A few thoughts and observations on the New York Jets:
1. With the 18th pick ...: The Jets still need receivers and there should be a few good ones available with their first-round pick. The three most commonly mentioned possibilities are LSU's Odell Beckham Jr., Oregon State's Brandin Cooks and USC's Marqise Lee. I asked ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. to give his take on which one would be the best fit for the Jets, and he said Beckham and Cooks.
"[Beckham], as a pure receiver, with his hands, his character, his attitude, his approach -- he’s outstanding," Kiper said. "Lee, you roll the dice a little. I don’t know if he’s as fast as they would want. ... In terms of just explosiveness, it would be Beckham or Cooks. Both can really fly. Beckham can be a No. 1, Cooks could be a great slot receiver. I see Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandin Cooks as ideal fits for the Jets."
I think speed is really important to the Jets because ... well, there's a lack of it on offense. Also, after signing the big-bodied Eric Decker, they need a burner to complement him, allowing the shifty and elusive Jeremy Kerley to play the slot. They've done a lot of homework on Lee and Cooks. In fact, they dispatched offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to their pro days on the West Coast. Cooks is scheduled to take a pre-draft visit, as is Beckham. They have plenty of intel on Beckham, as new special-teams coach Thomas McGaughey spent the past three years on the LSU staff.
2. Mel's lucky seven: From Kiper's vantage point (and many scouts agree), there are seven elite players in the draft. "The Super Seven," Kiper said. In no particular order, they are: Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, linebacker Khalil Mack, offensive linemen Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan, and wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans. If I were the Houston Texans, holding the No. 1 pick, I'd take Clowney and never look back.
3. How the mighty are falling: In 15 months as general manager, John Idzik has parted ways with three of Mike Tannenbaum's nine first-round draft picks -- Darrelle Revis (trade), Dustin Keller (free agent) and Mark Sanchez (cut). Next on the hot seat is Kyle Wilson, who is entering the final year of his contract. They've already sent a message to Wilson, acquiring two slot corners -- Dimitri Patterson and Johnny Patrick. (They also lost one, Isaiah Trufant.) The activity has fueled speculation in league circles that Wilson is on the way out. That's premature -- the Jets aren't thinking that way -- but it'll be interesting to see how it shakes out if they draft a cornerback in the first or second round, a definite possibility.
"[Wilson] makes no plays," an AFC scout said.
In four seasons, mostly in the slot, Wilson has played in 2,195 defensive snaps and has made only six impact plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information -- three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. He's a durable, hard-working player, but it's all about making plays. Clearly, the organization has added competition, so Wilson will have to raise his game if he wants to play out his contract in New York.
4. Raising the Barr: I think one of the most talked about players in the Jets' draft room will be UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr, who has the physical traits to be an outstanding speed-rusher -- and the Jets need one of those. Barr is projected to be picked in the 15 to 20 range, according to Kiper. The downside is that Barr was an H-Back until 2012, and the lack of experience on defense shows up despite impressive stats (10 sacks last season).
"He's a very intriguing guy," Kiper said. "There's a lot of polarization, a lot of mixed opinion. You can see the inexperience. You can see he doesn't always look like he understands how to play on the defensive side. He has a lot to learn, but he has a lot of talent."
My hunch: The Jets will pick a receiver or a corner at 18, maybe a tight end if North Carolina's Eric Ebron slips.
5. Ancient history: For what it's worth (probably not much at this point), the Jets really loved Chris Johnson in the 2008 draft. He ended up going 24th, 18 spots after Vernon Gholston and six spots ahead of where they traded up to pick Dustin Keller. Sorry about the Gholston reference; I know it causes agita among fans.
6. Potential Johnson fallout: If the Jets sign Johnson -- knowing Idzik's style, I'll believe it when I see it -- they'd have five veteran running backs. The most expendable player would be Mike Goodson, recovering from ACL surgery and still entangled in his legal issues. He's counting $1.3 million on the cap, and they could save $720,000 by releasing him. He also has a $650,000 roster bonus written into the contract, but it was restructured in such a way that he doesn't get the money unless he's on the roster, injured reserve or PUP for 16 games. Bottom line: They can cut him without much fuss or muss.
7. Pre-draft visits: Each team is allowed to conduct 30 visits with non-local prospects. We in the media tend to overplay these visits, looking for a quick headline. They don't always mean the team is interested. In some cases, the team could be looking for a specific piece of information on a player they didn't get a chance to interview on the scouting circuit. Teams also have been known to use pre-draft visits to feign interest in players, hoping to disguise their draft intentions. In most cases, though, the objective is to learn more about the players. The Jets learned a lot a few years ago, when a highly regarded prospect (sorry, can't use his name) fell asleep while waiting outside Tannenbaum's office. Obviously, that was a major turn-off. The player ended up being a first-round pick by an AFC East team, and he still plays for that team.
7.a. Speaking of visits ...: Some of the bigger names on the Jets' visit list are Beckham, Cooks, Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans, Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby.
8. Hanging with the cool kids: The Jets are the 16th-most popular team among the major sports, according to Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight.com blog -- now part of ESPN. How does he arrive at that conclusion? His definition of popularity is based on the number of Google searches. The New York Yankees (5.83 million) and Boston Red Sox (5.69 million) lead the way. The top NFL team is the Dallas Cowboys (4.45 million), followed by the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings and Jets.