As the New York Jets‘ fan base anxiously awaits the Kirk Cousins news, which will ultimately have a huge affect on the top of their draft, another item has flown under the radar: How vital the middle rounds of the draft are for the team this year.
After landing stud safety Marcus Maye in the second round last year, the Jets once again need an immediate impact from a player outside of the first round. Who are some names to keep an eye on? Let’s take a look.
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Weight: 192 lbs.
Bench reps: 14
After a dynamite 2016 season, Alexander’s 2017 didn’t exactly go as planned due to injury. His goal during this draft season? Make every NFL team remember he is a dominant cornerback. His NFL Combine was the perfect showcase to do exactly that.
Watching him on film, he’s feisty, aggressive against the run, and intelligent in coverage. He doesn’t have the size of Josh Jackson or Isaiah Oliver, but he makes up for that with good awareness and speed. The Jets might miss out on the cornerback run in Round 1, but they can make up for that by landing Alexander with one of their two second-rounders.
Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
Weight: 220 lbs.
Bench reps: 22
With Matt Forte retiring, the Jets have to get a running back this offseason. There are plenty of options in free agency and the world is marveling at Saquon Barkley in the top of this draft, but let’s not forget how great the mid-round guys are as well.
Enter Sony Michel, who had a fantastic senior season for Georgia. He checks all three boxes as a runner, pass catcher and pass protector with extremely high character as an extra bonus.
Came across this one again today pic.twitter.com/vpz1MBpFov
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) February 2, 2018
There’s no guarantee he will make it to the 37th pick in this draft, but if he does he’s the perfect blend of scheme fit and needs for the Jets’ offense under Jeremy Bates.
D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
Weight: 210 lbs
Bench reps: 15
An explosive talent at the wide receiver position, Moore didn’t get the spotlight he deserved on a 4-8 Maryland team. With three years of starting experience and high-end production in his final season, a strong combine was the icing on the cake for him.
In a receiver class that was looking for potential star talent not named Calvin Ridley or Courtland Sutton, Moore has answered the call. After 2018, Robby Anderson’s future with the team will be up in the air. The hope is that Quincy Enunwa will return to full health for this year. Either way, the Jets could use a playmaker at the position and Moore might be the best one in this class.
Nathan Shepherd, DL, Fort Hays State
Weight: 315 lbs.
A once relatively unknown prospect, Shepherd has endured quite the ride to an expected NFL career. The Canadian-born player started out at Simon Fraser University but left due to financial problems. He eventually found his way back to college football, walking on at Fort Hays State in Kansas and thriving.
With the Jets cutting Muhammad Wilkerson, they are currently a little thin on the defensive line. The athletic Shepherd will go in the third- or fourth-round range and would give Leonard Williams and Steve McLendon the help they need up front.
Jamarco Jones, OT, Ohio State
Weight: 310 lbs.
The Jets had to be happy with how right tackle Brandon Shell has come along as a solid starter. On the left side, Kelvin Beachum had an average year in 2017 and will once again be the starter. Even with those two spots locked in, tackle depth now and in the future is vital. Jones does not have freakish measurables or eye-popping film, but he held his own consistently for the Buckeyes’ offensive line.
Lacking flash can be a good thing for offensive tackles. That seems to be the case with Jones, who receives little love in the top of this class. Landing him in the third round makes a ton of sense for Mike Maccagnan, who has shown he can find value at offensive line whether in free agency or the draft.