With the NFL Draft less than a month away is time to start identifying players that could be a good fit for the New York Jets. Recently draft analyst Ron Pickett took the time to answer some questions about this year's wide receiver class. For those of you that are not familiar with Ron, Mr. Pickett is a high school football coach and speed/agility trainer than has been doing extensive work in scouting and game film analysis.
Tyson: Many experts claim that this is one of the deepest wide receiver draft classes in recent memory. What are your initial thoughts on the 2014 wr class?
Ron: If a team is in dire need for a wide receiver, this is the year. It is a deep class and a versatile class. For the teams that need a small, quick wide receiver there's several guys for them. For a team looking for big physical receivers that attack the ball in the air, there are a few guys for that. Possession receivers? Plenty. The bottom line is that there will be some picks in the 3rd round this year that, in years past, would have a first round grade. Some teams will get tremendous value on Day 2 and 3 of the draft.
TR: Marqise Lee is a player that has a broad spectrum of evaluations. What is your breakdown on Lee?
RP: Lee had a more productive 2012 campaign than 2013, mostly due to small nagging injuries all season. Lee still played in every game except three in his college career. He is a guy, if healthy, who is electric with the ball in his hands. He's a very fluid athlete who showed improvement as a route runner in 2013. Marqise could be a deep threat for a team or the guy who catches a screen and takes it all the way for a touchdown. Lee is not scared to extend his body to make some outstanding catches on badly thrown balls.There are some concerns about inconsistent hands and catching the ball with his body too often. With injury and body frame durability concerns, Lee should be selected between picks 15-32 in this year's draft.
TR: Brandin Cooks is a receiver that many believe would be a good fit with the New York Jets. Your thoughts on Cooks?
RP: Brandin Cooks is a special talent. He is short, but a very dynamic wide receiver. Brandin runs solid routes, and has outstanding hands. Cooks has great straight-line speed (4.33) but is just as quick in tight spaces as he is fast in the open field. The thing that intrigues scouts to pick Cooks over Lee is that Brandin has very loose hips, which allows him to make explosive moves in the open field. Unlike Lee, he has never missed a single game for Oregon State in his three years there. Cooks is also an outstanding punt returner and won the Biletnikoff Award for the country's best wide receiver.
The thing that concerns me about Cooks is his size and frame. He doesn't have much room on his frame to add some size that would help him at the next level. A lot of scouts want to see wide receivers finish their plays with as many yards after the catch as possible. In the open field, Cooks shows an ability to do this, but he tends to shy away from contact when near the sidelines. He steps out-of-bounds rather than finish their runs. Some say this is a smart decision because of his small frame, and it will allow him to stay healthy in the NFL. Cooks in Mornhinweg's offense would be a nightmare to defend because of his explosiveness, quickness and his polished route running. He would be a nice compliment to Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley.
TR: An emerging fan favorite is Odell Beckham Jr. from LSU. What is your evaluation of Odell?
RP: Beckham Jr., like Lee and Cooks, is another dynamic and explosive wide receiver. The thing that separates Beckham from the other two is he plays a lot bigger than his 5'11" frame. He is able to sky to out-jump corners on 50/50 balls and catches everything with his hands. He is a smooth athlete that glides out on the field. Playing in the SEC, seeing him run by some of the best athletes in the country effortlessly is why he's such a fan favorite right now. Odell is very tough when the ball is in his hands and will finish his run after the catch by scratching and clawing for the extra yard. He is a developing route runner who showed an ability to get open in critical times of the game at LSU. Beckham is also a return man who could solve three needs in one for the Jets. He will still need some work in polishing up his route running, but the ceiling on Beckham is high and that is what excites both fans and scouts alike with Beckham.
TR: Allen Robinson and Jordan Matthews are two players that have been linked to the Jets in the 2nd round. Would either of these guys be a good fit in Marty Mornhinweg's offense?
RP: Both Robinson and Matthews could be first round picks in previous drafts, so either will be great value in the second round. Both guys bring different elements to Mornhinweg's offense. Robinson is a raw route runner but a great "jump ball" receiver. He can turn a 3 yard catch into a 30 yard gain because of his natural instincts and football knowledge. He's not the fastest wide receiver, but he knows how to get open. Having a true freshmen quarterback in 2013 at Penn State, Robinson still caught 97 receptions for 1432 yards. Allen needs to learn how to get off press coverage better and also become a more complete wide receiver (blocking and route running). Robinson would supply the Jets' offense with a red zone threat and a developmental wide receiver who could help out right away and learn on the fly.
Matthews is the most well-rounded wide receiver in this draft. He doesn't have elite speed to separate from cornerbacks but he can run the route tree exceptionally well. He is also a great blocker and takes pride in blocking his man to the sideline. Matthews has a big frame, runs precise routes, and catches virtually everything thrown to him. There are concerns from scouts about dropped passes, but most of the dropped passes were very poorly thrown balls either too low or behind Matthews. He's a well coached kid who can come in and compete for a starting spot in the Jets' offense immediately, much like Robinson. Either of those guys would be fantastic value as a second round pick.
TR: There was a recent report that Kelvin Benjamin is on the Jets wish list. What is the analysis on Benjamin?
RP: Benjamin has a huge frame(6'5" 240lbs) and isn't afraid to throw it around. He is a clutch red zone receiver who can be more physical than any defender he faced in college. The problem with Benjamin is that he doesn't do enough on the rest of the field(outside the 20 yard line) to warrant taking him in the first round. He has straight-line speed but doesn't play that fast and isn't quick in his route running. His hands tend to be a bit inconsistent. If a team is looking for strictly a deep threat and a red zone target Benjamin fits the mold, but for the Jets' offense, I don't see him as a fit. Kelvin is not quick enough to get in and out of breaks on short routes and doesn't do enough in the middle of the field to be an asset to their offense. Benjamin also has a history of character concerns, and recently was rumored to miss a workout with an NFL coach.
TR: Are there are any late round sleep candidates Gang Green could have their eye on?
RP: I think a name to keep in mind in later rounds could be Cody Latimer of Indiana, a tall developing wide receiver who is currently climbing draft boards. Other guys to watch for are Robert Herron(Wyoming), Josh Huff(Oregon), Dri Archer(Kent State), Michael Campanaro(Wake Forest which Idzik has ties to), Bruce Ellington(South Carolina), Kevin Norwood(Alabama) and Shaq Evans(UCLA, who is the "poor man's Sammy Watkins in my opinion).
TR: Based on the aforementioned depth in this year's draft class could you see the Jets waiting to the 2nd or 3rd round to select a pass catcher?
RP: I could most definitely see the Jets waiting until the 2nd or 3rd round to pick a wide receiver. Teams can't get the same value in this draft at cornerback or tight end that you can get in those rounds from wide receivers. Robinson, Matthews, Donte Moncrief, Jarvis Landry, and Davante Adams are starting-caliber wide receivers that will slip because of the dynamic pass catchers of round one. Although the Jets may not get one of those dynamic players, they could still be getting a solid wide receiver on Day 2 or early Day 3 with this year's wide receiver draft class.
TR: Ron, thank you for sharing your tremendous insight on the wide receiver class.
If you would like to talk about the draft or anything Jets you can contact Ron Pickett on Twitter: Pickett_Ron