This is the seventh and last in a series of position-by-position stories on the NFL Draft by newyorkjets.com.
The Jets' passing attack will have a completely new look next season. Brett Favre vacated the quarterback position and two of the team's longest-tenured targets — WR Laveranues Coles and TE Chris Baker — departed in free agency.
Jerricho Cotchery, whose 71 receptions and 858 receiving yards led the Jets in 2008, will start once again, but there is a big question mark opposite J-Co. Chansi Stuckey, coming off a 32-catch campaign, David Clowney, a burner who flashed last summer but has only one career reception, and veteran utility man Brad Smith all return.
"We have a lot of guys who can make plays,'' Cotchery says. "I think collectively we can get it done. We have a good group.''
It would be an upset if the Jets didn't add to that group very early in the draft and that could be addressed with their first-round pick, No. 17 overall. Last April the Jets surprised many in the football world and moved up into the opening round to grab Purdue TE Dustin Keller with the 30th selection.
The athletic Keller didn't disappoint in his first pro season, catching 48 passes for 535 yards and adding three TDs. So from a pure receiving standpoint, the Green & White won't be tremendously hurt by Bake's departure. But the 6'3", 258-pound Michigan State product, whom the Jets took in the third round in 2002, was a consistent contributor in the run game.
The WR Class
Once thought to be a lock for a top-five selection and the top wide receiver selected overall, Michael Crabtree was slowed by injury this spring. Crabtree, a 6'2", 215-pound Texas Tech standout, had a slight stress fracture in his left foot and missed both the combine and his pro day, opting for surgery instead.
So teams will have to review video on Crabtree and that might not be such a bad thing for the record-breaker. Last season he totaled 97 receptions and 19 of them went for scores. As a freshman, Crabtree's numbers were absolutely ludicrous — 134 catches, 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns. So after just two seasons of college football, this guy hauled in a college-record 231 passes.
Crabtree's seemingly got all the desired traits of a great one — competitiveness, hands, body control, physicality — but some people question his top-end speed. You can't question the production, though, and Crabtree could be a star (more than a couple of people have compared him to Larry Fitzgerald) on the next level.
If there is one receiver who could vault ahead of Crabtree in the opening round, it's Jeremy Maclin. At Missouri, the 6'0", 198-pound Maclin lined up at various positions and wreaked havoc all over the field. Also a returner at Mizzou, he averaged 202 all-purpose yards with the Tigers. And in just 28 games, he scored 32 touchdowns.
"Every time I touch the ball, I look for the end zone," he said in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "So that's something I feel I can do, whether it be receiving, running, kick returns or punt returns. I definitely look to change the game. I consider myself a game-changer."
Last season Maclin gained 1,260 yards on his 102 receptions and had 10 receiving TDs. Even though he wasn't satisfied with his 40 times in the spring (in the 4.4 range), he has proven to be an explosive game-breaker.
If you've paid close attention to the mock drafts, you know a lot of pundits have pegged Florida WR Percy Harvin for the Jets with that 17th selection. But Harvin, a world-class athlete, is 5'11" and played in Urban Meyer's spread option attack.
More of a runner than a receiver at UF, Harvin rushed for 1,929 yards as a Gator and added 1,852 yards in the receiving department. Despite carrying only 192 pounds, he has no problem with contact and also had a nice showing on the bench (22 reps of 225 pounds) at his pro day.
When the Gators toppled the Oklahoma Sooners in the BCS Championship Game in January, Harvin scored once and registered 171 total yards.
"Percy is the most dynamic player I've ever coached and can change the game on any given play," Meyer said after Harvin declared for the draft following his junior campaign. "He has the best first step I've ever seen and his ability to plant his foot and go is unmatched."
With apologies to Ty Lawson, nobody had better hands in Chapel Hill, N.C., last year than North Carolina receiver Hakeem Nicks. Just take a look at this incredible catch he made against West Virginia during the Meineke Car Bowl.
Nicks (6'1", 210) set school career marks with 181 receptions, 2,580 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns. He saved his best performance for last, grabbing eight passes against the Mountaineers for 217 yards. Despite Nicks accounting for three touchdowns, the Tar Heels fell in one of the season's most exciting bowl games.
A tough receiver who will make defenses pay with YAC, Nicks weighed in 14 pounds heavier at UNC's pro day than he did at the combine. We'll have to see how that affects his draft status in a couple of weeks.
Darrius Heyward-Beyis probably fastest man in the entire draft. According to the school's Website, DHB was timed at 4.23 in the 40-yard dash back in 2003. And in February he was clocked at 4.30 at the combine.
At 6'2" and 210 pounds, Heyward-Bey has a size/speed combo that scouts crave. Over his three-year career in College Park, Hey-Bey averaged 46 receptions, 696 yards and four receiving TDs.
Teams will obviously view this Terrapin as a deep threat, but how will his intermediate game develop on the next level?
Local product Kenny Britt should go either late in Round 1 or early in Round 2. Britt, whose hometown is Bayonne, N.J., became the Big East's all-time leading receiver (3,043 yards) while at Rutgers. He also had 14 career 100-yard receiving games for the Scarlet Knights.
TE: Pettigrew Can Grow on You
Brandon Pettigrew is almost the perfect NFL tight end candidate. He's got fine size at 6'5" and 263 pounds and has the frame to get even bigger. And he uses his size, strength and athleticism to block effectively, as demonstrated most recently during Senior Bowl week.
Then there's the receiving skills. His career numbers for the Cowboys weren't a revelation (112 receptions, 1,450 yards, nine TDs) but a 2008 ankle injury kept his senior stats down (no TDs). He's got the target size, soft hands and YAC-ability that many pro offenses crave in their TE.
We say almost perfect because Pettigrew doesn't have phenomenal speed — he had a best 40 time of 4.80 at the combine. And he was charged with felony assault and battery of a police officer and public intoxication in January 2008.
But he's got the positives that have many mock drafters pegging him for a low-first-round selection. "He's one of my favorite players in the draft," says NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock.
Among the other TEs who could come off the board on day one, Missouri's Chase Coffman has fine size (6'6", 244) and pedigree (former Packers TE Paul Coffman is his dad) but has yet to work out due to a broken foot suffered at the Alamo Bowl. And James Casey (6'3", 246) of Rice is a phenomenal athlete — he was a star scholastic QB and a Chicago White Sox draft pick out of high school, and he lined up at seven positions in one game for the Owls in 2007.