These are changing times for the New York Jets. The Green & White have made a plethora of offseason of moves and one of the organization's most vital weekends — the NFL Draft — is now just three weeks away.
"We've always stated this is to build through the college draft process, but I think we were very — to a certain degree — prudent in our approach and tried to find good value and good investments," said GM Mike Maccagnan recently after the initial free agency waves. "We didn't want to mortgage the future with a lot of players. We targeted certain types of players and felt good about adding those players and this is a continual process building this thing going forward."
With the Jets owning the No. 6 overall selection and four picks in the Draft's first three rounds, the Green & White have the opportunity to find multiple impact players in a deep class who can help this team immediately. Todd Bowles, who said at the NFL Owners Meetings that expectations remain high inside the building, is embracing the work ahead with a youthful roster.
"As a coach, you don't rebuild, you just build," he said.
With the Draft around the corner, we examine the position groups as they stand today. We start with the offense….
The strength of this unit lies in the guards. Maccagnan kept Brian Winters off the market with an extension and the Jets are in good shape with him at RG and James Carpenter, the team's most consistent lineman, at LG. After a long Nick Mangold run at center, Wesley Johnson could be in line to take over in the middle. Bowles said Johnson was tough, intelligent, great in the run game and got better as the year progressed after taking over for the injured Mangold. Newcomer Kelvin Beachum joins a tackle trio that includes second-year player Brandon Shell and veteran Ben Ijalana. Bowles said Shell is a right tackle right now, Ijalana has experience at both spots and Beachum has primarily played LT throughout his career. Maccagnan added some depth up front with the addition of Jonotthan Harrison, a 25-year-old who has 23 career starts on his resume. It's a young group with Carpenter being the elder statesmen at 28.
The Jets added a fifth TE to the roster Thursday, inking former Chief Brian Parker to a deal. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who will be eligible to participate in all offseason and training camp practices, along with preseason games, will serve a two-game suspension to start the season. This is one of the deepest TE classes in recent memory featuring the likes of O.J. Howard (Alabama), David Njoku (Miami) and Evan Engram (Mississippi). The Jets emphasized getting the ball to their wide receivers the past two seasons and used the tight ends primarily as inline blockers, but John Morton is calling the shots now and Brandon Marshall is no longer on the roster. Maccagnan has said he would like to add a pass-catching TE to the mix and he could add an intriguing talent on Draft weekend.
Bowles knew Bilal Powell was tough and a good complementary back, but his play down the stretch proved to the head coach that he could be the guy. Powell, who set a personnel best with 1,100 yards from scrimmage, and Matt Forte (1,076) became the only pair of RBs last season to each record 1,000 scrimmage yards. With the No. 6 overall pick, the Jets could be in a fascinating positon if Leonard Fournette is on the board. The LSU back could be an attractive option or some teams might be interesting in moving up to grab a potential game-changer. Maccagnan has expressed his desire to acquire more picks and that he's open for business. This is an extremely deep RB class including players like Christian McCaffrey (Stanford), Dalvin Cook (Florida State) and Alvin Kamara (Tennessee).
With Marshall joining New York's NFC representative and Eric Decker recovering from offseason hip and shoulder surgeries, the focus will be on the young guns this spring. Much like Powell, Quincy Enunwa has become an igniter who has the ability to energize the entire team. He is a physical force who can out-muscle DBs and he's dangerous running after the catch. Former second-round pick Devin Smith is a talented receiver who has battled injuries and will look for a fresh start. This will be an important spring for a player who was one of the nation's top vertical threats at Ohio State. Speedster Robby Anderson had 42 receptions in Year 1 and former 49er Quinton Patton is 26, joining the Jets after setting career highs with 37 receptions and 408 yards receiving. Charone Peake, a seventh-round pick from Clemson, had 19 catches as a rookie. Jalin Marshall will get reps, but he's facing a four-game suspension. This is a young group who could get even younger in a few weeks.
As Maccagnan says, all options remain on the table. Bowles said the Jets could select a QB with the No. 6 overall selection and he could be the team's opening-day starter. Josh McCown is the consummate professional who worked with QB coach Jeremy Bates in Chicago. The redshirt is off Christian Hackenberg and he'll have an opportunity to win the job. Bryce Petty will be returning from offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. While opinions are mixed on who the top signal caller is in this class, there could be as many as four quarterbacks taken in the first round.