Round one wide receiver options
We’re just eight days away from the NFL draft, which means we are well into what is commonly called silly season.
Silly season is when the draft conversation transitions from simple speculation based on actual player evaluations into a whole lot of nonsense and misinformation. It’s when you start seeing people say Tom Savage should/could get drafted before Teddy Bridgewater. It means, since it’s Wednesday, Jadeveon Clowney will be an outright bust but, tomorrow he’ll be talked about as the next Lawrence Taylor and the obvious first overall pick.
Of course that Clowney narrative has been going on since he was seen gasping for air during his first game of the season last year, but the point remains when you see talk of A.J. McCarron saying he believes he could get drafted as high as number 16. (By the Cowboys who have numerous holes and are paying Tony Romo crazy money. I’m not doubting Jerry Jones would make a bold move at 16, maybe he would take a quarterback, but certainly not McCarron.)
Silly season usually starts about two weeks before the draft, but it got a head start this year since they pushed the draft back a couple of weeks. I mostly checked out of following any draft conversation on Twitter as soon as I saw the talk of Savage going before Bridgewater (I don’t think it will happen, but just like the rest of us NFL executives make terrible decisions too sometimes and if it does I’m going to laugh and laugh and never stop laughing at the team that makes such a silly mistake), I wasn’t about to subject myself to over a month of this type of nonsense.
So, I just focused my attention to study game film/cut-ups of players for my own personal rankings. The one good thing about the draft being pushed back is it gave me extra time to study all these players, which I needed because good lord this draft is deep, but I still didn’t have enough time to do my rankings then do write-ups on said rankings then also write about specific Jets targets in each round.
Instead I decided I would just breakdown the draft options of each position by rounds. We’ll start with round one receiving options, then round one tight end options, round one defensive back options and then round one wildcard options. After that I’ll move into round two, then three and so on and so forth. Since everyone, including me expects the Jets to draft at least two, maybe even three if they keep all 12 picks, receivers I’ll do a separate article for just receivers in every round, but as we get into the later rounds the rest of the positions will get grouped together.
My Top Five Receivers that will, or would if they were to fall to 18, be considered by the Jets
1) Sammy Watkins – Explosive play-maker, electric with the ball in his hands, solid and smooth route runner. Does an excellent job of setting up defenders mid route and positioning himself between the defender and the ball in the air. Great instincts to feel soft spots in the defense and find open lanes, extremely dangerous once the ball is in his heads. Of course there’s no way he makes it out of the top five let alone to 18 and while the Jets would love to get him they aren’t going to pay the price in draft picks to trade up for him.
2) Mike Evans – As great as Watkins is, and he is great, he’s weakness is he’s isn’t 6′4″-6′-5″ and isn’t a powerhouse pyhsically and at 6′5″ 231 Evans is exactly that. I’d listen to an argument for ranking Evans as 1 A and I’d understand if certain teams preferred Evans to Watkins because of his size and ability to go get the ball in the air, some teams will likely prefer Evans just based off the height difference. He’s strong and physical enough to handle press coverage, excels at winning jump balls as he attacks the ball in air and he is pretty damn fast especially considering his size, but he does need to improve his route running ability by running crisper and cleaner routes.
I think both these receivers can be special, I just think Watkins is a tad more dynamic and can beat defenses in more ways. Still the Jets would be thrilled to get Evans, but just like Watkins there’s no shot. Evans won’t make it out of the top 10 and the Jets won’t trade up that high either.
3) Odell Beckham Jr. – Now we’re in the realm of possibility, however a month ago I would have told you Beckham was certainly going to be available at 18 and now it appears the rest of the media is catching on to the fact that Beckham might not be on the level of Watkins or Evans, but he’s special in his own right and there’s a decent chance he’s off the board by the time the Jets pick. You never want to read too much into mock drafts, but I’ve been seeing a lot of mocks having the Steelers, at 15, taking Beckham and after they lost Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders in back-to-back years it makes too much sense to rule out as a possibility.
