Although viewed by many draft pundits as this year’s top prospect, former Penn State running back Saquon Barkley will not likely be the first selection on April 26. But that doesn’t hold any weight for Barkley.
“I don’t care if I’m drafted 1, 5, 72 or the last pick,” he said at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. “I’m going to come in with my head low and ready to work. That’s not going to change me. Whatever team drafts me, you’re going to get the same person. You’re going to get a guy that’s a competitor and passionate about the game.”
The 6’0”, 233-pounder left Happy Valley as the Nittany Lions’ record holder in rushing touchdowns (43), total touchdowns (53) and all-purpose yards (5,538). The Coplay, PA native has drawn comparisons to Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott, both of whom were selected in the Top-10 in the previous three drafts.
“I had a scout, who’s closing in on retirement age, recently tell me he’s never seen a back with all of the traits Barkley has,” NFL Network’s Kim Jones told Jets 360 at the Combine.
Barkley will likely be a top-five selection come April 26th and could even hear his named called as early as No. 2 to the crosstown Giants.
After Barkley, LSU’s Derrius Guice is a projected mid first-round selection along with Georgia back Sony Michel, who has been compared to the Saints’ Alvin Kamara, the 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year.
After the Jets’ No. 3 overall selection, their next pick is in the third round at No. 72, where Michel’s teammate Nick Chubb may still be on the board. Chubb is a strong rusher at 5’11”, 228 pounds and rushed for 4,769 yards and 44 touchdowns in four seasons for the Bulldogs.
Kamara was drafted in the third round last year as was Chiefs’ rookie back Kareem Hunt, who ran for 1,327 yards.
Other running backs that could be available in Rounds 3-5…
Kerryon Johnson, Auburn: Johnson started two years for the Tigers, but really emerged as Auburn’s main back in 2017 as he rushed for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns. The 5’11”, 213-pounder ranked ninth among power-five programs with an average of 115.9 yards per game.
Rashaad Penny, San Diego State: Known for his speed, Penny led the FBS in rushing yards in 2017 with 2,248 and all-purpose yards with 2,974 after taking over as the Aztecs’ starter. The 5’10”, 220-pounder became the first player in Mountain West history to win conference Offensive Player of the Year and Special Teams Player of the Year honors.
*Mark Walton, Miami (FL): *Walton burst on to the scene as a sophomore in 2016, rushing for 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns on 209 carries. The 5’10”, 202-pounder started the first four games of ’17 and ran for 428 yards with an average of 7.6 yards per carry before a season-ending ankle surgery.
*Kalen Ballage, Arizona State: *Somewhat of a late bloomer, Ballage only started one year for the Sun Devils, but rushed for a total of 1,984 yards and 27 touchdowns in four seasons. The 6’1”, 227-pounder is a big back and was one of the more impressive rushers in January’s Reese’s Senior Bowl.
*Akrum Wadley, Iowa: *Wadley, a Newark, NJ native, finished fifth in the Big Ten with 1,109 rushing yards in 2017 and became the 11th player in conference history with consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards on the ground and at least 25 receptions.
<span style="text-decoration: underline;">Wide Receivers
</span>If the Jets elect to add a pass catcher, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah thinks wide receiver is one of the deepest groups in this year’s class. Alabama’s Calvin Ridley sits atop almost all lists as he’s projected to go as early as No. 8 to the Bears. After that, it’s a difficult evaluation as most pundits don’t see eye-to-eye on the how to rank the next-best prospects.
“I’ve got them all jumbled together. It’s like a bit knot,” Jeremiah said. “That’s why I try to set them by big guys and little guys. It’s very tight. A guy like DJ Moore out of Maryland is one of my favorite players. I did him since I did my original top-50 and he’ll be in the top-50 when that comes around. DJ Chark from LSU is a great player. Explosive, can also return kicks.”
Courtland Sutton, one of the bigger receivers in the draft at 6’3”, 218 pounds, could also hear his name called in Round 1, as could Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk.
Names that could be available in Round 3-5 include…
*Michael Gallup, Colorado State: *Gallup is a reliable receiver as he recorded at least 100 yards in 11 of his final 18 games for the Rams. The 6’1”, 206-pounder began his collegiate career at Butler Community College before transferring to Colorado State, where he tallied 176 receptions for 2,685 yards and 21 touchdowns in two seasons.
DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State: One of this year’s best route runners, Hamilton holds the Nittany Lions record with 214 career receptions and is No. 2 in receiving yards with 2,842.
*Simmie Cobbs, Indiana: *Cobbs provides a big target as he’s 6’3”, 220 pounds and uses his basketball background to his advantage when the ball is in the air. Cobbs finished his Hoosiers career with 139 receptions, 1,990 yards and 12 touchdowns in three seasons.
*Antonio Callaway, Florida: *Callaway is a talented player with a troubled past as he had multiple run-ins with the law throughout his collegiate career and was suspended for the 2017 season. On the field, he was one of the Gators’ primary options from 2015-16 and recorded 89 receptions for 1,399 yards and seven scores.
*Auden Tate, Florida State: *Tate was a two-year starter for the Seminoles and hauled in 65 catches for 957 yards and 16 touchdowns. The 6’5”, 228-pounder uses his size to his advantage, but needs to work on route running at the next level.
<span style="text-decoration: underline;">Tight Ends
</span>The tight ends are an interesting group. The top three prospects are widely regarded as South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert, South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst and Penn State’s Mike Gesicki. However, most pundits rank them differently and one of those three prospects may be on the board when the Jets select in the third round.
Other names that could be available in Round 3-5 include…
*Mark Andrews, Oklahoma: *Known for his receiving prowess, Andrews was Baker Mayfield’s primary target in 2017 and hauled in 62 catches for 958 yards and eight touchdowns.
*Ian Thomas, Indiana: *Thomas only had three receptions at the FBS level entering 2017 and caught 28 passes for 404 yards and five touchdowns last season. The 6’4”, 259-pounder spent two years at Nassau Community College before transferring to Indiana, but has the physical tools to be an NFL starter.
*Dalton Schultz, Stanford: *Schultz played in head coach David Shaw’s pro-style offense that has produced multiple successful NFL tight ends including Zach Ertz, Coby Fleener, Levine Toilolo and Austin Hooper. Schultz didn’t see a lot of balls thrown his way as the Cardinal are a run-first team, but he finished his career with 55 receptions for 555 yards and five touchdowns.
*Tyler Conklin, Central Michigan: *Conklin lined up as an inline blocker, out wide and in the backfield for the Chippewas. The 6’3”, 254-pounder has a basketball background and his strength is as a receiver. He reeled in 83 passes for 1,159 yards and 11 touchdowns in three seasons.
*Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin: *A two-year starter for the Badgers, Fumagalli led the team in catches in 2016-17 with 47 and 46. He finished his career with 135 catches for 1,627 yards and seven touchdowns.
2018 Combine Workout in Photos - Tight Ends
Best Snapshots of the Tight End Workouts at the NFL Combine