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NFL New York Jets

2014 NFL Draft: Ranking The New York Jets’ Top 5 Needs

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5 Biggest New York Jets Draft Needs

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Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets surprised a lot of people by being able to win 8 games this past season. They did this despite starting a second-round rookie quarterback in Geno Smith. The strength of the Jets was their stout defensive line led by Muhammad Wilkerson and NFL Defensive Rookie of The Year Sheldon Richardson. The play of their second first-round pick, Dee Milliner, drastically improved as the season went on. He heads into the 2014 season entrenched as a starter at one of the cornerback positions.

Jets General Manager John Idzik spent the better part of his first off-season trying to add depth to the roster without using what limited financial resources the team had. This off-season, Idzik will try to fix some of his predecessor’s mistakes. The Jets had a terrible salary cap situation when Idzik took over thanks in large part to former General Manager Mike Tannenbaum. The Mark Sanchez extension and Santonio Holmes contracts ravaged the Jets salary cap, and in turn caused the downward spiral of the team as they were paying top dollar for two guys that didn’t contribute. The Jets are expected to release Sanchez and Holmes, as well as Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, and should have about $50 million in cap space. Free agency kicks off on March 11th, 2014. The Jets may opt to fill some holes right away in free agency and then use their estimated 12 draft picks to take the best players available.

An 8-8 record might lead you to think that the Jets were very close to being a playoff team. In theory, yes; based on how top heavy the AFC was, the Jets were a win or two away from playing in January. However, this is a team with a lot of holes. Here are their five biggest needs entering the draft.

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5. Cornerback

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

While rookie Dee Milliner’s play improved towards the end of the season, and Kyle Wilson put together a solid year as the team’s nickel cornerback, the Jets are lacking some depth at the cornerback position. Aaron Berry hasn’t produced since signing with the team, due to injuries, and Darrin Walls has been inconsistent. With 2014 possibly being Antonio Cromartie’s last season with the Jets should he resign after his expected release, the Jets would be wise to target a cornerback that will be able to learn under Cromartie this year and then play across from Milliner in 2015.

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4. Outside Linebacker

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Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Calvin Pace just had what will undoubtedly be the most overrated 10-sack season in NFL history. Pace benefited from being the clean up guy, if you will. Because of the constant pressure that Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and the rest of the defensive line put on quarterbacks, Pace was able to reap the benefits whenever they’d step up in the pocket. Quentin Coples has yet to develop into the pass-rushing force the Jets envisioned when drafting him, although he has flashed at times, so this upcoming season may be key for him. Either way, the Jets need an outside linebacker who will start opposite Coples and be able to rush the passer. This will force teams to not be able to key on Wilkerson and Richardson.

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3. Safety

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

For comparison’s sake, Jairus Byrd has 22 interceptions since 2009. If you total up every Jets safety’s interceptions, you get 17. Do you sense a problem? Granted, Ryan places more emphases on stellar cornerback play than on top-shelf safety play. However, the Jets defense goes from good to great if the secondary play improves. Milliner showed that he will improve and it’s possible that Cromartie’s surgically repaired hip did limit his play. However, it’s time the Jets add a play-making safety that can actually take advantage of errant passes caused by the best defensive line in football.

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2. Tight End

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The tight end position is evolving in the NFL. Gone are the days of tight ends like Mark Bavaro and Jay Novacek, who would line up in a 3-point stance and run block as good as they could catch the ball. Now tight ends are like third or fourth wide receivers in a lot of offenses. In fact, one could argue that Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots is one of the few elite tight ends that plays primarily out of a three-point stance. In any event, the Jets need to add a weapon here as well. Having a reliable and game changing tight end will allow Geno Smith to grow as a passer and potential franchise quarterback. Kellen Winslow and Jeff Cumberland are not it.

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1. Wide Receiver

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John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Hill has been a bust so far and the aforementioned Holmes’ days are numbered in green and white. If the Jets are going to give Geno Smith every chance to succeed, he’s going to need a better supporting cast than the one the Jets saddled him with last year. David Nelson is a quality depth guy and Jeremy Kerley is a very underrated player, but there’s no game breaker on offense right now. The Jets need to upgrade the WR position in the draft.