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Jets draft preview: Special teams

4/14/2011

This is the final installment in a nine-part series that will analyze the Jets' needs, position by position, in the upcoming draft.

Position: Special Teams.

Depth Chart: Nick Folk (PK), Steve Weatherford (P), Tanner Purdum (LS), Brad Smith (KR), Joe McKnight (PR), Jim Leonhard (PR), Jerricho Cotchery (PR), Kyle Wilson (PR).

Not Under Contract: Folk, Weatherford, Smith.

Scouting Report: This looms as a season of transition for STC Mike Westhoff. Then again, what else is new? The Jets seem willing to retain Folk, who received his draft-round tender (sixth) as a potential restricted free agent, but they relinquished their rights to Weatherford. That doesn't preclude Weatherford from returning, but the team will shop around for a punter. Smith, who led the league in kickoff returns, could be an RFA or UFA, depending on how the labor mess shakes out. His value is hurt by the new kickoff rules, but he's still a guy the Jets want to re-sign. McKnight will get first dibs on the punt-returning job. Two of the team's top tacklers, James Ihedigbo and Eric Smith, unsigned. Like we said, prepare for a transition.

The Last Time: In 2005, the Jets arrogantly thought they were one player away from a championship and used their first pick (in the second round) on PK Mike Nugent, who couldn't stay healthy. Nothing worse than an injured kicker.

Potential Targets: It would be an upset if the Jets use one of their six picks on a kicker or punter, but there are a few draftable prospects. The top punters are Ryan Donahue (Iowa) and Chas Henry (Florida), who averaged 45.1 and won the Ray Guy Award. Henry also was an emergency FG kicker, adding to his value. The question is, how will a punter from the SEC handle the cold, windy conditions of the Northeast? The top PKs are Kai Forbath (UCLA) -- another warm-weather guy -- and Alex Henery (Nebraska), who developed a rep as a big-game performer. Interestingly, the Jets are taking a hard look at WR/KR Randall Cobb (Kentucky), a Brad Smith clone. Because the Jets are likely to draft an outside linebacker and safety, Westhoff should have at least two potential reinforcements for his coverage and blocking units. He usually picks up a couple of players from the pool of UDFAs, but that pool is closed until there's a CBA.

Need Factor (on a scale of 1 to 10): 7.