Though every draft is important, 2014 is going to be a make or break year for the Jets as they are ready to win now with a few key additions. After finishing the 2013 season at 8-8 it would seem that the Jets were the picture of mediocrity. The truth is that they showed flashes of dominance but also looked completely inept at times.
The majority of the troubles were on the offensive side of the ball. Youth and inexperience plagued the Jets’ offense with rookies at quarterback and left guard both underperforming. The NFL Draft could have a big impact on next season's fortunes, but where should the team turn on draft day?
Quarterback: Level of Need - 8
Quarterback is an area of concern for the Jets after Geno Smith struggled through parts of his rookie season. It would be tough to write off Smith at this point given the limited help that he had from his receiving corps. That weak supporting cast couple with porous pass blocking put Smith in a situation where it was very tough to succeed. Despite being put in a difficult situation, there are some decent free agent quarterbacks this year who may supplant Geno as the starter. Chad Henne and Michael Vick seem like the most likely names in that category. Either way it does not look like the Jets will spend an early round draft pick on a quarterback.
Offensive Line: Overall Level of Need - 5
Left Guard Level of Need - 9
While offensive line is not a dire need for the Jets, they do have a major trouble spot at left guard. Vlad Ducasse and Brian Winters just could not get a solid push or protect the quarterback all season. An upgrade at the left guard spot would help to solidify the entire line.
Running Back: Level of Need - 3
The Jets stable of running backs are just that, stable. Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell are not electrifying but they did a nice job of keeping the chains moving during the 2013 season. Though they are no longer the elite run blocking unit that they once were, the Jets have savvy veterans on the line that can open holes and the tough running styles of Ivory and Powell take advantage of this nicely. While neither back is a superstar, they are more than capable of carrying the load for another season.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: Level of Need - 10
The receiving corps is where things start to get ugly on this roster. Jeremy Kerley is a nice slot option and youngsters David Nelson and Stephen Hill may contribute at some point but this crew is well below average. The choices at tight end are similarly lukewarm. Jeff Cumberland is a solid player but hardly a game-breaker; he is also eligible for free-agency.
Total Defense: Level of Need - 4
Defensive Line Level of Need - 2
Edge Rusher: Level of Need - 5
Secondary: Level of Need - 7
Since this is an article about the Jets, defense has to be considered. The defense in 2013 ranked number three against the run but finished 22nd in pass defense. Antonio Cromartie struggled with injury throughout the season and the secondary as a whole had a difficult year.
The pass rush also left a lot to be desired as they left quarterbacks with plenty of time to throw. The weak secondary coupled with a limited pass rush made the Jets easy pickings for aerial attacks. On the bright side the defensive front was a dominating force stifling the running games of most opponents.
Top Pick Predictions
When it comes to their top pick, it depends on how things fall early in the first round. The Jets could have some exciting options left at the 18th pick. If Marquise Lee or Mike Evans fall to the Jets they could be a huge upgrade in the passing game. They bring very different things to the table but both would be a real boost to whoever the quarterback is on opening day.
Marquise Lee is a speedster from USC who is a bit on the small side. He falls somewhat into the same category as Desean Jackson or Tavon Austin. Those two comparisons show the upside and the downside of this type of receiver.
Mike Evans is the go-to target for Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. He is much larger at 6’5”, but does not possess the same breakaway speed and elusiveness as Lee. His size and power would make Evans a nice asset in the red zone and his presence would free up Kerley and Cumberland to improve their own production.
Another option would be to focus on the tight end position and pick up Eric Ebron from North Carolina. He has the size and freakish athletic ability to stretch the field and create mismatches with defenders. Ebron could provide a nice safety valve for the Jets QB, whoever that ends up being.
If the Jets decided that shoring up the gaping hole in the left side of their offensive line was a higher priority they might look at someone like Zack Martin from Notre Dame. Martin works well in both pass and run protection and looks like he would be a nice upgrade at the left guard position. Although he played tackle in college, he would slot in nicely between D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold.
It seems like Marquise Lee would be the best fit and provide their offense with some instant explosiveness. Whoever the Jets decide on, it needs to be someone who can contribute right away. This team has too many great pieces to draft a project player and waste an opportunity to win the AFC East. A playmaker to move the chains or a new piece for the offensive line could be the key to a winning season for Gang Green and Coach Ryan.