Feeding the Beast

The NFL Draft has become a beast. Since its inception way back in 1936, the Draft has never seen such an increase in scrutiny as it has since it was televised by ESPN (in 1980), moved to a weekend event (in 1988) and held during prime-time viewing hours (in 2010). Up until 2009, the NFL Draft had been a weekend daytime event. While it was steadily seeing small ratings increases, even a 2009 time shift to 4 p.m. ET in 2008 didn't seem make much of a dent.

The 2010 NFL Draft was a wake-up call to the sports viewing world. While it was considered a gamble at the time, it wasn't until the NFL moved the first round of the NFL Draft into a Friday night red carpet event that the television coverage became such a gold mine. Months from any meaningful games, the NFL's prime-time switch pushed ratings 30 percent in the first year while pummeling a Lakers-Thunder NBA playoff game in the process. Nine months ago, on the night that the Jets drafted Dee Milliner and Sheldon Richardson, the NFL Draft posted an impressive 7.7 million viewers, drubbing most everything on the first night of the May ratings sweeps.

While it isn't the single reason, part of that increased attention on the NFL Draft has undoubtedly led to another trend.

Year over year since 2010, the total of underclassmen forgoing their NCAA eligibility has escalated quickly. The rate of increase jumped this year with 2014 presenting an eye-popping 98 declarations (plus four early graduations) that has threatened the century mark for the first time ever.

Over the last five seasons, the NFL Draft has seen record numbers of NCAA underclassmen forgoing their eligibility for the supposed riches of the NFL. The problem, of course, is that fewer underclassmen are ever making it to NFL teams.

The "Godfather of the Draft" NFL.com’s Gil Brandt points out that of the 73 underclassmen who declared for the NFL Draft in 2013 21 players (or 28.8 percent) went undrafted

The growing number of underclassmen turning pro early is a trend that, unfortunately, is likely to continue. I say "unfortunately" because many of these players -- the majority of the time -- are coming into the league sooner than they probably should. Last year, for example, when 73 underclassmen chose to leave school early, only 52 were drafted. That means nearly 30 percent of the early entrants went undrafted.
Last year, Sheldon Richardson declared early for the NFL Draft and dropped to the thirteenth pick because of (airquotes) "concerns" about his maturity. In the end, it seems to have worked out for the best, but his story isn't going to be the same story for the 98 players leaving school early in 2014. Of course, it makes sense if players get a Draft Advisory Board letter telling them they are potential first rounders, but obviously 98 underclassmen (let alone competing against players who have played all their eligibility) aren't going to be drafted in the first round, let alone the first three.

So what is causing this massive change? The inexorable lure of NFL riches? Unscrupulous agents? The new CBA? The red carpet glamour of the NFL Draft?

Unfortunately, MMQB's Greg Bedard writes about how the number of talented seniors is decreasing and uses Jason Cole's theory about how the new CBA has ruined the most talented players in football's chance at a payday as a jumpoff point.

From Bedard's piece:

For a player like Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who played four years in college, he might not hit unrestricted free agency until he’s 29 and heading into his seventh season. That likely will be his only opportunity for a big-money contract.

That leads players—and the agents and buddies whispering into their ears—to the following thought: Get into the NFL as soon as possible to get that free agency clock started and get to that big money.

The result is that you’re getting more and more players leaving school early, many of whom aren’t ready.

“The college programs are having a big problem,” said one prominent NFC general manager who spends a lot of time on the road scouting. “That means the NFL has a big problem. I can only speak for me, but I want guys who have skins on the wall. A lot of these guys don’t have them, and you’re having to project even more.”

As Bent wrote, Cole's article which Bedard uses as a cornerstone is largely agent-infused rhetoric and only a partially accurate depiction.

Regardless, water always finds the lowest channel and so too do agents when it comes to worming their way into the counsel of potential NFLers. Which seems in line with what the godfather of the draft's take is on why this is happening.

I think the reasons for the early entry trend boils down to two factors, the first of which is competition among agents. Player representation is a very competitive business, and a lot of times if you're an agent who is largely unknown and looking for a breakthrough, you'll try to single out an underclassman that a more established agent hasn't gone after yet. You have a better chance of getting that player now than you would a year from now, when you'd have to compete for these players with the higher-profile agents of the world like Tom Condon. Consequently, a lot of underclassmen are represented by less-established agents.

