2017 NFL Mock Draft: Adam Zielonka’s 7-round Jets mock

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In 10 days, the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft will commence in Philadelphia, but there will be talented and intriguing prospects drafted in each of the draft’s seven rounds. For all the work we’ve done analyzing the New York Jets’ first couple picks, it’s worth our time on this Mock Draft Monday to dive deeper.

Using New York Jet Fuel’s database of “Future Jets” scouting reports, CBS Sports’ big board and projections, Walter Football’s list of team visits, and plenty of other research, here is what I’d call an ideal draft for the Jets, Rounds 1-7.

Remember, the Jets’ fourth-rounder belongs to Washington due to last year’s trade-up to pick Brandon Shell, but New York got a third-round compensatory pick for losing Damon Harrison in free agency a year ago.

I tried to mix general manager Mike Maccagnan’s well-known “best player available” draft strategy with some of my own perspectives on what the team needs. For the first two rounds, I’ve offered a nice “Plan B” or alternative selection for your consideration as you prepare for draft weekend.

Round 1, no. 6 overall: Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio State

My process here was far deeper than just falling back on the last guy I watched on tape. First, I ruled out quarterback because I don’t think Maccagnan wants to repeat the four-quarterback carousel of last year and because there aren’t any sure bets at the position this year. And you can trumpet Macc’s best-available strategy all you want, but I don’t think the team is picking a defensive lineman or Alabama TE O.J. Howard this early. Thus, I narrowed it down to four players who could realistically be worth the sixth pick and available: Jamal Adams, Marshon Lattimore, Leonard Fournette and Hooker.

Adams, as I said on our podcast last week, is a hard-hitting strong safety, and the Jets still have former first-round pick Calvin Pryor on his rookie contract – a guy who was disappointing but not really bad in 2016. So to decide among Hooker, Lattimore and Fournette, my final step was to study reputable mock drafts from this month and find who was most often available at number six. The answer was Hooker, a big-play free safety who will make Marcus Gilchrist expendable by 2018 and give the Jets the final layer of pass protection it lacked last year. I’ll take it.

Alternative pick: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State. Lots of analysts have Lattimore going third overall to the Bears. Hooker’s teammate would be just as welcome in New York’s secondary if he falls there.

Round 2, no. 39 overall: T.J. Watt, edge rusher, Wisconsin

I believe Watt will be the best player available here; despite his relation to J.J., this isn’t a name I’ve been hearing hyped as an ascending first-round prospect like Missouri’s Charles Harris. But as I wrote in my scouting report of Watt, the Jets could find the pass rushing threat they’ve lacked for years by drafting him. It couldn’t hurt to let him rotate with the young guys already on the roster – Lorenzo Mauldin, Mike Catapano and Jordan Jenkins – but there won’t be much need for rotation if Watt starts racking up more sacks than those three produced in 2016.

Alternative pick: Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland. Keep an ear out for this Division II prospect. The Jets could really use another offensive skill player, particularly a receiving tight end, and Shaheen has drawn comparisons to Rob Gronkowski.

Round 3, no. 70 overall: Jake Butt, TE, Michigan

Here’s where the Jets get their tight end (and, completely by accident on my part, their third straight Big Ten player). Todd McShay recently slotted Butt 70th to the Jets, and I don’t mean to copy the guy, but I don’t see why not. Butt had first-round potential that was marred by a bowl game ACL injury. Even if he can’t play in 2017, the Jets don’t need him to. Rebuilding mode, remember? With Chan Gailey out and John Morton in as offensive coordinator, New York could and should be shifting to a better offensive plan that actually passes the ball to the tight end every so often.

For what it’s worth, I always find it fascinating when teams’ websites, official arms of the organizations, comment on prospects as if their writers are Mel Kiper Jr. New York Jet employee Randy Lange wrote last week that Butt “could be a fourth-round bargain” (remember that his employer does not currently own a fourth-round pick). Maybe I’m a conspiracy theorist, but I wonder if this is a strategy to fool other organizations about how the team values Butt, because I don’t know who else is valuing Butt that low right now.

