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This Saturday afternoon will be one of the highlights of the offseason as the Senior Bowl takes place in Mobile, Alabama.
Jets scouts, coaches and front office personnel have been on hand to pay close attention to practice during the week, which is viewed as one of the most important events in the pre-draft process.
Let's consider some of the top prospects that play positions where the Jets will be specifically looking for reinforcements...
Edge Defender: Zack Baun, Wisconsin
The Jets continue to have a need for someone who can create pressure off the edge, and Baun is a player whose stock is on the rise after a breakout season that saw him register 12.5 sacks. The likes of TJ Watt and Vince Biegel have developed well having played the same role with Wisconsin, so some teams will view Baun as a player who can contribute right off the bat.
Former Jets safety Jim Leonhard's system runs a lot of blitz packages where the inside linebackers blitz and the two edges drop into coverage, so Baun isn't just a pure pass rusher. In fact, some scouts have been drawing comparisons between Baun and versatile Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, who almost joined the Jets last offseason.
Alternative: Bradley Anae, Utah
Interior O-Lineman: Lloyd Cushenberry III, LSU
Having anchored an offensive line that protected Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow and paved the way for Clyde Edwards-Helaire to have a big year running the ball on the way to a perfect season, Cushenberry's stock is also rising.
Cushenberry started at center for the past two years, but can also play guard. He is attending the Senior Bowl despite the fact he's a junior, having graduated before December to attain eligibility. However, the draft advisory board reportedly advised him to go back to school. Cushenberry seems to be proving he belongs though, as reports from Senior Bowl practices so far suggest that he has been a standout during practice.
Alternative: Matt Hennessy, Temple
Offensive Tackle: Josh Jones, Houston
Jones is regarded as the best offensive tackle at the Senior Bowl, where he has been reportedly working at both tackle positions. That could suit the Jets, for whom starters Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell are both free agents.
Jones posted outstanding pass blocking numbers during the season and has also shown progress as a run blocker. He also reportedly looked the part during the measurement and weigh-in at the start of the week and is one of a handful of potential first-round tackles in what looks like a strong class.
Alternative: Matt Peart, UConn
Cornerback: AJ Green, Oklahoma State
The big name in terms of Senior Bowl participants at the cornerback position is LSU's Kristian Fulton. However, he was one of several high-profile players to pull out of the event.
In his absence, Green is one of the players who has reportedly been stepping up. He has decent size and coverage numbers and is a solid tackler. Green only gave up one touchdown in coverage last season and, although he's primarily played on the outside, should have the requisite skills to play the slot if required.
Alternative: Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame
Wide Receiver: Michael Pittman Jr., USC
There is plenty of pass-catching talent on display in Mobile, and the Jets have uncertainty at the position with Robby Anderson a free agent and Quincy Enunwa's status unclear after suffering another neck injury.
The 6-foot-4 Pittman could be the type of big target to give another dimension to the Jets' passing attack. He's also a player Jets quarterback Sam Darnold is more than familiar with, after the two played together in 2016 and 2017. Although Pittman only caught 29 passes over those two years, he broke out in 2019 by catching 101 passes for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Darnold was developing good chemistry with Pittman towards the end of their second season together, which climaxed when Pittman caught seven passes for 146 yards and a touchdown in the Pac-12 title game win over Stanford.
Alternative: Collin Johnson, Texas
Most of the players named above are currently projected to be picked on the second day of the draft, although they'll all be hoping to establish themselves as potential first-rounders. With the Jets picking 11th, the best chance to land one more of these players could be in a trade-down scenario. However, if any of them are still on the board when they make their three picks on day two, they're likely to be on the team's shortlist.