Scott Thompson, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The NFL Scouting Combine has been in full swing this week, but the real scouting begins on Thursday when the quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends kick off drills to see which prospects can stand out among the rest.
Here's who the Jets should be keeping a close eye on when it all begins at 4 p.m...
1) Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy
With the No. 11 overall pick in this year's draft, the Jets have to see how the draft board shakes out when it comes their turn to choose their first-rounder. And that could easily be Jeudy.
Sam Darnold is going to need a No. 1 receiver to throw to -- even if Robby Anderson returns in free agency. Jeudy can be that man for sure, and the Combine is where he wants to prove he's the No. 1 receiver in the draft. He said he's going to run a 4.34 40-yard dash despite scouts believing he's in the high 4.4/low 4.5 range, and that could impress GM Joe Douglas enough to lock him in -- if he's there.
That type of performance could have teams like the Cardinals and Jaguars wanting to take Jeudy as well. But fear not, the next man on our list could be there for New York, too.
Jeudy checks off all the boxes a coach would want to see in a receiver, whether it's his textbook route running, insane ability to make people miss in the open field, sturdy and reliable hands and ability to go up for the deep ball.
2) Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb
Next to Jeudy, Lamb is arguably the best receiver on the Lucas Oil turf on Thursday.
With Jalen Hurts (we'll get to him too) throwing to him this season, Lamb thrived in the Sooners' offense, with 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns on 62 receptions. Many experts believe Jeudy could project better long-term, but if an NFL team wants a pro-ready receiver now, it's Lamb. And, as we said, the Jets need one now.
At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Lamb also has great route-running abilities, very steady hands, can sit in zones, break out deep ball runs after burning a corner at the line of scrimmage, and can even block. So once again, like Jeudy, he's the total package. The Combine is where both of them can set themselves apart.
No matter who falls to the Jets, though, they should probably be happy with either one. All eyes will be on their competition Thursday.
3) Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts
Darnold is the franchise quarterback as he enters Year 3. But the Jets may want to have a solid backup that could be used in a variety of ways in Adam Gase's offense, and Hurts may be that man. Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk just didn't cut it last year when Darnold was hurt and sick.
Hurts' college story has been one of relentless hustle to prove he can be a leader. And he did just that with Oklahoma last season after transferring from Alabama, who pivoted to Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts saw an opportunity to hit the transfer portal and play for Lincoln Riley and the Sooners, and it was the best decision he made as he produced his best college season. He threw for 3,851 yards, ran for 1,323, and had a whopping 52 total touchdowns combined passing and rushing.
But even after putting up those numbers -- and showcasing great leadership qualities on and off the field -- Hurts is projected to be a mid-round selection. The Jets can fill other needs first, and maybe go with Hurts later on.
4) Stanford TE Colby Parkinson
A solid tight end is something the Jets can't say they've had for the past few seasons.
Chris Herndon coming out of Miami two seasons ago was supposed to be that man, someone former GM Mike Maccagnan took a chance on. But off the field issues and an injury have kept him from really taking a stride forward after a solid rookie season. Then, Ryan Griffin came in last year, and Darnold found some good chemistry with him. But Douglas may be smart to bring in another prospect in the later rounds to add even more competition.
Parkinson is massive at 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, and while he's great at blocking, he can be a receiving threat, too. If Herndon can stay on the field in 2020, Parkinson could be the perfect complement to his play-making abilities in the passing game.
5) Alabama WR Henry Ruggs III
According to ESPN's Rich Cimini, the Jets have been closely watching Ruggs, the speedy wideout out of the Crimson Tide program. And honestly, everyone will be watching to see if he lives up to his bold Combine prediction.
Jon Ross owns the Combine 40-yard dash record at 4.22 seconds, and Ruggs told NFL Network that he believes he can break it.
"Yessir. Or lower," he said when asked about hitting Ross' record pace. "I feel pretty good about it. I'm confident."
Ruggs played second fiddle to Jeudy, but the Combine is where he can shine and impress teams like the Jets in the process to take him No. 11 overall. He's been garnering comparisons to Tyreek Hill if that says anything to you.