By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
Now that the NFL Scouting Combine is over and free agency is on the horizon, I figured it was time to do an updated mock draft. Rosters are sure to change between now and the draft as teams race to fill their needs in order to be able to pick the best player available as opposed to reaching for needs in the draft, but we are left in the dark as to what those changes will be at this point in time.
There is still an air of uncertainty surrounding what the New York Jets are planning to do with their in-house free agents or in the overall market. On top of that, to put it lightly, the team seems to be in a bit of a bind as far as the salary cap goes, and there is no accurate way to predict who will be cut or restructured, as well as what happens once the flood gates open next week.
With all of that in mind, I am going to work under the assumption that the Jets will have the same needs come draft day for the purposes of this mock draft. To do otherwise would be pure guess work and deciding on draft picks is more than enough to speculate on in one sitting.
I ended up going heavy on the defense in the first three rounds of my pre-combine mock, using a predicted BPA strategy, so I decided to attempt to focus more on the offense this time, although I am going to try to stick with BPA at positions of need as much as possible.
So here goes nothing:
ROUND 1 PICK 20: PAXTON LYNCH – QB – MEMPHIS – 6’7/244
With the Ryan Fitzpatrick contract situation still up in the air, and the ridiculous contracts being given out to mediocre quarterbacks, it no longer seems like a certainty that FitzMagic will be back in 2016. And even if he is, it will likely be on a short-term deal, so keeping an eye on the future at the position is a good idea.
By choosing Paxton Lynch, the Jets are possibly getting the franchise quarterback they have been seeking for decades. There is still debate as to what order the big three QB’s in this draft will go, but most draftniks have him being available in the bottom third of the first, so the Jets are quite fortunate that he is there for the taking.
Standing in at 6’7 244 pounds, Lynch has the size to go along with the skillset and athleticism to be successful as a professional signal caller. Impressively agile for a guy of his height, Paxton moves fluidly as he maneuvers his way around the pocket, buying his receivers time to get open. Once he sees an open target, Paxton sets and fires with a quick release, accurately delivering the ball with authority.
Once he gets to the NFL, Lynch will need to do some work on his timing, touch and anticipation, and although it would serve him well to learn from the sideline for a year, he has the potential to compete for the starting job from day one. And once he does adapt to the step up in competition, there is no telling how high his ceiling can be.
ROUND 2 PICK 51: XAVIEN HOWARD – CB – BAYLOR – 6’0/201
Now that Antonio Cromartie has been let go, it looks as if Marcus Williams has the inside track on the starting RCB position on the Jets’ defense. Buster Skrine will likely stay in his nickel role where he excels. After that, they have the highly talented, but oft-injured Dee Milliner and Dexter McDougle, who has a lot of talent but is probably better suited for nickel and dime packages.
In a pass-happy league, you can never have enough quality CB’s. On top of that, Darrelle Revis is not getting any younger and there is uncertainty with the depth at the position. They can certainly use another corner with the size and physicality to work against the league’s more physical receivers and Xavien Howard would certainly fit into that category.
Gaining a lot of experience lining up in man coverage against the opposition’s top receivers, Howard has proven that he has the agility and acceleration as well as the toughness to play press coverage on the next level. He is incredibly skilled at using his arms to redirect receivers towards the sideline and has the ball-hawking skills to make the big play.
Xavien will need to learn where to draw the line with his physical play on the next level in order to avoid excessive flags being thrown his way. He also needs to work on his anticipation of cuts by smaller, speedier receivers, so that he is not left behind in coverage. But if there is anyone that can help him learn the finer points of being a shutdown corner, it would be Darrelle Revis.
ROUND 3 PICK 83: PAUL PERKINS – HB – UCLA – 5’10/208
As of right now, the Jets are looking at going into the 2016 season with Zac Stacy and Dominique Williams as their starting halfbacks. That is quite a scary scenario, unless they are able to bring back Chris Ivory and/or Bilal Powell. Since we do not know what will happen with those two it appears that the Jets will need help at the position.
Paul Perkins could step in right away and compete for the starting job, especially if his competition is Stacy and Williams. Judging by his skillset, Perkins would be able to bring the Jets everything Bilal Powell has given them, and then some.
Blessed with the vision and patience to find openings in the defense, Perkins also has the agility to change direction quickly and the giddy up to promptly get to the second level and beyond. He also runs with more power than his size would dictate, displaying the ability to shed arm tackles. Additionally, Paul possesses great hands as a receiver, along with the ability to gain significant yards after the catch.
Perkins will need some work as a blocker on the NFL level in order to be able to stay on the field on third downs, but he has demonstrated the toughness to square up against linebackers in pass protection.
