Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Draft watch list, 2.0
By Rich Cimini
The draft is only eight days away, which means teams are wrapping up their prospect visits and entering the homestretch in draft meetings. In a matter of days, most teams will finalize their draft boards.
For us, it's time for an updated version of our watch list -- the players targeted by the Jets with the 16th pick. Quick refresher: Our 1.0 list consisted of Alabama OLB Courtney Upshaw, Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd, Alabama S Mark Barron, Stanford G David DeCastro and LSU DE Michael Brockers.
After several days of detective work, the landscape has changed a bit. From most indications, the Jets are looking to draft the best-available defensive player. I think they'd be happy with any one among these six -- LSU CB Morris Claiborne, Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox, Memphis NT Dontari Poe, Boston College ILB Luke Kuechly, South Carolina OLB Melvin Ingram and North Carolina DE Quinton Coples.
Let's be real: Claiborne, Cox, Kuechly and Ingram probably won't make it to 16. Poe and Coples have the best chance of slipping, so let's pick it up from there. Here's our list:
• Quinton Coples. At 6-foot-6, 284 pounds, with 4.7 speed, Coples is straight out of central casting. One personnel executive told me Coples is a "top-10 talent," but there are questions about his motor, so he's likely to fall into the teens, according to the exec. Perhaps sensing the slide, the Jets brought him in for a visit, gathering 11th-hour information just in case. They did the same thing in 2006 with D'Brickashaw Ferguson, inviting him in to meet with non-football staffers. At the time, there were questions about his passion for football. Coples would be a risk/reward pick.
• Mark Barron. He's still hanging around on our list; that's because he's a terrific player and would upgrade almost any secondary. The teams most likely to pick Barron are the Cowboys (14th) and Eagles (15th). Barron would be a solid choice for the Jets, who need more speed at safety.
• Dontari Poe. Much like Coples, this would be a risk/reward pick. Poe (6-foot-4, 346 pounds) is a freakishly gifted athlete who blew away everybody at the scouting combine. (Vernon Gholston flashbacks, anyone?) The question is, where's the production? He had only one sack and one forced fumble last season as a nose tackle. The Jets re-signed NT Sione Pouha for three years, and they have Kenrick Ellis in the wings, so Poe wouldn't be a "need" pick. He'd be a "value" pick, but some will tell you the value of nose tackles is declining because it's a pass-crazy league. Unless they're absolutely convinced Poe can be a three-down player, I'd stay away.
• Courtney Upshaw. His stock is dipping a bit. I spoke to an NFC scout who gave him an early-second round grade and a personnel exec described him as a younger version of Bryan Thomas -- a strong edge setter, but only a six/eight sacks-a-year pass rusher. He also has very little experience dropping into coverage. I'm starting to hear the Jets are showing late interest in Illinois DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus, a late bloomer with more upside than Upshaw.
• Michael Floyd. Most consider him the second-best receiver, so he'd draw consideration, but this is a deep draft for receivers. They can find a good one in the second or third round, so I'd be surprised if the Jets pull the trigger at 16. But if their board falls apart, you never know.