If there is one word that gets thrown around more than any this time of year in the NFL, it’s potential. The reality of the NFL Draft is that it is a very, very inexact science, and teams can’t be sure what prospects will become. However, one thing that many teams love is guys with potential, often in the form of raw athletes who have otherworldly gifts but lack fundamentals. Some of these players turn out to be great, like Jason Pierre-Paul or Demaryius Thomas. However, for every JPP, there are five Vernon Gholstons, something the New York Jets know all too well.
The Jets have been in a gambling mood lately, choosing athletes like Quinton Coples and Stephen Hill over better football players, and they haven’t worked out so far. Coples is still showing promise, but Hill is a bust and one of the biggest reasons the Jets have such a huge need at wide receiver. In this year’s draft, John Idzik cannot afford to take any gambles.
The Jets badly need starters at receiver and corner, and they could use upgrades at free safety, right guard, outside linebacker and tight end as well. The Jets need to land rookies who can come in and make an immediate impact, especially at receiver and corner. That means drafting pro ready players has to take priority over developmental players.
Players such as Kelvin Benjamin and Bradley Roby are the type of prospect the Jets should be wary off. Both of those players have impressive physical gifts, but they need a lot of polish. If the Jets brought them in to start this season, it is very likely that they would struggle significantly. Some players take their lumps as a rookie and then develop, while others are crushed by the experience and never pan out. The Jets have acted like they want to make the playoffs this season with the signings of Eric Decker, Chris Johnson and Michael Vick, and in the weak AFC they certainly have a shot if they land impact players in the draft.
With that in mind, prospects such as Brandin Cooks, Marqise Lee, Jason Verrett and Kyle Fuller make much more sense for the Jets in this draft. Each of those players is ready to step in as a rookie starter and make an impact, and they could solidify the Jets’ two biggest weaknesses. If the Jets are really serious about winning this season, they cannot afford to spend their picks on projects. Landing pro ready players at positions of need in the first three rounds could make the Jets a playoff team, and that should be Idzik’s priority.