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The New York Jets surprised many by posting an 8-8 record last season despite an inconsistent offense. The defense carried the team along and proved to be one of the best units in the league, and the team should use the draft to help the offense catch up to speed.
Second-year general manager John Idzik is a disciple of John Schneider and the Seattle Seahawks, and last year Idzik was able to put his stamp on the team in the draft. First-round selection Sheldon Richardson was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year, while Dee Milliner started to come on toward the end of the season. And despite an up-and-down year under center, Geno Smith was pretty solid in the final four games.
Idzik and the Jets will look to follow up a strong first draft with an even stronger second, as the team has a number of holes to address. Among them: wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, and defensive back.
The more glaring need on offense is at receiver, where Santonio Holmes is a possible cap casualty and former first-rounder Stephen Hill has yet to live up to expectations. There is a lot of talent at wide receiver in this year’s draft class, and there’s a chance USC’s Marqise Lee or Texas A&M’s Mike Evans is available when the Jets are on the clock with the No. 18 pick. Lee is the No. 2-rated wideout and enjoyed a decorated college career, and Evans was Johnny Manziel’s go-to man, especially in the red zone.
Kellen Winslow has had his share of off-the-field trouble and Jeff Cumberland is not an elite pass-catching tight end in the NFL, and both are set to hit free agency. The Jets can find potentially snatch an athletic tight end in the second or third round of the draft, perhaps in the form of Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins or Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas. Seferian-Jenkins would present Smith would a massive target to throw to, while Niklas is more of a blocker with upside in the passing game.
Both tackle Austin Howard and guard Willie Colon are impending free agents, so the entire right side of the offensive line may need to be replaced — not to mention rookie guard Brian Winters struggled at times. The team needs to develop a young core of linemen, beginning with a right tackle. The tackle class is so deep, and perhaps the Jets make a move to nab a high-potential prospect in the early going.
Just like Schneider found Richard Sherman in the fifth-round, Idzik will have to find a gem to add to the Jets’ secondary late in 2014. Antonio Cromartie will likely be released, and even if he’s re-signed, the team needs another player to shore up the unit. The team could go after a corner or a safety or both, depending on how they go about free agency.
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