommit to play action or where the ball-carrier seems to be going. Defenders that are too aggressive will try to mirror the ball-carrier and be vulnerable to cutbacks, leading to big gains. Brooks plays the ball-carrier safer, and limits big plays. Above average at shedding blocks, staying active with his hands and using agility to get around blockers. Quick acceleration in space, reaching top speed in a few steps. Special teams value after primarily playing there his first two seasons. Brooks is the best deep, center field type safety in the 2014 NFL draft class due to his combination of natural instincts and high football IQ. Brooks, alongside Louisville’s Calvin Pryor, is fighting for the top ranked true free safety in the class, and with a good combine showing, don’t be surprised if he sneaks into the bottom of the first round come May 8.”
Analysis: We all know Rex loves corners. Thus, with Dimitri Patterson the current starting corner opposite Dee Milliner, it is no surprise everybody is mocking a CB to the Jets in the first. I can definitely see them taking a CB at 18. From what I’m hearing, the Jets are very high on Darqueze Dennard. Should the Jets go CB in round 1, I believe he’d be the selection. If they decide to go WR round 1 and wait to take a corner in the mid-rounds, look for Dexter McDougle or Keith McGill to be the pick. I can absolutely see the Jets taking 2 corners as well. Keith Lewis in the 6th round is a possibility the Jets are strongly considering as well right now. As far as the safety position goes, the Jets are happy with Antonio Allen and Dawan Landry starting for this season. That being said, it would make sense for the Jets to draft a guy like Berhe in the mid-rounds to contribute immediately on special teams while learning and being groomed by Landry.