The second reason is more obvious: There's a lot of money out there, and tremendous pressure on players and their families who are contacted by agents and told that their child is going to be a second-round pick if they come out early.

So, with the increased focus on the televised NFL Draft, agents skirt NCAA rules and spin Radio City dreams (and fear of the NFL CBA) into the minds of sophomores and juniors. This was bound to happen.

And along the way, some kids on the brink might be more willing to listen to the agents if they feel it could help their family, be it parents, siblings or children.

Some players might even leave in hopes of throwing off seemingly burdensome team rules or NCAA elibility requirements. Look no further than Johnny Football's famous June 2013 tweet.

Every Action Has an Equal and Opposite Reaction

Like most good beasts, the problem eventually becomes feeding the critter once it reaches a certain size.

Sooner or later, there's just not enough sustenance and the beast eventually turns on the hand that feeds them. Which is where the the collegiate all star games enter the picture. The lede of Greg Bedard's article actually began with the canary in the coal mine for this whole thing; the Senior Bowl is facing major concerns about its influence and relevance due to the lack of NFL quality talent.

The cries came from every corner in the NFL world: coaches, personnel executives and agents.

There’s nothing here. … Worst group I’ve ever seen.

They were talking about the players on display at the Senior Bowl, the premier pre-draft showcase on the field. They weren’t just whistling in Dixie. In the previous five drafts, there were an average of 10.2 Senior Bowl players draft in the first round—and no less than eight (2012). There was an average of 2.2 players taken in the top 15.

After spending most of the week in Mobile, the consensus is there were maybe three first-round talents here, with a maximum of six.

Only six potential first rounders in all of Mobile last week? Yikes. With almost twice as many underclassmen declaring as just two years ago, think about what that means for the collegiate all-star games in 2015 and beyond. The Senior Bowl is the premier event, so imagine what that means for the pools of talent at the East-West Shrine and NFLPA Collegiate bowl games.  

Worse yet, what does this mean for future NFL Draft classes? Will there be a loaded concentration of talent at the very top of the draft while the rest of the draft becomes increasingly irrelevant?  

One long-time NFL scout told Bedard that “college football is turning into the NBA [draft process]. [NCAA coaching staffs are] telling the players they can get them in and out. And half of them aren’t ready.”

If there is one good bit of news, it is that the players who are generally the smartest (and who need be the strongest) aren't bowing to the trend. Of the 98 players who declared only seven were offensive linemen.

Meanwhile at positions where staying through four of five years means less, like at running back and wide receiver, the 2014 class is overloaded. Thirty six declarations of the 98 are centered on receivers and running backs.

The NFL's Version of Fracking?

For decades, Peak Oil theorists have held that with increased extraction and consumption of oil, a peak would ensue followed by a terminal decline. With the rise of fracking technology, this theory has largely been shelved in the last five years and has lead to the antiquation, or at least serious delay, on the theory of Peak Oil. The principle here is that with greater determination and technological advances in the face of scarcer resources, the petroleum industry has adjusted.

While NFL scouting certainly doesn't have as much money behind it, could the same principle be true in this brave new underclassmen driven world? NFL teams are preparing for the NFL Draft in new ways because of rules that restrict NFL scouts from delving too deep into underclassmen before they declare for the NFL Draft.

While the level of talent at the Senior Bowl is a concern for Buffalo Bills GM Doug Whaley and his Director of College Scouting Kelvin Fisher, they are adjusting to the talent shift per the Buffalo Bills website:

“It’s tougher on us as scouts because you cannot look at those guys or talk about those guys until they officially declare and the list came out on Sunday so we can only start our process now and it condenses all that information into a shorter time period,” said Whaley. “So it makes us work a lot harder and it’s tough because those are usually the best players so you want to be as thorough as possible.”

What Whaley and Fisher have done to lessen the burden on their area scouts is shrink their respective regions to allow their talent evaluators to spend more time at each of their campus stops.

“What we like to do is we condense their areas so they can have a better feel for everybody at their school,” he said. “You could watch a guy as an underclassman and not scout him, but be aware of him. So if he does decide to come out early at least you have a basis to start on and that helps you out a lot.”

