2012 NFL Draft: New York Jets Top Picks

There aren't many players entering the 2012 NFL draft that the Jets haven't been rumored to be interested in. The team has 10 picks in this draft, but the big question is who will they choose with their highest pick, the 16th selection in the first round.  With only 25 hours left until the draft begins, here's a quick rundown of likely players the on the Jets target list.

+ Courtney Upshaw, Alabama, Defensive End: One of the players who most frequently shows up as the Jets' pick in mock drafts, Upshaw could be a valuable addition to a defense that struggles to put pressure on the quarterback.  Strong with a burst of speed off the snap, he gets around blockers with relative ease, moves well laterally, and can add another burst to get to the QB. The Jets, and particularly Rex Ryan, pride themselves on their defense, but the pass rush has always been a weak spot for two seasons now. Recording 8.5 sacks in his final season at Alabama, Upshaw could solve that problem. Upshaw is also considered versatile enough to be a linebacker in the 3-4 defense.

+ Melvin Ingram, South Carolina, Outside Linebacker: Ingram is high on the Jets wish list but whether he'll still be around by the 16th pick is another story. He moves incredibly well for a 6'1", 264 lb. guy and is versatile enough to play OLB, ILB, and DE. He plays with leverage and can hold his ground whether he's in the dirt or standing up. He's an inconsistent pass rusher but has the strength to go up against an NFL lineman.

+ Michael Floyd, Notre Dame, Wide Receiver: Floyd is leaving Notre Dame with seven school records, including most receiving yards (3,686), most receptions (271), and most touchdown receptions (37), but he doesn't have explosive speed. He can jump well and can separate from defenders by being physical, but probably isn't going to gain separation by outrunning them. The Jets were hurt last season when Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes couldn't get separation, and there's a risk that Floyd isn't fast enough to solve that, but Floyd does have pretty good hands. He has a history of off-the-field issues, including being written up for underage drinking twice and a more troubling DUI, which led to his suspension. He later rejoined the team but was stripped of his captaincy. This is a deep draft for receivers, though, and it's unlikely the Jets will use their first round pick on one when they can get another pretty good one in the second or third round.

+ Mark Barron, Alabama, Safety: The Jets haven't expressed huge interest in Barron and the Cowboys are rumored to be interested in him (they have the 14th pick), but he'd probably fit well with the Jets. He's athletic and got good hands (12 interceptions), and may adjust well in man-to-man coverage (how the Jets frequently play) as well as being praised for his ability in zone coverage. He also ran Alabama's complicated defense, and with Jim Leonhard's future with the Jets in question, the team could be looking for another capable field general.

+ Trent Richardson, Alabama, Running Back: There is suddenly a lot of chatter about the Jets trading up to acquire Richardson, considered the top running back prospect in the draft. The Cleveland Browns are frequently projected to take Richardson with the fourth pick, but the Browns were the team Jets' GM Mike Tannenbaum traded with to move up and draft Mark Sanchez in 2009. Tannenbaum isn't afraid to make a deal. Richardson is praised for attacking the hole but also being patient enough to allow a hole to open up. Fast and agile, he usually escapes first contact and can break tackles to gain extra yardage.

+ Quinton Coples, North Carolina, Defensive End: There have been whispers of the Jets drafting Coples if he's still around at the 16th pick. He's one of the top DE prospects in the draft, but nobody seems to be certain when he'll get chosen - in mock drafts he's been drafted as high as 7th or as low as 32nd. Coples isn't exceptionally speedy, although he gets a good burst off the snap, but he can keep up with offensive players and gains ground on them because of length (he's 6'6").  He doesn't have great lateral ability or closing speed, but he can use his hands well and can drag down a quarterback while still engaged with a tackle. According to a number of reports, he has the strength to rush an offensive lineman and get him on his heels, sometimes pushing the lineman into the pocket. There are question marks as to his consistency and whether or not he gives 100% on every play.

+ Nick Perry, Southern California, Defensive End: Perry's name has been thrown around in association with the Jets, but he doesn't seem to be highly targeted by them - more likely they'll go with Upshaw or Ingram if he's still available. Perry can change direction quickly due to good footwork, agility, and body control. He's effective at using his hands to block passes at the line of scrimmage, but he's small and can be crushed by bigger players, although he does have the hand/arm strength need to ensure tackles. He's smart, disciplined, and listens to/applies coaching.

+ Dontari Poe, Memphis, Defensive Tackle: Rich Cimini over on the Jets Blog at ESPN floated Poe's name as a prospect the Jets might take for depth. Poe is a superhuman athlete who put up great combine numbers (for example, he's 346 lbs. and ran 40 yards in 4.98 seconds), but his production numbers are lacking with one sack and one forced fumble last season. Vernon Gholston, that now infamous Jets first round draft bust, also put up great combine numbers, but didn't go on to produce in the NFL. But there's hope for Poe, who is quick off the snap and  has the agility to get through gaps and towards the quarterback, though he really lacks the quickness to finish if the passer is alert and mobile. He sometimes gets caught up with blockers who are smaller and weaker than he is because he doesn't have a way to get around them. Either way, the Jets aren't likely to take Poe after signing Sione Pouha for 3 years and with Kenrick Ellis waiting behind him.

Other names being floated as possible choices for the Jets include Riley Reiff (Iowa, Offensive Tackle), Whitney Mercilus (Illinois, Defensive End), Dont'a Hightower (Alabama, Inside Linebacker), Andre Branch (Clemson, Defensive End), David DeCastro (Stanford, Guard), and Cordy Glenn (Georgia, Tackle). Most of these prospects either won't be around until the 16th pick or don't seem particularly high on the Jets target list, but if their draft board falls apart, you never know.

For those interested in watching, the 2012 NFL Draft is scheduled to begin Thursday, April 26 at 8:00 PM EST and can be seen on both the NFL Network and ESPN.

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