It is no secret that the Jets are looking to improve their receiving corps. The team has struggled to find a playmaker, settling for mediocre play as of late from veterans such as Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards. The team used a high second round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft on receiving project Stephen Hill, but the 6’4″ athletic talent has been underwhelming on the field in two seasons, struggling to consistently catch the football and failing to develop his size and speed into the deep threat the Jets thought he could potentially be.
While the team has not given up on Hill just yet, neither Holmes nor Edwards are expected to be with the team in 2014, and it is imperative to the development of Geno Smith that the Jets add playmakers on the outside. Relying on Hill would be a dangerous proposition. Andrew Cohen of OverTheCap.com has guessed that the Jets could be a landing spot for the top free agent receiver Eric Decker. There could be some reservations due to the large payday Decker is looking to attract and the belief that he may not possess true number one receiver skills. Lesser talents that the Jets could be interested in include Golden Tate, who is an unrestricted free agent, and James Jones who is likely to walk from the Packers. The team could also consider pilfering talent from their roommates, by looking at Giants’ Super Bowl hero Hakeem Nicks.
Of course, if the free agent options aren’t enough, the Jets could use their first round pick on a receiver class that has some depth to it. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is the consensus best receiver available, and will likely not make it out of the top five or ten picks. Mike Evans of Texas A&M was once thought to be a possibility, but after running well at the combine it is unlikely he will fall to the Jets either, according to Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com. Evans was a possible favorite because of his tremendous size, measuring at almost 6’5″ and 220 pounds.
While Evans’ workout may have taken him out of the running for the Jets, Marquise Lee of USC might have run his way into the back half of the first round. Lee was thought to be a candidate for fastest man at the combine, but reportedly ran an unexpectedly slow 4.52 in the 40-yard dash, which could keep him on the board when the Jets select at 18th overall. If Lee runs better at the USC pro day, it still is not a given that he would be available when the Jets are on the clock. Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State and Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU could also be options for the Jets if one of the top receivers is not available.
One team standing in the Jets way is their hometown enemy, the Giants. Tom Rock of Newsday writes that the Giants are also considering using their first-round pick on a wide receiver. The Giants pick 12th in the draft, and could be looking for a replacement after the presumed exit of Nicks. While they have Rueben Randle, they are not sold on his ability to lead the offense.
While there have not been any rumblings that the Giants would look to free agency to solve their receiving problems, Rock writes that like the Jets, the Giants are interested in Evans, and if he is off the board ahead of them, could also consider Lee. If those two and Watkins are the three prizes of this draft for receivers, then it could be dangerous for the Jets to stay at 18 and expect one of the three to drop to them. The Giants have a much better shot at landing one of those three, but there is no certainty that more than one of the big three will still be around at their selection.
Luckily for both teams, there is a certain amount of depth associated with this draft. According to rankings on CBSSports.com, there could be up to 18 wide receivers graded highly enough to be options in the first three rounds of the draft, including a handful of projected second-round picks who are highly thought of and who performed well today in Indianapolis at the combine.