To assist in the process of getting up to speed on the underclassmen this time of year the Bills and a handful of other NFL clubs rely on the BLESTO scouting service to provide a jumping off point for the 100-plus prospects that were thrust into the draft pool earlier this month. Simply put the BLESTO meetings are invaluable.

BLESTO might not be a acronym that many Jets fans are familiar with, but it stands for Bears Lions Eagles Steelers Talent Organization, and over many years has become a co-op of 12 NFL teams that share scouts and pay subscriptions into pooled scouting services. All but a handful of NFL teams participate in some shared scouting network and the Jets participate in the other big scouting co-op named "The National" which comprises 15 teams. Learn more about BLESTO and The National in this Draft Daddy article.

More from Whaley:

“This is our first chance to talk to our scouting service BLESTO on any guy they upgraded from the fall,” said Whaley. “So they’ll give us an update on those guys that they upgraded or gave a better draft grade. They’ll go over those guys and then they will also give us a breakdown of all the juniors that came out and give us a draft grade of A, B, C or D. That will allow me and (Director of Player Personnel) Jim Monos to funnel our attention to the higher rated guys.”
Essentially since BLESTO (and we assume the same for The National) are vendors and not the NFL teams themselves, different rules apply. BLESTO and The National are allowed to hold those draft grades while the NFL teams by rule are not allowed to do the same. Once the January 15 declaration window passes, it seems that the shared scouting services are free to share those underclassmen grades again with their subscribing teams.

While it sounds like a mad dash, the NFL teams can then use those grades as a starting point to begin watching film, start necessary inquiries, write reports and ultimately assign draft grades. Due to the short window of time, players with "D" and "C" grades are likely deprioritized by teams to focus their grading on the smaller subset of players over the next three months. It might be messy, but from Whaley's statements it sounds like NFL teams are learning to adjust thanks to the help of their scouting subscription services.

One thing is certain though is that with younger players entering the league and the pressure on talented underclassmen to fill the vacuum that was created by their predecessors, teams are going to have to draft and subsequently develop more of their own talent moving forward which might pressure NFL teams to go push the competition committee to make changes to the numbers or types of roster spots in coming years.

Even so, for the allure of entering the NFL Draft early, Brandt will always give underclassmen the same advice:

Sometimes, though, what appears to be the best deal today isn't necessarily the best deal. I know of very few players whose draft status went down because they stayed an extra year. That's what I always try to tell these kids. If you're an underclassman who is going to be drafted in the second round this year, you have a much better chance of advancing than going down the following year.
Tags: NYJets, Brian Bassett

New York Jets defensive end Leonard Williams on the sidelines during the third quarter against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Jets defensive end Leonard Williams on the sidelines during the third quarter against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

The Jets have officially picked up DL Leonard Williams' fifth-year option, keeping Williams with the team through 2019 at least. 

Williams, 23, the sixth overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, will make $14.2 million in 2019, assuming he's considered a defensive end. If they try to say he's a defensive tackle, the contract will be $11.4 million, according to SNY's Ralph Vacchiano. The contract becomes fully guaranteed next March.

"It's definitely time to step up and take it to the next level," Williams said last week via Vacchiano. "That comes with a lot. It's just not my play on the field. It comes with my leadership, how I approach work, how much time I'm putting in outside of the mandatory hours into my craft, into my game."

Tags: Leonard Williams
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Who will the Jets select #3? 00:05:13
SNY NFL Insider Ralph Vacchiano and SNY NFL Draft Expert Rich Cirminiello discuss who the Jets will select third overall in the NFL Draft.

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive

In less than a week, Jets GM Mike Maccagnan will make the most important draft pick of his tenure with the team, the one that surely will define his legacy.

No pressure, right?

Tags: Eli Manning, Josh McCown, Ralph Vacchiano
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Tulane Green Wave cornerback Parry Nickerson returns his interception against the Connecticut Huskies in the second quarter at Rentschler Field. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)
Tulane Green Wave cornerback Parry Nickerson returns his interception against the Connecticut Huskies in the second quarter at Rentschler Field. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter

Over the last few weeks, we looked at some of the players who have been invited to attend an official pre-draft visit with the Jets. With the visits ending earlier this week, let's take a final look at a selection of the players New York brought in.