On a separate note, the last time the Jets drafted a halfback who wore number 24 for UCLA it turned out pretty well. If Perkins could give the Jets anywhere near what Freeman McNeil gave them in the 80’s, this will be a major steal in the 3rd round.
ROUND 4 PICK 119: YANNICK NGAKOUE – OLB – MARYLAND – 6’2/252
Whether or not the Jets bring Calvin Pace back for a ninth season in the green and white, the team will need to find a long-term solution at the starting OLB spot opposite Lorenzo Mauldin. Finding one with pass rushing abilities would be preferred and that should be possible on the third day of the draft, given the depth on the defensive side of the ball this year.
The addition of Yannick Ngakoue of Maryland would give the Jets a young pass rushing threat at both OLB spots. Viewed as a prototypical pass rusher, Ngakoue is a powerfully built physical specimen with the explosion, agility and hand technique needed to make his way through the offensive line, along with the dogged determination to get to the quarterback.
Yannick has also shown the ability to set the edge against the run, although he does need to rely less on his pure power and more on his footwork and agility in order to shed blockers in the run game on the NFL level. In addition, he will need to gain more experience as a stand-up rusher as he spent the majority of his time in the Maryland defense in a three-point stance.
Armed with the physical tools and willingness to learn, Ngakoue is certainly capable of taking the next step as a professional, giving the Jets a dynamic duo at the OLB position for years to come.
ROUND 5 PICK 157: BRANDON SHELL – OT – SOUTH CAROLINA – 6’5/324
Due to the inconsistent play by Breno Giacomini in his two years with the Jets, searching for an upgrade at the RT position is a logical decision. When you add in the Jets’ salary cap situation and Breno’s contract, it is possible that Giacomini will be sent packing. Even if he stays around, the Jets need to bring in some competition for him.
It is true that the team is high on Brent Qvale and they have stated that he is a possibility to take over at either tackle spot. With D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s astronomical contract, and his diminished effectiveness, the Jets may look to put Qvale at LT in the next couple of years. That would open the door for the team to select someone at RT in the draft.
The great nephew of Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Shell, Brandon is a monster of a man with massive power throughout his enormous frame. He is an incredibly strong run blocker with the ability to reach defenders on the second level. Once he reaches the linebackers, he utilizes his size to engulf them and free up his running back to get extra yards.
Shell also effectively uses his arms to thwart speed rushers and his power to hold up bull rushers. He does however need to learn to get into position quicker to avoid taking false start penalties from trying to compensate for speed off the edge.
Brandon will need a lot of work with his technique on the NFL level, but if given the proper tutelage, he can become a solid starting right tackle in the league. With the unpredictable Giacomini currently manning the position, along with the uncertainty that he will even be on the roster going forward, there is a chance Shell could compete for a starting job right away.
ROUND 7 PICK 239: VINCENT VALENTINE – NT – NEBRASKA – 6’4/329
Given the Jets’ current salary cap situation, and the fact that Damon Harrison is due for a big payday, it is quite possible that the team will be looking for a new NT in 2016. I just cannot see how they can possibly find a way to fit him under the cap, especially given all of the other needs the team has and the abundance of money already invested in the defensive line.
With Deon Simon as the team’s only true NT under contract, the Jets will at least need to bring someone in to compete and split reps with him. And although the 6’4, 332-pound powerhouse has a year of NFL coaching under his belt, there is no guarantee that he is their answer at the position.
Although he could have benefitted from another year at Nebraska to improve his draft position, Vincent Valentine could be a great developmental pickup in the 7th round of the draft. Due to a knee injury and high ankle sprain that limited him to seven starts with 10 tackles, four for loss, and three sacks in 2015, Vincent has seen his stock plummet.
However, during his sophomore season in 2014, the big man recorded 45 tackles, seven for loss, and three sacks. He also had 21 tackles, five for loss and a sack in six starts as a redshirt freshman in 2013.
Extremely powerful, especially in his lower body, Valentine has displayed the ability to consistently take on double teams and easily discard blockers who face him one-on-one. Always keeping his eyes on the ball, Vincent has surprising agility for a behemoth and incredible reaction time when it comes to locating the ball carrier and taking him down as he tries to pass by.
Like most players of his size, Vincent needs to work on his conditioning and add more muscle to his frame. He will surely benefit from an NFL strength program. Valentine also needs to work on his hand placement when attempting to shed blocks against NFL-caliber offensive linemen.
It goes without saying that he has some work to do in refining his game on the professional level, but the Jets could do much worse in the final round of the draft and he could come in and immediately compete for playing time with last year’s 7th round pick, Deon Simon.