Receivers could now be atop the New York Jets’ draft board

Sep 8, 2019; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) passes against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Recent free agency signings have influenced the different ways the Jets could go about drafting with the 11th pick. Wide receiver could end up being the position of choice come draft day. With Robby Anderson not returning as of yet, and no wideout signings in free agency, the Jets need to figure out who Sam Darnold will throw to.

Since the first mock drafts for this year’s NFL draft were released, the Jets have been linked to offensive linemen. A popular choice was Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, who can play at either tackle spot. However, with the signings of Connor McGovern, George Fant, Alex Lewis, Josh Andrews and most recently Greg Van Roten, the offensive line has certainly been tended to. Now, it may be time to address skill position players.

Top options

There are many wide receivers worthy of a first-round pick in this year’s draft. Each of the top-three receivers, which are Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and CeeDee Lamb according to a multitude of analysts, could be available when the Jets are on the clock. If all three are available and wide receiver is the direction the team wants to go in, it would be interesting to see who they like best.

Jerry Jeudy has been the top-ranked wide receiver since the rankings began. He amassed 77 receptions for 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns this past season at Alabama. His route running is clean and his mechanics are sharp. Jeudy is, most likely, the most NFL-ready wideout in the draft. These intangibles probably make him the safer pick, but safer isn’t always more admirable than explosiveness for some teams. He would certainly be hard to pass on at pick 11 but depending on what the team is looking for, he may or may not be the choice.

Henry Ruggs III, also from Alabama, played as the number-two receiving option behind Jeudy. The six-foot, 190-pound receiver is the smallest of the three receivers but has premier explosiveness. He did, however, total just 40 receptions for 746 yards and 7 touchdowns this past season. While those numbers don’t jump off the page, his playmaking ability has solidified him as a top draft pick. At the combine, he ran his 40-yard dash in 4.27 seconds, just 0.05 seconds short of the record held by John Ross III. His elite speed and big-play ability are special and could provide an instant jolt to any offense.

CeeDee Lamb, at six-foot-two, is the biggest of the three receivers. He had 62 receptions for 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns this past season as the number-one receiver at Oklahoma. Averaging a whopping 21.4 yards per reception, he put himself in the conversation for the best receiver. His skill is unquestionable but where teams rank him compared to the other two should be interesting.

Other possibilities

Aside from the biggest names, many other receivers could be chosen in later rounds. One sleeper pick could be Jalen Reagor out of TCU. He had a bit of a down year this past season having just 43 receptions for 611 yards and 5 touchdowns. The year before, though, he recorded 72 receptions for 1,061 yards and 9 touchdowns. His down year could make some teams pass on him and make him available late in the draft. Although he isn’t the biggest receiver at just under six feet, his ability to track the ball in the air and move downfield is strong.

Michael Pittman Jr. out of USC exploded onto the scene this past season. He totaled 101 receptions for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns. Also, being six-foot-four and 220 pounds would give the Jets the big-bodied receiver they haven’t had in years. He should still be available around late second round to early third round.

A real sleeper pick could be Isaiah Hodgins from Oregon State. At six-foot-four and 209 pounds, he could also be the big receiver on the outside. After a quiet freshman season and a decent sophomore season, he reeled in 86 receptions for 1,171 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior. He could end up being a late-round steal that produces as a rookie.

If the Jets choose to go for a wide receiver, they have plenty of options in front of them. Whether it be a big-time name or somewhat of an unknown, Darnold would love having someone else to throw to.