Parry Nickerson, CB, Tulane

Nickerson is a four-year starter who was a constant standout on the Tulane defense. During his career, he recorded 16 interceptions, broke up another 31 passes and scored two defensive touchdowns. He turned heads at the scouting combine when he ran a 4.32 40-yard dash.

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Jonas Schwartz and Willie Colon are ready to open their present that is the #3 pick in the NFL Draft. The guys discuss the possibility of the Jets trading up, yet again, and the crazy idea of selecting a non-QB (can someone say Bradley Chubb) with the 3rd overall selection. Plus, former NFL QB Dan Orlovsky calls in to give his insight into the top four quarterbacks.

Click below to listen

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 (Tim Fuller)
(Tim Fuller)

The Jets will open the 2018 season in Detroit against the Lions on Monday night football, and finish things in Week 17 on the road against the Patriots.

Their entire 2018 schedule has been confirmed by SNY's Ralph Vacchiano, and is below...

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Jan 1, 2018; Pasadena, CA, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) passes against the Georgia Bulldogs in the first quarter in the 2018 Rose Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Rose Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports (Kirby Lee)
Jan 1, 2018; Pasadena, CA, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) passes against the Georgia Bulldogs in the first quarter in the 2018 Rose Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Rose Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports (Kirby Lee)

Former QB Dan Orlovsky thinks the Jets are targeting Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield with the No. 3 pick in the Draft, and one of the reasons is very specific.

Orlovsky, who played under Kyle Shanahan, noted that Jets OC Jeremy Bates is from the Mike Shanahan coaching tree. And that one of the traits Shanahan loved about John Elway is that he would screw his back foot into the ground when he threw -- adding that Bates loves that trait in quarterbacks as well. 

"There's one guy in the Draft who has that trait," Orlovsky said earlier this week on SNY's Jet Stream podcast. "And it's Baker Mayfield. He does the same thing when he throws. And I just think that those coaches fall in love with traits of guys that remind them of players that they had success with in the past. I think that they're looking at Baker Mayfield and going 'that's our guy.'"

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Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield drops back to pass against Ohio State during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete) (Jay LaPrete/AP)
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield drops back to pass against Ohio State during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete) (Jay LaPrete/AP)

Projecting trades in a Mock Draft is a futile effort. There are too many variables and rumors. It's mostly speculation. And really, it's just an exercise in fantasy football.

But … well, who doesn't love fantasy football?

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Oct 14, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold. (Kirby Lee)
Oct 14, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold. (Kirby Lee)

In his latest mock draft, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer has the Jets taking Sam Darnold as their quarterback of the future at No. 3. 

Many experts believe Darnold could be the first overall pick by the Browns, and if he doesn't land with Cleveland, then the Giants would scoop him up at No. 2. However, with Josh Allen as Breer's No. 1 pick and the Giants electing to go with Saquon Barkley over a quarterback, Darnold drops in the Jets' lap. 

So, there is no need for the Jets to choose between Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield...

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Mangold's Hall of Fame chances 00:04:59
Dan Graca and Jon Hein debate over Nick Mangold's chances at making the Hall of Fame and the Devils' chances at beating the Lightning.

After a year out of football, No. 74 is officially hanging up the cleats. 

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive: On the lists of favorite players and all-time greats, you'll rarely find a center. They're buried in the trenches, often noticed only when a bad snap happens or a defensive tackle breaks through.

The same was probably true for Nick Mangold during his 11 NFL seasons - rarely noticed from the outside and incredibly underappreciated game to game. Yet somehow he still emerged from his long career as a fan favorite. And he definitely emerged as one of the Jets' all-time greats.

Tags: Nick Mangold
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New York Jets defensive end Leonard Williams gestures while jogging on the field prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Jets defensive end Leonard Williams gestures while jogging on the field prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive

Jets GM Mike Maccagnan made it clear he had no worries about the state of the Jets' defensive line heading into the offseason. Sure, they've lost a lot of talent in recent years, trading Sheldon Richardson, cutting Muhammad Wilkerson and not re-signing Damon Harrison.

