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Draft by Position: Jets’ Secondary Queries

Posted May 2, 2014

Green & White Could Find Candidates in This Year's DB Class

Newyorkjets.com's coverage of the 2014 draft includes breakdowns of each position group, focusing both on the Jets' current situation and the top players expected to be selected at the position from May 8-10. All player rankings have been compiled from 15 different “big boards” around the Internet, updated as recently as today and as far back as March 31. Today's eighth and last in the series: Defensive Backs.

Perhaps more than any other position group on the roster, the Jets seem to have more questions than answers in the secondary.

What can we expect from last year’s ninth overall pick Dee Milliner?

The cornerback showed flashes of brilliance en route to winning Defensive Rookie of the Month honors in December after struggling for the first three-quarters of his rookie campaign.

Who’s going to replace Antonio Cromartie?

Kyle Wilson has started 28 games at corner since arriving as our first-round selection in 2010. We also acquired ninth-year veteran Dimitri Patterson through free agency in addition to re-signing Darrin Walls and Ellis Lankster.

Will Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen be our Week 1 starting safeties?

Landry’s the QB of the defense, but he's also 31 years old. Allen, a seventh-round pick in 2012, started nine games last season but saw decreased playing time upon the midseason arrival of future Hall of Famer Ed Reed. Reed’s currently an unrestricted free agent. Josh Bush, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Rontez Miles also will return.

If for no other reason than the fact that we have a whopping 12 picks, it seems inevitable that the Green & White will add at least a couple of players into the defensive backs mix from May 8-10.

SECONDARY RATINGS: NOS. 1-4
Player School Avg. High Low
1. CB Justin Gilbert Oklahoma State 16.5 7 40
2. S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Alabama 16.9 9 29
3. CB Darqueze Dennard Michigan State 18.7 11 32
4. S Calvin Pryor Louisville 20.9 11 42

Safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama) and Calvin Pryor (Louisville) appear destined for Round 1, as do cornerbacks Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State) and Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State).

Both safeties began their collegiate careers playing as true freshmen in 2011, and both recorded seven interceptions throughout their three years, although Pryor’s 175 tackles nearly doubled Clinton-Dix’s 88 over the past two seasons.

“Pryor was overshadowed a bit by [Teddy] Bridgewater while with the Cardinals,” writes CBSSports.com’s Rob Rang, “but he could easily wind up being selected ahead of his more well-known former teammate. Pryor didn't run as well in workouts as I would have liked [4.58 40] but he plays fast because of terrific instincts, has good hands for the interception and is an intimidating hitter.”

“Clinton-Dix has really good range, instincts and ball skills,” ESPN.com’s Todd McShay has said. “I think he could wind up as a better pro than he was a college player.”

If you’re looking for a cornerback who can run with the best of them, Gilbert’s your guy. His 4.37 40 led all DBs at this year’s combine, and he showed off his strength, too, with 20 benchpress reps, third-best among cornerbacks. The 6’0”, 202-pounder came within one score of tying the NCAA career record for most non-offensive touchdowns (two interception returns, six kick returns).

Meanwhile, it was Dennard, not Gilbert, who took home the Jim Thorpe Award hardware as the nation’s best defensive back. Dennard (5’11”, 199) received unanimous All-America first-team honors as a senior and picked off the opposing QB 10 times in 44 career games.

SECONDARY RATINGS: NOS. 5-8
Player School  Avg.   High   Low 
5. CB Jason Verrett TCU 28.4 18 40
6. CB Kyle Fuller Virginia Tech 29.6 18 50
7. CB Bradley Roby Ohio State 31.9 18 51
8. S Jimmie Ward Northern Illinois 42.7 17 100

The next tier of DBs includes corners Jason Verrett, Kyle Fuller and Bradley Roby along with safety Jimmie Ward.

Verrett (5’9”, 189) clocked in just 1/100th of a second slower than Gilbert in the 40. In 2012, he led the NCAA with 22 passes defended while his six interceptions led the Big 12. Offensive coordinators adjusted and as a result his statistics diminished in 2013 (two INTs, 14 PDs), but his game-changing ability did not go unnoticed as he earned co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors.

The most recent mock drafts of SBNation.com’s Matthew Fairburn and SI.com’s Don Banks have us taking Fuller and Roby, respectively.

“Kyle Fuller carries a bit of an injury risk, but he's arguably the most talented cornerback in this draft class,” Fairburn said. “If he stays healthy, Fuller could be a capable starter across from Milliner on opening weekend.” Fuller (6’0”, 190) started 42 games for the Hokies and ended his career as a team captain.

“Roby had an underwhelming season in 2013,” Banks said, “but he's a first-round talent who has the size, speed and playing style that will cut it in the pro game. He can excel in the press coverage that [Rex] Ryan prefers and should have a fairly smooth transition to the starting lineup.”

CBSSports.com’s Dane Brugler ranks Ward as the 20th-best prospect in this year’s draft class, writing “The top senior safety on the board, Ward is a versatile defensive back with cornerback movement skills and the physical mentality of a safety. He takes aggressive, confident angles in zone, but also shows the feet and athleticism to play tight in man coverage.”

SECONDARY RATINGS: NOS. 9-10
Player School  Avg.   High   Low 
9. CB Lamarcus Joyner Florida State 58.8 39 117
10. S Deone Bucannon Washington State 61.2 39 101

Florida State’s CB Lamarcus Joyner and Washington State’s S Deone Bucannon will likely be selected on Day 2. Joyner (5’8”, 184) was unanimously named an All-American after converting from safety to cornerback and leading NCAA defensive backs with 5.5 sacks. Bucannon (6’1”, 211) excelled at the combine, ranking second among safeties in the broad jump (10’5”) and third in the 40-yard dash (4.49 sec), bench press (19 reps), vertical jump (36.5”) and three-cone drill (6.96 sec).

Other Notables: CB Bashaud Breeland (Clemson), CB Marcus Roberson (Florida), S Terrence Brooks (Florida State), CB Keith McGill (Utah), CB Pierre Desir (Lindenwood), CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska), CB Jaylen Watkins (Florida), CB Phillip Gaines (Rice)

Tuesday, April 8 — Quarterbacks

Thursday, April 10 — Running Backs

Tuesday, April 15 — Offensive Line

Friday, April 18 — Wide Receivers

Tuesday, April 22 — Tight Ends

Friday, April 25 — Defensive Line

Tuesday, April 30 — Linebackers

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