Round 3, no. 107 overall (compensatory): Julie’n Davenport, OT, Bucknell

I’ve insisted the Jets need to draft at least one offensive lineman by this round, but this is a weird and uneven O-line class. I considered LSU center Ethan Pocic here as a potential Nick Mangold fill-in, but I have a feeling the Jets like Wesley Johnson as a 2017 starter and the tackle situation is less certain. Free agent signing Kelvin Beachum is already on his third team since the 2012 draft and projects as the Jets’ starting left tackle. I don’t buy that as a long-term solution. On the flip side, the right tackle will be either Ben Ijalana, Brandon Shell or the ghost of Austin Howard. New York needs another option they can develop into a starter on one side of the line or the other. Davenport isn’t hyped because of his relatively anonymous college, but the Jets did their diligence of meeting him at the Senior Bowl. That’s enough for me to pull the trigger on a 6-foot-7, 318-pound prospect with 36 1/2 inch arms.

Round 5, no. 150 overall: Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State

Unlike offensive line and tight end, this year’s class is deep at cornerback, so I have no qualms about the Jets waiting till Round 5 to pick up another corner. I don’t mind the Morris Claiborne signing. I think New York already has two starters and a nickel corner among the group of Claiborne, Buster Skrine, Marcus Williams and Juston Burris. If they don’t draft Lattimore or Buckeyes teammate Gareon Conley early, I won’t shed tears. Kazee, though, is very good value here. USA Today named the small-school product a second-team All-American. The Aztec snagged eight INTs last year, and though he isn’t a prototypical specimen like Lattimore, he has the college experience coaches want to see in their depth charts. He could develop into a consistent nickel or dime option, covering smaller, speedier opponents. The Jets were interested enough in him to work him out privately.

Round 6, no. 191 overall: Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State

First I started the mock with three straight Big Ten prospects, and now I go back-to-back at a mid-major? Trust me, I know what I’m doing.

The Jets clearly have tried to secure a third-string runner to spell gimpy Matt Forte and pinball Bilal Powell, but no one has stuck. The current staff has shown an affinity for 220-pound types like Khiry Robinson, but I’ll make the case for Pumphrey over a bruiser. Let’s get this out of the way: Pumphrey is 5-foot-8, 175 pounds. He’s so small, I have to wonder why I didn’t go out for football tryouts in high school. He’s officially the all-time Division I career rushing leader and CBS Sports projects him as a fifth-rounder, but I feel his size is going to turn teams off the way nobody originally wanted miniscule record-holder Danny Woodhead. His elusiveness probably makes him harder to bring down than the burly but unimpressive Robinson. He can catch and score. And I haven’t yet mentioned that Jets special teams coordinator Brant Boyer attended Pumphrey’s senior day to watch him field punts, something he wasn’t known for in college. Kick and punt returning was a mess all season for New York, and now two returners, both Jalin and Nick Marshall, though unrelated, have similarly been suspended for the start of 2017. There are plenty of ways Pumphrey could help the Jets that we should be hopeful about.

Round 7, no. 224 overall: Josh Tupou, DT, Colorado

Here’s where predictions become understandably arbitrary, because seventh-rounders are often camp bodies with no guarantee of making the team. But last year, the Jets doubled their luck with the seventh-round picks of wideout Charone Peake and punter Lachlan Edwards, who both will contribute again in 2017. Let’s take this pick just as seriously, because I have an idea.

I happen to believe the Jets’ front seven was a lot more dangerous when they had a true nose tackle named Damon Harrison anchoring it. The Jets could not replace Harrison with Jarvis Jenkins and Steve McLendon last year; Jenkins didn’t even stay on the team through November. The team spent a lot of time with Tupou at his pro day, according to a reporter. Listed at 325 pounds, but at one point weighing in at 350, the Colorado Buffalo is a true beast at nose tackle. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone in the form of “Snacks” Harrison squatted between Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams, freeing them up to get to the quarterback and contain an opposing offense? Wouldn’t it also be nice to make the troubled Sheldon Richardson officially dispensable by trade?

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