With questions at quarterback and on offense for the Jets, no one is really thinking about the defense, which not only held their 2013 season together on several occasions but ranked among the league's elite. Despite that, if we learned anything from the Seattle Seahawks' victory in Super Bowl XLVIII, it's that defense wins championships, and you can never have enough corners and pass rushers.
Here are some more early-, mid- and late-round options at several perceived positions of need for the Green & White coming out of the combine. Today: QB, OLB and CB. Tuesday: WR, TE, RB and G.
Early: The needs of the teams in the first 10 picks could push as many as five QBs off the board, so if the Jets ARE looking for another QB, it's probably not going to be before the second or third round.
Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo (6'2", 226) has impressed throughout the postseason, first with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl and then at Indy. He threw very well and showed pretty good arm strength as well as good agility and footwork in drills. He was also very impressive in the combine interviews. In the age of the rookie cap, where it doesn't hurt a team to take a shot at a guy to see if he works out, Garoppolo doesn't seem like a bad option at this point.
Mid: Aaron Murray of Georgia still has some healing to do from his ACL tear, but word is he'll be ready to throw for scouts by April. Great toughness, football IQ, experience, poise and production should all outweigh a lack of ideal height (6'0", 207), especially at this point in the draft. He didn't work at the combine, but if he shows well in April's workout, we feel he's a better option than those mid-round prospects who did. Several SEC DBs interviewed recently named Murray as the most impressive QB they faced this season.
Late:** Based on pure athletic ability and physical tools, it will be hard to pass on Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas if he's still on the board in Round 6 or 7. At 6'6" and nearly 250 pounds, he ran a 4.6, jumped 35½" in the vertical, and had a 9'8" broad jump. He runs with speed and toughness and has a strong arm with a very quick release. Technique and decision-making need a lot more focus, but the tools are there for a team that wants to work with him.
Early: If the Jets go this route, it should be for a pass rusher to complement the great inside push they get from their outstanding D-line. We've been advocating for an edge pass rusher for the Green & White for several years.
The big names like Mack, Mosley and Barr will likely be gone by the Jets' first-round pick, and players like BYU's Van Noy and Ohio State's Shazier are not true pass rushers. However, Trent Murphy (6'5", 250) of Stanford, despite average numbers at the combine in terms of speed and explosiveness, made 83 plays behind the line of scrimmage through sheer toughness and hard work.
Mid: With 23 bench reps, a 37½" vertical, and a 10'2" broad jump at 250 pounds, Arizona State's Carl Bradford showed some explosiveness at the combine, which matched his game tape. A fiery competitor who excels at getting to the QB, he had 22 sacks over the last two seasons. Scouts point out his physical shortcomings (6'1", 250, 4.76 speed), and some maturity issues, but he's got a quick burst off the ball and a full complement of pass rush moves. Allowed to do what he does best, he could flourish in the right scheme.
Late: A Division II prospect from Shepherd University in West Virginia is raising eyebrows after a strong combine lent credence to a prolific college career. Howard Jones (6'2", 235) ran a 4.60 40 (though he's been timed unofficially as fast as 4.3), and turned in 21 bench reps, a 40½" vertical, and a 10'3" broad jump in Indy. He is raw, but he has played a lot and can get to the QB, which should give him a chance to get on the field early in his NFL career.
Early: Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert is a ballhawk who can play press or off man coverage, and he put on a show at the combine. Besides a stellar 4.3 40, his 20 reps on the bench, 35½" vertical, 10'5" broad jump and sub-7.0 three-cone drill showed off his great athleticism. He's also a game-changing return man.
Current mocks have all the top corners available to the Jets at the 18th spot, and if the 6'0" Gilbert is there, it would be hard to argue against the Jets selecting him, especially given the depth of the WR class in this draft.
Mid: Antone Exum of Virginia Tech has a safety's build (6'0", 213) and the versatility to play just about anywhere in the secondary, which is critical in today's NFL. He's had an injury history (ACL and sprained ankle as a senior), so he will have to check out medically, but his 4.59 in the 40 in Indianapolis was a good early step toward easing any concerns teams may have had. This guy is tough, physical and smart (degree in finance and working on second degree in marketing) and if healthy would be a great value pick in the middle rounds.
Late: Phillip Gaines of Rice is another 6-foot corner who ran a 4.38 in Indy. He also recorded a 36½" vertical and eclipsed the 10'0" mark in the broad jump. Those are impressive numbers for a developmental corner who knocked down 38 passes last year for the Owls.