Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comThe roster is never set for the season in the beginning of April, as the five starting rookies from last season can attest. With twelve picks in what has been stated is one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory the Jets still have areas of need, which we fully expect them to fill between now and next Sunday. Here’s our quick look at the Jets positions of need and some players that might end up with the Jets. First up, cornerback.
Current Status: While the Jets were ‘active’ in free agency after cutting Antonio Cromartie, yet all they walked away with was free agent Dmitri Patterson. Patterson played well last year in Miami before a season-ending injury. The Jets also look to be without Ed Reed at safety, who played well down the stretch for the team. While Dee Milliner will likely be the cornerstone of the secondary for years to come, they still could do with a second starter caliber player at cornerback to help build out the unit and put more emphasis on press coverage on the perimeter of the defense.
Day One Options: Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State), Jason Verrett (TCU)
Rex Ryan loves to use press coverage and that is where both Dennard and Verrett excel. Justin Gilbert might be a tantalizing athlete, but on the first day we fully expect the Jets to focus in on players who they can immediately drop into their scheme. Josh Norris has written on Dennard that “no corner is as physical with receivers within five yards or downfield as Dennard.” Dennard might have questions about his top speed, but he is a ready-made starting corner. Jason Verrett is a name that seems to be going under the radar right now, mostly because he is a smaller player, like Tyrann Mathieu last year or Fred Smoot in years past. Size doesn’t seem to matter with Verrett though and many expect him to be a late first round pick. While we would be shocked to see the Jets select Verrett with the 18th pick, he might be in play if they move back so that another team can pick up a sliding quarterback.
Day Two Options: Keith McGill (Utah), Bradley Roby (Ohio State), Phillip Gaines (Rice), Pierre Desir (Lindenwood), Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska)
We picked Keith McGill in our mock draft yesterday as the Jets third round choice. We have to think that the Jets would covet his size and ability to play press coverage. McGill needs a little technical work and some NFL conditioning, but he could be capable of starting for the Jets at corner before the end of his first season. Bradley Roby has character concerns but is a player who John Idzik has spent extensive time with during the pre-draft process, which might help him make up his mind about the man despite his very recent run-in with the law. Maybe Roby won’t land in the second round as he was projected to, but he might be an option for the Jets should he slide to the third. Roby is a speedy corner and has the burst to close on the football, but will the character issues be too much for Idzik to look past?
Rice’s Phillip Gaines has had a lot of buzz around him since scouts got to take a look at him during practices at the East-West Shrine Game. Since then, Gaines has impressed during his workouts, but will need some polishing on his footwork. Desir and SJB are both excellent athletes who have press-coverage potential, but will need some time in working with the Jets coaching staff before they are ready to take the next step.
Day Three Options: Loucheiz Purifoy (Florida), Antone Exum (Virginia Tech), Clemson (Bashaud Breeland)
Purifoy can play press coverage, but it tends to fall apart the further down the field he tracks his target. Exum is a hard hitting player out of Frank Beamer’s program, but might be better off converting to safety. Breeland has fair size and speed to play cornerback, but his lack of ideal speed might get him in trouble. Even so, Breeland is a ball-hawk, leading the Tigers in passes defensed in 2013. Breeland needs work on his press skills, but he would have been watched closely by Rex Ryan all year due to the Seth Ryan tie-in to the Clemson program. Is Breeland a lump of clay that Ryan could work with?