I have only begun my process of “scouting” (in quotations because I certainly don’t claim to be a scout but what else can I call it? Quasi scouting? ) players for the upcoming draft so I still have a ton of work to do before I can start laying out my positional rankings and mid-to-late round targets. But considering the Jets have the sixth overall pick I figured I could give you a list of a handful of players to get familiar with before I start breaking them down individually.
Before I list the names I should say this isn’t a deep draft nor is it a top-heavy draft, basically as a whole this draft class is fairly weak. There’s not even close to 32 players deserving of first round grades, there will probably only be around 15-20 first round grades, the second and third rounds should be rather fruitful though.
There are only three positions that are deep this year, running back, wide receiver and pass rushers. Obviously that sentiment could be proven wrong in the end but projecting this class now it doesn’t exactly seem overloaded with top talent.
Of the names listed below, there are three I’m convinced will be gone by the time the Jets pick and a few I’m not a particularly big fan of but I could certainly still see them getting drafted in-between the fourth and 15th picks.
I won’t go into too much detail about each player, as I’ll save that for my rankings, and I’m going to group all the receivers together because so many people disagree about the exact order the receivers should be ranked. This isn’t unusual as people value different aspects of receivers, more than most other positions, and there always seems to be a receiver taken somewhere in the first that most people think shouldn’t have gone so early.
Let’s start with the top three players and get them out of the way. I expect they will also be the top three players drafted but of course it’s early and things could change but I’d be shocked if any of these three were still available when the Jets pick at six.
QB - Jameis Winston (Florida State) - For all the concerns about his character and even about his high interception tally last season I still can’t imagine Tampa Bay passing on Winston. And even if they were to pass on him, I would think it would only be because of the character concerns, they would likely try and trade with someone who would want him.
DL - Leonard Williams (USC) - The 6’5”, 298, defensive tackle is the best non-quarterback in the draft. He’s probably the best overall player as well depending on just how much you value quarterbacks, like Winston and how concerned you are with Winston’s off the field issues. Williams is a big, bad man with long arms, great quickness and agility and a whole lot of power.
Williams is listed as a defensive tackle but he played all over the line at USC and to go along with his natural talent and ability he proved he is an absolute gamer by playing the entire season last year despite dealing with a lingering ankle injury. There’s no chance he slips until sixth.
EDGE - Randy Gregory (Nebraska) - Gregory is the best pure pass rusher in this draft. At 6’5”, 242, he has an explosive first step off the line and does a great job of using his length and flexibility to create leverage and get after the quarterback. He has an excellent motor that is always on full tilt and does a great job of using his hands to shed offensive lineman.
Gregory is exactly the type of pass rusher the Jets have needed for years but I would be shocked if he slipped to six.
NOW FOR THE REST:
Assuming my top three are the first three taken, I think they will just not sure of the order, there will be two players from the below list that will also be taken before the Jets pick at six. At this point it’s anyone’s guess who those players will be but we’ll worry about that later. The below list is the order I would rank them at as of now, but as I said earlier I haven’t really broken these players (except for Mariota) down yet. I’ve started breaking many of them down but mostly I’m working off my notes from what I saw watching them during the season and obviously a full breakdown could change my rankings a bit.
OL - La’El Collins (LSU) - At 6’5”, 315, Collins is an absolute beast. Devastatingly powerful run blocker and is far more agile in pass protection than given credit for. There has been a lot of talk that Collins would have to play guard in the NFL but I think that’s nonsense. I could see starting him at guard then moving him to tackle but there is no doubt in my mind he will make an excellent NFL tackle.
The Jets desperately need offensive line help, the obvious need is at guard replacing Willie Colon but it’s also not too early to think about finding D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s replacement or preparing to upgrade over Breno Giacomini. This offensive line class is rather weak and not deep at all but Collins is the cream of the crop, in my opinion, and would have an immediate impact on the Jets next year. If he’s there and my top three are off the board he should be the pick.
EDGE - Dante Fowler Jr. (Florida) - There is a lot to like about Fowler; great motor and energy, very strong, does a great job of creating leverage and can play on the line or standing up. I just don’t like him quite as much as some others do. Mostly because sometimes his motor works against him, too often I saw offensive lineman give him an open lane on purpose and Fowler would fall for the bait and run himself out of the play.
But his hustle is impressive as he never gives up on a play and I have to think Todd Bowles and Pepper Johnson would figure out how to get the most out of him.
EDGE - Shaq Thompson (Washington) - Thompson might be the most intriguing player on this list because of his overall athletic ability and flexibility to play multiple positions, he even played running back for the Huskies, but there are questions about where he fits best because of his size.
At 6’2”, 231, Thompson is built more like a safety than an outside linebacker but his speed, agility, aggressive nature and instincts are what stand out the most. He has great vision and can read the play as it develops with impressive quickness and also has great technique using his hands well to shed would be blockers. Thompson would make for an excellent chess piece for Bowles to use all over the field.
You could also add Jaelen Strong to this list but I think he’s the least likely of the four receivers to go first so I left him off. Cooper was definitely the best college receiver last year but I’m not sure that he will be the best NFL receiver in this class. All of these receivers are incredibly talented and all would help the Jets offense immediately it’s just a matter of personal preference who you like more.
I wouldn’t want to take any of these receivers as high as sixth overall, there will be excellent options available in the second and third rounds as well, but I would take any one of these receivers over the names below and it’s possible I could be talked into taking one of them over Thompson or Fowler.
Both Scherff and Peat could get drafted before Collins but I think that would be a mistake. I could certainly be wrong but Collins is just more impressive to my eyes. However, any of the three would improve the Jets offensive line and if Mike Maccagnan thinks Peat or Scherff should be the pick over Collins I’d defer to him until Collins started blowing them out of the water in the NFL.
QB - Marcus Mariota (Oregon) - I have Mariota with a second-round grade, I wouldn’t necessarily dispute a late-first grade if you tell me you’re bumping him up because he’s a quarterback. Mariota has the requisite size and arm-strength and he does a great job making quick decisions but he has a huge learning curve ahead of him.
He wasn’t just a one-read quarterback in college but his reads were incredibly simple and it’s hard to properly evaluate him because most of what he did in college he won’t be able to do in the NFL. If I could draft him and let him sit for a year or two I’d be much more interested in him but I don’t think people will have the patience to give him the time to properly develop. The Kansas City Chiefs would be an ideal fit for him, he could sit behind Alex Smith for a year and Andy Reid Would do as good a job as any to help him make the transition from Oregon spread to the NFL.
I left a few others of the list and I’ll briefly explain why. Shane Ray, EDGE from Missouri, was a dominate pass rusher in college but I’m not convinced hIs game will translate to the NFL. If he doesn’t beat the offensive lineman immediately he gets locked up and neutralized, he’s a bit of a tweener and needs to get stronger and develop more awareness. There’s a lot to like about Ray but not nearly enough to consider him at six.
The other two I excluded are top-five talents but character concerns make it impossible to consider them with the sixth pick. I’ll have plenty more to say about both of them leading up to the draft but there’s no need to discuss Marcus Peters, cornerback from Washington, or Dorial Green-Beckham, WR from Missouri/Oklahoma, for the purposes of this article.