It’s finally NFL Combine week. While a majority of the offseason rumors with the New York Jets have centered around free agent Kirk Cousins, the draft will be essential in the attempt to continue a huge rebuild. With each position group set to test Friday through Monday in Indianapolis, whom should the Jets keep their eyes on? Let’s take a look.
Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
Oliver looks like if you went into create-a-player on Madden and built the prototype at cornerback. He’s 6-1 with a near door-frame wingspan and should test as a top-tier athlete, not only impressing on the track but in both jumps. The phrase “track background” is overused leading up to the combine, but it stands out with Oliver on the field as both a defensive back and special teams contributor.
After using two premium picks on safeties in last year’s draft, the Jets need to get Todd Bowles young cornerbacks for his defense to excel. In an ideal world, they find a way to land one of the top three — Ohio State’s Denzel Ward, Iowa’s Josh Jackson or Central Florida’s Mike Hughes — but Oliver would be a tremendous backup plan with their first pick in the second round.
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The Kirk Cousins rumors are all over the place but there’s one simple fact: It’s no guarantee the Jets land him, which would make their search for a franchise quarterback extremely interesting in this draft.
Sam Darnold is very easily the favorite to go number one. Baker Mayfield’s rise might have cemented him as a top-five pick. The raw tools of Josh Allen will have multiple teams intrigued to use a premium selection. This all adds up to a potential thriller on draft night: a Josh Rosen slide.
We get so caught up in the other nonsense that I think we undervalue how impressive of a QB Josh Rosen really is – under 3 mins left, down 11 pic.twitter.com/TZ86zmvcXr
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) January 30, 2018
Talented quarterbacks unreasonably fall often. Deshaun Watson dropped to 12 last year, Aaron Rodgers fell to 24 many years ago, the examples are endless. The personality concerns around Rosen seem very real, but he’s simply the most talented signal-caller in this year’s class with upside as a potential top-10 starting quarterback.
If the Jets come out of Indianapolis comfortable with Rosen after interviewing him, this would be a no-brainer decision. It might only be a 15-minute session, but it could impact the next decade of football in New York.
Mark Walton, RB, Miami
With the Jets expected to move on from veteran Matt Forte, there will be a key hole in their backfield. Even Bilal Powell will turn 30 in the middle of next season. As crazy as it sounds, that makes him sneaky-old for the running back position.
The bottom line: The Jets need to get younger in their backfield. There are plenty of options in free agency ranging from Dion Lewis to Jerrick McKinnon, but the draft is a cheaper solution with more depth.
Enter Mark Walton, an underrated and versatile threat out of Miami. Injuries limited his final year for the Hurricanes, but as an underclassman he was a consistent playmaker. He’s a superb pass catcher and has more than enough burst to break off big runs to the edge, something the Jets’ offensive staff will put a priority on in an outside zone.
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Even with the disappointment of losing Quincy Enunwa for the year, the Jets found a promising piece for their wide receiver group in deep threat Robby Anderson. Jermaine Kearse is expected to fill the slot role for 2018, but this unit is still lacking a consistent red-zone presence to help whoever plays quarterback.
Any team that leaves 1 defender on Courtland Sutton in the RZ this year is absolutely insane pic.twitter.com/oY2oO88OUi
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) July 6, 2017
Courtland Sutton’s draft range is all over the place. If he clocks a 4.5 40-yard dash, he could find his way into the top 25 picks. If he doesn’t test well and teams are concerned about his ability to separate, he could slide into Day 2. That could be a steal for Jeremy Bates’ offense, which could ease Sutton in as a red-zone specialist while working on his game between the 20s for the long run.
Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
With Demario Davis seeking a big payday on the open market, the Jets might look to the draft to find a starter alongside Darron Lee. Georgia’s Roquan Smith and Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds are first-round locks, but the underrated Evans could slide to 37.
Unlike Lee, Evans would bring a different level of physicality for the middle of the defense to take on blockers and shut down the run in the middle of the field. He’s an athletic linebacker with plenty of length who can stay on the field for all three downs, with a ton of upside as a blitzer that fits New York’s scheme well. If Todd Bowles is looking for a leader in the middle of his defense, Evans would be a great piece to add. He should test very well in the linebacker group.