My rundown through the entire first round of the NFL draft continues as I examine the New York Jets who hold the #18 pick in the first round.
The Pick: Marqise Lee – WR – USC
While the 2014 class is expected to have a deep crop of wide receivers, most experts have agreed three names stand alone at the top. With Watkins and Evans off the board, the last man standing is USC star Marqise Lee. Unfortunately due to an injury during the season his stats and game tape suffered, but the young receiver remains one of the best offensive weapons available. He’s consistent, agile, boasts excellent acceleration and the soft hands to make the tough catches. His route running ability allows him to get open no matter where he lines up and he can easily turn a short dump pass into a touchdown.
Why: Geno Smith badly needs a #1 target on the outside
No team was more wildly inconsistent in 2013 than the New York Jets. At the source of it all was their offense. One week they would fail to score double digit points and turn the ball over four or five times. The next they would pound the rock on the ground and rookie quarterback Geno Smith suddenly began to make plays with his arm and feet. Still, it was painfully clear too many times the Jets lacked serious firepower in the passing game. Santonio Holmes isn’t the player he once was while Stephen Hill has turned out to be nothing more than raw physical talent and not much of a football ball. The Jets need a playmaker on the outside.
Argument: Eric Ebron offers unique advantages at tight end
One thing Lee does not boast that is becoming so prevalent in the league is size. Part of the reason Watkins and Evans went before him was because they were bigger and hence could probably take more of the NFL punishment. That is why many New York Jets fans are clamoring for the team to consider North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron. At 6’4″, 250 lbs he has a well built frame with excellent athleticism for his size and proven hands on tape. He could be the next Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates type who can give defenses matchup problems across the middle and in the end zone.
Counter-argument: Jeff Cumberland can be better with Lee presence
One key piece of news must be taken into account though with the Ebron argument, and that’s the re-signing of Jeff Cumberland. The 26-year old became a nice outlet option for Geno Smith last season and while his numbers aren’t great it stands to reason that they would improve once the New York Jets get better on the outside. That turns the team back towards Lee in the NFL draft. His threat to take it over the top will force defenses to play softer coverages and devote more attention to him. That in turn will allow Cumberland the and the Jets ground game to have more opportunities to shine.
That is why I would take Marqise Lee if I were in charge. What are your thoughts?