FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mystery surrounds Mike Maccagnan’s first draft as general manager of the New York Jets.
With the No. 6 overall selection, a potential impact player will be available. The question is whether the Jets will stay put at that spot. And, if they do, who’s the pick? A quarterback? A pass rusher? A wide receiver? Maybe even an offensive lineman?
Coming off a 4-12 season, the Jets could use them all. But trading up, trading back or staying put are all still in play with the draft kicking off Thursday night.
“Since it’s my first time as a general manager, I don’t have a track record yet,” Maccagnan said last Friday. “But I think, philosophically, I like the idea of, personally, getting more picks because to me more picks are more opportunities to find players.”
That sounds an awful lot like a GM who’d like to trade down in the draft if he can.
But, sure enough, Maccagnan also wouldn’t rule out moving up. Quarterback-needy New York could try to jump up a few spots if Maccagnan and new coach Todd Bowles are set on Oregon’s Marcus Mariota being a franchise-type signal caller.
Maccagnan acknowledged that the Jets, who currently have six total picks, would be calling all five teams ahead of them in the draft to gauge what they might want as far as compensation. That includes Tampa Bay, which is expected to take Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston with the No. 1 pick.
“Philosophically, I’m not opposed to moving up in the draft to go get a player if you feel that is the player that’s going to be an extremely good player,” Maccagnan said, before reiterating he values having more picks.
“You see what unfolds with the first few picks,” he said, “and who’s available and then you’re at least informed to go make that decision.”
Here are five things to know as the Jets finalize their draft plans:
BIG DEBUT: After spending the past four years as Houston’s director of college scouting, this is the first draft Maccagnan will fully oversee. He has more than 20 years of experience in NFL scouting departments, and his strength is in player evaluation — something owner Woody Johnson sought after he fired John Idzik after two years.
While Idzik was known for balancing the checkbook, which helped the Jets head into this offseason more than $50 million under the salary cap, Maccagnan offers a GM who built his reputation on having a keen eye for talent. He was involved in the Texans drafting J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, among others.
NEED VS. TALENT: Maccagnan made it clear that he will head into the first round of the draft — regardless of where the Jets pick — looking to take the best player on the team’s board.
He addressed many of the team’s needs by adding lots of veteran depth in free agency, particularly on the offensive and defensive lines, and revamped the secondary by signing cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine and safety Marcus Gilchrist.
QB OR NOT QB?: The Jets aren’t sold on Geno Smith being the quarterback of the future, and they traded for veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is familiar with new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s system. Still, the quarterback position remains a huge question mark for a team that has made marked improvement in several other areas on the roster.
If New York thinks it can get Mariota, whether at No. 6 or in a trade to move up a few spots, the Jets could jump at the chance. They have been desperately looking for a franchise quarterback since the days of Joe Namath, and could envision Mariota as the best chance to end that drought.
GETTING A PASS RUSHER: If Mariota is off the board, the defensive-minded Bowles could have his pick from among a deep class of sack-happy players.
Clemson’s Vic Beasley, Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr., Missouri’s Shane Ray, Kentucky’s Bud Dupree and Nebraska’s Randy Gregory could all be options, and all five had predraft visits. One word of caution: The previous time the Jets selected No. 6 overall was in 2008, when they picked Ohio State pass rusher Vernon Gholston — regarded as one of the big busts in draft history.
BIG CATCH: Despite trading for Brandon Marshall in the offseason, the Jets could grab another wide receiver in the first round if either West Virginia’s Kevin White or Alabama’s Amari Cooper are still on the board. White or Cooper could team with Marshall, Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley to form a formidable foursome at wide receiver, regardless of who is throwing the ball for the Jets.
Jets owner Woody Johnson appeared to hint at the possibility Tuesday, telling reporters the team would get Smith “more targets.”
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