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Sunday, February 23, 2014
Receiver-needy Jets see the future

By Rich Cimini

If your favorite team needs a wide receiver, like the New York Jets do, you've come to the right draft.

Most talent evaluators are calling this an exceptionally deep draft for receivers, a notion that was reinforced Sunday at the NFL scouting combine. It was speed day in Indianapolis -- the receivers, running backs and quarterbacks ran their 40s -- and the Jets had to walk away smiling at their scouting reports. If they can't find a quality wideout in the first or second round, something is wrong.

Marqise Lee
Marqise Lee's 4.52 40 time could mean he'll still be around when the Jets draft in the first round.
Clemson's Sammy Watkins solidified his status as the top receiver, running an official 4.43 in the 40 -- a time that surprised no one. Texas A & M's Mike Evans, a shade under 6-5, helped himself with a 4.53. With so many receiver-needy teams in the top half of the first round, it would be a surprise if Watkins (a possible top-5 pick) and Evans last for the Jets at No. 18.

The speculation will shift to USC's Marqise Lee, who did himself no favors by running a 4.52. A shade under 6-0, weighing 192 pounds, Lee was expected to run a sub-4.5. He'll get another shot at his pro day and private workouts. If he stays in the 4.5s, it could work to the Jets' benefit, perhaps ensuring he'd be there at 18. Everybody knows he can make plays -- he was the best receiver in the country in 2012 -- but teams obsess over 40 times.

Speed isn't always an accurate indicator of performance. The NFL Network threw out a cool stat (I hope I remember it correctly), noting that of the 15 receivers with the fastest 40 times in recent combines, only one (Mike Wallace) cracked the 1,000-yard mark in a season.

That said, a great 40 time is worth noting if there's on-the-field production to back it up. Such is the case with Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews, who raised his stock with an impressive combine. Not known for his speed, he ran a 4.46. The dude is 6-3 with the biggest hands (10.3 inches) of any receiver at the combine. Oh, and he's the all-time leading receiver in the SEC. What's not to like? He probably worked his way into the first round. I'm told the Jets were very impressed with him in their private interview.

Other notable 40s: Oregon State's Brandin Cooks is short at 5-9 3/4, but he ran 4.33, the fastest time for a receiver. LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. will draw first-round consideration after posting a 4.43. He also dazzled in various agility drills.

In case you're wondering, the fastest guy in Indianapolis Sunday was Kent State running back Dri Archer, who burned a 4.26 -- narrowly missing Chris Johnson's combine record (4.24).