The word that comes to mind when looking at Beckham’s game tape is smooth, so damn smooth. Beckham has great burst and effortlessly works his way to 4.43 speed. He’s a fluid route runner with great footwork and timing and multiple moves he uses to set up and beat defenders. He has great vision to find open lanes in the secondary. Natural hands, does a nice job of snatching the ball at the optimal point, much larger catch radius than your average 5′11″ receiver, and makes catches in stride giving him the ability to continually push the ball up field as soon as it touches his hands.
Beckham can run all the routes in the tree and line up in any of the receiver slots, if the Jets are going to take a receiver at 18, it ought to be Beckham if he’s still available. Like Watkins, Beckham lacks the ideal height, only 5′11″, and physicality, but he is tough and a playmaker who is extremely sound fundamentally.
4) Brandin Cooks – Remember how some people were thinking/hoping to see a team draft both Geno Smith and Tavon Austin last year? Obviously the Rams destroyed that fun, but if the Jets liked the idea of adding Austin, and they certainly did, they should be just as, if not more interested in drafting Cooks, who is essentially a ever so slightly bigger and faster version of Austin. Cooks was the fastest receiver at the combine posting a 4.33 40 and 6.76 in the three-cone drill and he looks every bit as fast when you watch him play.
The one difference I’ll point out when it comes to comparing the draft value of the two is Austin was the top receiver in an incredibly weak receiving class whereas Cooks is around the fourth best receiver in the deepest receiver class ever.
Blazing fast, quick-twitch athlete, shifty and certainly possesses the ability to make defenders miss (“Shake and bake!”), smooth route runner, good hands and makes excellent adjustments on the ball mid air. Get the ball in hands in space and he will make big things happen, natural playmaker and will often play bigger than his 5′10″ frame would suggest.
Still as great as he is at what he does, he is limited. He won’t win many jump balls and will have to sneak past the secondary unnoticed to beat defenses over the top otherwise it’ll be too risky for a quarterback to try and find him deep just so a defender can use their length advantage to make up ground and knock the ball out of the air.
5) Marquise Lee – Lee is overflowing with talent and potential, smooth route runner with different moves to set up and beat defenders and does a great job racking up extra yards after the catch. Shifty with a great burst and very quick change of direction ability. Lee has great hands and eyes, exceptional ability to track the ball in the air and go up and get it when necessary. Only 6′0″, but plays taller as he wins at the point of attack more often than other 6′0″ receivers as well as makes the tough catch in traffic. Also important to note that he had zero help from his quarterbacks during his time at USC.
As great as all that sounds I personally wouldn’t seriously consider taking Lee at 18, I’d rather address another position (BPA of course) then take the best receiver still on board in round two. But for the purpose of rankings I can’t in good conscious rank Lee any lower than 5th, he’s simply too talented. In fact I would probably rank Lee over Cooks and strongly consider him with the 18th pick if I wasn’t so worried that he’s always going to be nicked up dealing with some type of injury. It’s not necessarily fair, but them’s the brakes.
Time could certainly prove me wrong, but I wouldn’t be willing to roll the dice on him with the 18th pick and potential injury concerns are the biggest reason why.
If the pick is a receiver the pick will/should be Beckham.
Watkins and Evans aren’t options, sorry guys they just aren’t, which leaves Beckham, possibly, Cooks and Lee. There are other receivers in this draft that I think are worth taking in the first round (Jordan Matthews, Davante Adams to name a few), but not at 18. If Beckham is there and the team wants to go receiver then he’s the obvious choice and would make a great start to John Idzik’s second draft. If they do go receiver in round one I think it’ll be Beckham, but I still think there’s a chance that if Beckham is still available the Jets would have another player or two, different position of course, who would have higher grades on their board and obviously the same would apply to Cooks and Lee.
There’s a lot to love about Cooks, not only is he really talented and have the ability to hurt defenses in multiple ways, but he’s just so damn fun to watch. Still I have a hard time imagining he’ll be the top rated player on board when the Jets pick and I don’t see them forcing a receiver pick on Cooks, not when this class is so deep. I could see them bypassing players at other positions with slightly higher grades for Beckham, but I can’t see them doing that for Cooks. Maybe the Jets aren’t as considered about Lee’s potential injuries issues as me, but my guess is they have Beckham graded higher and like Cooks there would be players at other positions still available with higher grades than Lee.
Up next – First round options: tight-ends