NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Wide receiver was an obvious need for the Jets heading into the offseason, and new general manager Mike Maccagnan didn’t waste any time making sure it was addressed.
But is he done?
Owner Woody Johnson spoke to the media Tuesday during a charity event in Manhattan and appeared to let the cat out of the bag a little as far as what the Jets could do during this week’s NFL draft. Maccagnan has said the Jets are going to take a best-player-available approach, which, at least in the first round, could end up meaning they select Alabama’s Amari Cooper or West Virginia’s Kevin White at No. 6.
Cooper and White have been projected as the top receivers in this draft by numerous experts.
Johnson seemed to hint as much during his conversation with reporters, speaking first about how he expects third-year quarterback Geno Smith to improve, and later how the addition of more talent out wide will only help that process.
Of course, all that could be predicated on the Jets either not trading up to get Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota or selecting him should he be there at No. 6. Experts had repeatedly linked the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner to the Jets throughout the weeks leading up to the draft. According to some, Mariota is now considered a possible No. 2 overall pick behind Florida State’s Jameis Winston.
“He’s going to mature,’’ Johnson said of Smith, according to the New York Post. “He’s not going to be making rookie mistakes anymore and he’s not going to be making sophomore mistakes anymore, hopefully. If he can carry over the way he finished last year, when he played against the Dolphins [in the season finale] he played OK. So if he can keep that going we’re good. We’re going to get him more targets.’’
Maccagnan made a power move just before free agency opened, acquiring veteran receiver Brandon Marshall and a late-round pick from Chicago for a fifth-round pick.
The Jets will head into the season with Marshall, Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley as their top three receivers, along with pass-catching tight end Jace Amaro. Add an impact rookie like Cooper or White to the mix and whoever ends up being the starting quarterback, be it Smith, veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick or someone not currently on the roster, should have a plethora of presumably open targets to throw to.
Considered the most polished receiver in the draft, Cooper is coming off an incredible 2014 season in which he had 124 receptions, 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns in 14 games. The 6-foot, 211-pounder then ran the 40-yard dash in an impressive 4.43 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
At 6-2, 215 pounds, White has been touted as a freakish athlete who should be able to step right in at the NFL level and show off big-play potential. A native of Plainfield, New Jersey, White really made a name for himself during his senior year, leading the Mountaineers with 109 receptions, 1,447 yards and 10 TDs.
Regardless of what the Jets end up doing in the first round, Johnson said he’s eager to move even further away from the 4-12 disaster that was the 2014 season. The Jets took advantage of free agency, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and are now in position to get the type of impact early in the draft that can push them closer to being a playoff contender in the AFC.
“It’s always exciting when you have a chance to improve the team,’’ Johnson said. “It’s always hairy because you have to make sure you’re correctly evaluating players and making sure the coaches get their needs. Every year, a lot rides on the draft.’’