But they still have Leonard Williams, the sixth pick of the 2015 draft, and despite a down season last year, the Jets have huge expectations for him.

Tags: Damon Harrison, Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Steve McLendon, Ralph Vacchiano
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Los Angeles Chargers kicker Nick Rose attempts a field goal during an NFL game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)
Los Angeles Chargers kicker Nick Rose attempts a field goal during an NFL game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

The Jets were awarded kicker Nick Rose on Monday after the Los Angeles Chargers placed him on waivers, the team announced.

Rose made 11 of 14 field goals in 10 games with the Chargers and Washington Redskins last season and converted on 23 of 26 extra points. He went 1-for-3 as a member of the Chargers in Weeks 16 and 17, and 10-for-11 in eight games with Washington. His longest make last year was 55 yards.

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Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive

Brian Winters remembers everything about the moment his 2017 season went off the rails. He remembers the time, the place, the play, and without question, the pain.

"It was second quarter in Oakland (in Week 2) with five minutes to go before half when we were driving in to the north end zone. I still remember it like it was yesterday," said the 26-year-old guard. "It was an outside zone play and (running back) Bilal (Powell) was trying to stretch it outside of me, so I went to continue to push my guy through. And as soon as I pushed through I felt like a pop."

Tags: Brian Winters, Wesley Johnson, Ralph Vacchiano
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Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Jeff Badet catches a touchdown pass against Texas Longhorns defensive back Kris Boyd in the second quarter at the Cotton Bowl. (Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports)
Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Jeff Badet catches a touchdown pass against Texas Longhorns defensive back Kris Boyd in the second quarter at the Cotton Bowl. (Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports)

Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter

Last week, we looked at some of the players who have been invited to attend an official pre-draft visit with the Jets. More names have leaked out over the past seven days, so let's break down some of the more interesting ones in detail.

Jeff Badet, WR, Oklahoma

Badet spent most of his collegiate career at Kentucky, but saw some high profile action last year after transferring to Oklahoma. He wasn't invited to the scouting combine, but if he had been, his pro day numbers for the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and broad jump would all have ranked first or second at the receiver position.

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Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield drops back to pass against Ohio State during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete) (Jay LaPrete/AP)
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield drops back to pass against Ohio State during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete) (Jay LaPrete/AP)

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive: It's not quite crunch time yet, but there are less than three weeks until the start of the first round of the NFL draft, which means draft boards are in their final stages all around the league. It also means that the truth about which players are being targeted by which teams is starting to leak out -- albeit slowly.

Still, there are a lot of variables, especially in the first two picks. But at the moment there aren't many changes to my latest Mini-Mock Draft. The Browns are still taking a quarterback at 1. The Jets are still definitely taking one at 3. And I still think the Giants will take one -- assuming the right one is available -- at 2.

Here's a full look at my new Top 10, with some updated inside information...

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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

Former Jets QB Mark Sanchez has been suspended four games after violating the performance-enhancing drug policy, the league announced Friday. 

Sanchez, who last played for the Jets in 2013, was the Bear's third-string quarterback last season. He claimed that "unknowing supplement contamination" was the reason for his drug test to turn up positive. 

The 31-year-old took to Instagram to explain the whole story...

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 (Kamil Krzaczynski)
(Kamil Krzaczynski)

The Jets have already begun condensing their roster for next season as the team announced several cuts on Friday. 

Among them was former Bears RB Jeremy Langford, who signed a reserve/future contract with the Jets worth $630,000 this offseason. The 26-year-old spent time jumping through practice squads last season, and though he was promoted to the Ravens' 53-man roster, an injury pushed him to the IR the same week he joined the team. 

Langford was released following his IR placement, and the former fourth-round pick wouldn't see time for the rest of the season.

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New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) greets Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) during warmups before a game at MetLife Stadium. (Brad Penner)
New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) greets Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) during warmups before a game at MetLife Stadium. (Brad Penner)

WR Dez Bryant was released by the Cowboys on Friday afternoon, with Bryant reportedly hinting afterwards that he might be staying in the NFC East.

Bryant, 29, had a down year in 2017, with 69 receptions for 838 yards and six touchdowns in 16 games.

