It’s no secret the New York Jets need to improve their passing attack this offseason. Considering they were 31st in the NFL in passing yards per game compared to their 6th ranked rushing attack, it goes without saying where the problem lies offensively.
Yes, we can talk all day long about whether or not Geno Smith is the true franchise QB they’ve been looking for since Chad Pennington took his talents to South Beach, but this won’t be the forum for that. I find it highly unlikely the Jets would throw the towel in on Smith after just one season, especially when Smith led two 4th quarter comebacks and 5 game winning drives in his rookie year. He showed moxie, no doubt, if not maddening inconsistency.
There’s a couple of things a young QB really needs to help his development; a strong offensive line (check), a solid run game (check), and playmakers to throw the ball to (no check). This is what the Jets should make their top priority in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Santonio Holmes is supposed to be the teams number one receiver, hence the 5-year, $45 million dollar contract they gave him in 2011. Holmes has kindly repaid the Jets with legal problems ranging from domestic assault to drug possession, becoming a cancer in the locker room and even by taking potshots at his rookie QB to the media. Due a $1million roster bonus in March, in addition to $9.5 million in cap and incentives, Holmes is as good as gone, even if he’d be willing to take a pay cut. It shouldn’t be overwhelmingly hard to replace his 23 receptions, and for a much better rate.
Stephen Hill was supposed to be the next big time receiver out of Georgia Tech, following in the footsteps of Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas, but has been a major disappointment. On top of it all, he’s been battling knee injuries the last few years, and few believe he’ll ever turn into the player the Jets thought he would.
Jeremy Kerley, the teams leading receiver in 2013 with 43 receptions for 523 yards, is best suited for playing inside at the slot. He’s under contract for one more year at a cap-friendly $645k, so he’s obviously coming back next year, and if anything, is a guy the team should look to re-sign next year.
David Nelson and Greg Salas didn’t play bad down the stretch, and both are under contract for one more year, so expect them to be back, for competition at the minimum.
All of this leads to the fact the Jets don’t have a true number one or two wide receiver on the team. Kerley can be terrific in the slot, and Nelson and Salas are good enough for 4th and 5th options, but they still need legitimate, big time playmakers outside at the top.
With the 18th pick in a receiver-heavy draft class, the Jets will have a plethora of options to choose from both in round one and round two. Mike Evans (Texas A&M), Marqise Lee (USC) and Kelvin Benjamin (Florida State) should all still be available at 18, and each would almost instantly win starting jobs.
The bottom line is that the Jets desperately need to raise the talent level of their receiving corps, and the 2014 NFL Draft is the place to do that, especially with how deep the class is.