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There are always plenty of receiver prospects who make an immediate impact as a rookie, even in the later rounds. However, the Jets haven't had much success in recent years despite selecting seven wideouts in the last four drafts.
While four of those seven are under contract for 2018 and a fifth -- restricted free agent Quincy Enunwa -- also figures to be back, the Jets got just 15 catches of production from that group in 2017.
While their draft choices have largely underwhelmed, an undrafted player - Robby Anderson - has emerged as a potential star. Had Josh McCown not been injured in December, Anderson probably would have ended up with his first 1,000-yard season. However, concerns over off-field issues may mean the Jets can't rely on Anderson being the player they build their receiving unit around. The receiver group also includes Enunwa, veteran Jermaine Kearse, and 2017 rookies Chad Hansen and ArDarius Stewart.
Whether the Jets target an elite guy or try to add depth with a pick or two later on, there are plenty of alternatives, even though this is currently regarded as a draft that lacks an elite difference-maker at the top end.
There are a handful of guys who are widely considered as potential first round picks this year. However, the scouting combine will probably shake things up. In 2016, LaQuon Treadwell was regarded as the top receiver in the draft by most analysts up until combine time, but ended up being the fourth receiver selected and has been a disappointment in the pros. On the other end of the scale, Jon Ross came from nowhere and ended up a top 10 pick in last year's draft.
Alabama's Calvin Ridley and Oklahoma State's James Washington seem to be the two receivers who most people agree will go in the first round. Ridley is a good all-round player, with technical route-running ability, hands and playmaking ability. His production might have been better if he played with better quarterbacks. Washington, who got to play with Mason Rudolph, was a constant big-play threat, although he lacks prototypical size.
Some experts have SMU's Courtland Sutton as their best overall prospect, and he's the highest-rated of a deep group of athletic and productive receivers with size in the 6-foot-4 range. Some of the other big receivers who could yet move into contention to be selected in the first round include Florida State's Auden Tate, Notre Dame's Equanimeous St. Brown and Marcell Ateman, a teammate of Washington's at Oklahoma State.
A receiver with that kind of size is something the Jets lack, although with such a deep group, they may find one later on. Simmie Cobbs from Indiana, Allen Lazard from Iowa State and Chad Wieneke from South Dakota State could also be on the radar.
Christian Kirk from Texas A&M is another player commonly slotted as a first round pick in mock drafts. Kirk also brings return game abilities and excellent productivity out of the slot, as does Anthony Miller, another potential first-rounder out of Memphis.
The Jets used Kearse heavily in the slot after losing Jeremy Kerley to suspension last year, and Enunwa can also produce from there. However, both are also capable of playing outside. Whether the Jets target a slot guy may depend on their confidence in Stewart and Hansen.
Small receivers that can be productive out of the slot are often late-round bargains that pay early dividends. Trent Taylor of the 49ers, a fifth-round pick last year, is a good example of that. Texas Tech's Keke Coutee, Pitt's Quadree Henderson and Middle Tennessee State's Richey James could be targets.
Despite some durability issues, James was one of the most dynamic receivers in the nation over the past few years, and is such a good athlete that he even spent some time filling in at quarterback. Henderson was used as a utility player in Pitt's gimmicky offense, and has an ability to run jet sweep-type plays and contribute as a return man.
Speaking of return men, Washington's Dante Pettis is sure to draw interest after a career which saw him return an NCAA-record nine punts for touchdowns. Miami's Braxton Berrios is another good punt returner, while also bringing ability to produce from the slot.
Finally, players like DJ Chark from LSU, Tre'Quan Smith from UCF, Michael Gallup from Colorado State and Northern Iowa's Daurice Fountain have already boosted their stock with strong performances during college all-star games. They'll be looking to keep up the momentum at the combine, apart from Fountain, who was a high-profile snub.
Given how the passing game floundered once McCown went onto injured reserve last year, the Jets should look to bolster their depth, even with Enunwa expected back. They'll always be hoping to find another diamond-in-the-rough like Anderson too.