There's no time like the present to predict the future. That's why newyorkjets.com will be keeping an eye on a variety of mock drafts from around the World Wide Web as we slowly but surely approach the 2014 NFL Draft on May 8. At least until we get much closer to that date, we'll be focusing on who the draft analysts believe we could be taking in the first round.
Of the six teams that finished 8-8, only the Miami Dolphins had a tougher strength of schedule than we did. Since that's the tiebreaker, the Jets are left with the 18th-overall pick. Since 2000, some notable selections from that draft slot include former Jets QB Chad Pennington ('00), current Jets LB Calvin Pace ('03), and reigning Super Bowl MVP QB Joe Flacco ('08). Clearly there will still be some excellent talent when the Green & White are on the clock in Round 1.
So what positions generally and which players specifically might Jets Nation expect to cheer (or boo) come draft day? Here's the first round of insight about our future first-round selection:
"Several receivers enjoyed better 2013 seasons," Brooks wrote, "but the memory of Lee dominating the Pac-12 for two full seasons could prompt the Jets to pull the trigger on the explosive playmaker."
NFL.com's Matt Smith didn't see Lee making it past the St. Louis Rams at No. 13. Still, he sees the Jets going that same direction with Texas A&M WR Mike Evans.
"It's been a long time since they had a No. 1 receiver on Gang Green," Smith wrote. "Evans is a bit raw, but still a huge target that Geno Smith can throw a ball up for and he'll go get it."
With tight ends Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow possibly becoming unrestricted free agents, wide receiver might not be our biggest offensive void come draft time. North Carolina TE Eric Ebron or, if he's taken, Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro could be viable solutions, according to Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com and Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke.
"Geno Smith certainly took his lumps as a rookie," Rang wrote, "but considering the weapons surrounding him, his struggles aren't surprising and he appears likely to return as the Jets' starter in 2014. The Jets have invested heavily in receivers with less than inspiring results. Adding a legitimate mismatch in the incredibly athletic Ebron makes more sense given the conservative offense head coach Rex Ryan prefers."
"The Jets," Burke wrote, "would love to nab one of the top three receivers in this draft — on paper, [Sammy] Watkins, Evans or Lee. Short of that, they could turn their focus to one of the two new-breed tight ends: Ebron or Amaro. With Ebron off the board [to the Buffalo Bills at No. 9], the Jets here nab Texas Tech's standout. Amaro bamboozled defenses as a matchup problem all season, and Geno Smith would learn quickly to love him as a target."
Not everyone's prediction was skill-position-centric though. Peter Schrager of Fox Sports, for instance, sees the Jets going with UCLA guard Xavier Su'a Filo.
Admittedly, "Jets fans may cringe at the thought of a big offensive guard being the pick over a wide receiver," he wrote, "but the Jets' interior offensive line is in as much need as the wideout spot. I've seen Su'a Filo, the 305-pound road-paver, slotted as a third- or fourth-round pick on some lists. Nonsense. If he's not the top offensive guard in this draft, he's right up there as No. 2, a bit behind Stanford's David Yankey. The man can run-block. Toss on the tape. I can't get enough."
Finally, NFL.com's Charles Davis stands alone among our limited sample size in thinking that the Jets will use their first-round selection on defense for the sixth year in a row.
"The Jets' defensive line is very good," he wrote, "but they could use some playmakers on the edges." His mid-January prediction? OLB Ryan Shazier out of Ohio State.