"I let a lot of things get in the way that bother me mentally," Bryant said late last season. "I feel like, if anything, I need to deal with in the offseason - is that. Like I said, there's only certain things I can control."

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Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield drops back to pass against Ohio State during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete) (Jay LaPrete/AP)
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield drops back to pass against Ohio State during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete) (Jay LaPrete/AP)

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive

The Jets are taking a quarterback with the third overall pick in the draft. They know it. Everyone knows it. And they know everyone knows it. "I mean, you'd have to be out of your mind to think otherwise," was how one team official said it. The only lingering question is: Which one?

The Jets have had or will have had private meetings and workouts with all of the top four, and GM Mike Maccagnan has made the rounds at their Pro Days. When they traded up to No. 3 they were convinced that they'd be happy with choosing from whichever two (or three) fell to them. And obviously at least two of the Big Four -- USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and Wyoming's Josh Allen -- will still be there...

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Jonas Schwartz and Willie Colon take their deepest dive yet into the NFL Draft. They discuss the latest with the four quarterbacks, as well as look back at Willie's draft process with the Steelers in 2006. Later, Brian Costello of the New York Post joins the show to give his take on the draft and the possibility of Mike Maccagnan signing defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.

Click below to listen

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New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown (15) gestures after thrown a touchdown pass to wide receiver Robby Anderson, not pictured, during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun) (Bill Kostroun/AP)
New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown (15) gestures after thrown a touchdown pass to wide receiver Robby Anderson, not pictured, during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun) (Bill Kostroun/AP)

The Jets' preseason schedule has been officially released for the 2018 season. 

The Falcons will be Gang Green's first opponent of the new year on their home turf. Then, they will hit the road to face the Redskins on Aug. 16 at 8 p.m.

The annual Snoopy Bowl at MetLife Stadium between the Jets and Giants will be the Week 3 matchup, with the Jets getting home field advantage.

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Top QB prospect Josh Rosen 00:01:13
Former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is expected to be taken as one of the top QB's in the 2018 NFL Draft.

In his latest mock draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper sees the Jets grabbing UCLA QB Josh Rosen with their third overall pick -- as SNY's Ralph Vacchiano projects in his Mini Mock Draft 3.0. 

The Jets clearly traded up to the No. 3 slot to take one of the highly touted quarterbacks. With Wyoming's Josh Allen and USC's Sam Darnold going to the Browns and Giants respectively, Rosen appears the best option for the Jets in Kiper's mind. 

CLICK BELOW TO READ KIPER'S ANALYSIS

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Oct 22, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New York Jets tight end Eric Tomlinson (83) hurdles Miami Dolphins strong safety Nate Allen (29) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports (Jasen Vinlove)
Oct 22, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New York Jets tight end Eric Tomlinson (83) hurdles Miami Dolphins strong safety Nate Allen (29) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports (Jasen Vinlove)

Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter

Having opted to let Austin Seferain-Jenkins leave in free agency, the Jets are relying on a group of young tight ends to replace his production, recently adding two more options to the mix.

It's possible the Jets could look to add to the group via the draft but, for now, let's consider what each of the tight ends currently on the roster brings to the table, and consider how they might be used in 2018...

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Top QB prospect Josh Rosen 00:01:13
Former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is expected to be taken as one of the top QB's in the 2018 NFL Draft.

With the NFL Draft a little over two weeks away, the Jets continue to get their last live look at the top prospects they could select with their third overall pick. 

After Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield wraps up his private workout with the Jets Tuesday, UCLA QB Josh Rosen will visit the team, per SNY's Ralph Vacchiano.

After Rosen's visit, USC QB Sam Darnold is expected to be next on the list at some point later this week. Wyoming QB Josh Allen is also expected to visit at a later date.

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 (Aaron Doster)
(Aaron Doster)

The Jets continue to bolster their defense with another addition at the second tier in vetearn LB Kevin Minter, the team announced Monday. 

Minter most recently played for the Bengals in 2017, where he tallied 32 tackles in nine games. 

He was a second round draft pick by the Cardinals back in 2013, and he would spend four seasons in Arizona before heading to Cincinnati. He totaled 175 tackles, five sacks, one forced fumble, and six passes defended over 61 games (37 starts). 

