- This is the next in a series of features on the 2017 NFL Draft. Today's position: Wide receivers. The Jets' roster synopsis is followed by five players considered top candidates in the deep middle:
*Will the Jets turn to wide receiver early in next week's draft?
On the one hand, the Green & White unit seems well-stocked for the near future. Brandon Marshall is gone, not far, to the Giants, but Eric Decker returns after his first two seasons with the Jets went well in 2014-15. Quincy Enunwa (team receiving highs of 857 yards and four touchdowns) had periods when he looked dynamic.
Robby Anderson (42 catches, 587 yards, two TDs) was one of the NFL's top rookie free agent wideouts. Charone Peake and Jalin Marshall showed the ability to make big plays on the pro level. Devin Smith still has great speed and potential.
On the other hand, Decker is coming back from his in-season hip and shoulder surgeries. Marshall will miss the first four games under league suspension. Smith needs a season of great health to realize that potential. All the young players need to add consistency to their individual arsenals. All need to quickly develop chemistry with the starting QB, whoever that will be.
So maybe the Jets are interested in the position. But how high or low in the draft?
Five Top Wide Receivers in the Draft
MIKE WILLIAMS, CLEMSONDeshaun Watson is one of the top QB names in this year's draft, and one reason among many for that was the play of Williams (6'4", 218), who came back from his 2015 opening-day neck fracture to post 84 receptions for 1,171 yards and 10 touchdowns for the national-champion Tigers. His speed is not blistering (around 4.55 in the 40 at his pro day) and his route-running needs polish, according to scouts. But he has outstanding size, wingspan (33 3/8" arm length) and red zone potential to be possibly the first WR taken, maybe even in the top 10, on April 27.
JOHN ROSS, WASHINGTONRoss (5'11", 188) rocked the Combine with his 4.22-second 40, surpassing Chris Johnson's 4.24 in 2008 as the fastest in the electronic-timing era. That coupled with his 17 TD catches last year, his redshirt junior season, has earned him All-Pac 12 honors and a spot in the middle of many first-round mocks. He might have been mocked higher except for his surgery history — two knees and a shoulder — but draft analysts think that with extended health he could be the next DeSean Jackson.
COREY DAVIS, WESTERN MICHIGANDavis (6'3", 209) is the third of this year's wideout big three. His outstanding four-year production for WMU says as much — his 5,285 career receiving yards (on 331 catches for a 15.9 average and 52 TDs) set the major-college record. And his senior season for the Broncos — 97 catches for 1,500 yards and 19 TDs, all career highs — earned him MAC Offensive Player of the Year honors. Level of competition will be mentioned, but he's got the production, competitiveness and route skills to earn to earn a preliminary comparison to Eric Decker.
ZAY JONES, EAST CAROLINAOh, Zay, can you see a superb family tree? Jones' father Robert was the Cowboys' three-time Super Bowl-winning MLB and his uncle Jeff Blake was an NFL quarterback for 14 seasons (starting out with the Jets). That will only get you so far in the pros, but Jones (6'2", 201) also has crazy production — last year he set the NCAA single-season record with 158 catches (for 1,746 yards and eight TDs) and the career record with 399 catches. He also stood out at the Combine in the broad jump and in both shuttles but his 4.45 in the 40 was not blinding.
JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER, SOUTHERN CAL / CURTIS SAMUEL, OHIO STATEWe cheated by giving you a 5A and 5B, but Schuster (6'1", 215) and Samuel (5'11", 196) both have come in near each other in the mid to low second round. Samuel, a Brooklyn native, is smaller and faster — his 4.31 in the 40 was the second-fastest behind Ross among WRs and third-fastest among all Combine participants. He was an H-back for the Buckeyes who could become a versatile wideout in the NFL. Schuster has been called the most physical receiver in the draft. His 4.54 speed doesn't impress but he's got pro work ethic and toughness, as when he played through a broken hand plus a surgery in 2015 and missed no time in his 89-catch year for the Trojans.