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Dec 1, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Charles Johnson (12) runs after the catch in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Rempel)
Dec 1, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Charles Johnson (12) runs after the catch in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Rempel)

The Jets continue to stack their wide receiving corps for next season as former Vikings WR Charles Johnson signed a deal with the team on Monday. 

Johnson, who was waived by the Panthers in July 2017, sat out all last season due to surgery on his right knee. He played for the Vikings from 2014-16, where he totaled 60 receptions for 834 yards and two touchdowns over 39 games. 

The Grand Valley State product was a Packers' seventh-rounder back in 2013, and after joinging the team's practice squad following camp that year, the Brown picked him up to join their 53-man squad. He dressed but never saw action with the Browns. 

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The Jets' free agency strategy 00:12:52
The Jets Nation panel analyzes the Jets' recent free-agent additions, including former Vikings franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive

Here is the most up-to-date information on whom the Jets have added and lost during free agency, including contract details and salary cap information. Be sure to bookmark this page and check back for frequent updates.

JETS SALARY CAP SPACE

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Dec 27, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes running back Akrum Wadley (25) rushes against Boston College Eagles defensive tackle Noa Merritt (94) during the second half of the 2017 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports (Vincent Carchietta)
Dec 27, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes running back Akrum Wadley (25) rushes against Boston College Eagles defensive tackle Noa Merritt (94) during the second half of the 2017 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports (Vincent Carchietta)

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While the Jets are reportedly hosting Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen for official Draft visits this week, we've also been keeping an eye on who else is reportedly scheduled to attend. Last year, both Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye took official visits before being selected with the Jets' top two picks.

Aside from the quarterbacks, most of this year's names that have leaked so far would be players the Jets might be hoping will drop to day three of the draft or maybe even be available as a priority free agent if they go undrafted. Let's look at some of the more interesting prospects...

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Jan 1, 2018; Pasadena, CA, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) passes against the Georgia Bulldogs in the first quarter in the 2018 Rose Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Rose Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports (Kirby Lee)
Jan 1, 2018; Pasadena, CA, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) passes against the Georgia Bulldogs in the first quarter in the 2018 Rose Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Rose Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports (Kirby Lee)

With the NFL Draft just 17 days away, Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield is scheduled to meet with the Jets in Florham Park on Monday and Tuesday, according to multiple reports.

The Jets have already met with Mayfield on multiple occasons -- including at the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine -- and the team held a private workout with him. 

The 22-year-old Mayfield, who is expected to be selected early in the first round, threw 119 touchdowns in three seasons with Oklahoma and capped it off by throwing 43 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2017 when he started a career-high 14 games...

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New York Jets running back Bilal Powell is pursued by Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Isaac Rochell on a 57-yard touchdown run in the third quarter during an NFL football game at MetLife Stadium. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Jets running back Bilal Powell is pursued by Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Isaac Rochell on a 57-yard touchdown run in the third quarter during an NFL football game at MetLife Stadium. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

Despite the retirement of Matt Forte, the Jets have bolstered their depth in the offensive backfield with a couple of veteran additions. Let's give consideration to what each back brings to the table and how they might find a niche in the Jets' offense this season.

Bilal Powell...

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Sep 10, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Indianapolis Colts nose tackle Al Woods (99) and Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (95) wait to take the field before the Colts game with the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports (Robert Hanashiro)
Sep 10, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Indianapolis Colts nose tackle Al Woods (99) and Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (95) wait to take the field before the Colts game with the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports (Robert Hanashiro)

Free agent DT Johnathan Hankins visited the Jets on Thursday, reports Dan Graziano of ESPN. Hankins, who was cut by the Colts earlier this offseason, has also visited the Redskins.

After spending the first four seasons of his career with the Giants, Hankins agreed to a four-your deal with the Colts worth $30 million, with $14.5 million guaranteed. 

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive: The Jets were obviously looking for an upgrade at defensive tackle when they made their brief -- and ill-advised -- pursuit of Ndamukong Suh. Thankfully, they pulled the plug on that before it happened. Johnathan Hankins could turn out to be a much better fit...

Tags: Johnathan Hankins
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