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Jets pass on OT and take top TE Brock Bowers in Mel Kiper’s mock draft

Rather than addressing the offensive line or the receiver position with the 10th overall pick in Mel Kiper’s recent mock draft, the long-time ESPN draft analyst has the New York Jets landing top tight end Brock Bowers from Georgia.

In the nine picks before the Jets’ selection, Kiper had two offensive tackles and three receivers selected.

In what is a loaded offensive tackle and wide receiver draft class, it’s not as if there won’t be options for the Jets at No. 10, even if the actual draft plays out as Kiper projects, but in taking Bowers, the Jets took the best player available on Kiper’s board and one of the best tight end prospects over the last few years.

You name it, and Bowers does it, from moving around the formation and impacting the game both as a pass-catcher and a blocker.

In three seasons at Georgia, Bowers caught 78 percent of his 224 targets at an impressive 14.5 yards per reception, including being exceptional after the catch, along with hauling in 26 touchdowns.

According to PFF, 53 percent of his snaps came from the slot, 37 percent in-line, and 10 percent out wide. Like I said, he can play anywhere.

Bowers’ most immediate impact at the NFL level will come in the passing game, but he’s proven to be a willing and capable blocker as well.

For more on Bowers’ game and what he can bring to the Jets, here is what NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote in his pre-draft scouting report:

“Prolific pass-catching tight end with a rare blend of acceleration, speed, body control and hands that could breathe new life into a stale NFL offense. He plays with relentless pacing as a route runner, allowing him to beat man coverage. Also, he’s highly effective at exploiting zone pockets for first downs and chunk plays. Bowers’ secret sauce might be his ability to rip through tacklers and pile on yardage after the catch.

“He’ll be an adequate move blocker and give effort at the point of attack, but that is the one area where his game falls short of George Kittle’s, for comparison purposes. Bowers is an explosive athlete but lacks the premium measurables typically associated with early first-rounders. It might take a year for him to acclimate to defenders who are bigger, faster and longer, but he appears destined to become a highly productive NFL player with Pro Bowl upside.”

As Zierlein points out, Bowers has the ability to become a playmaker at the NFL level. However, his diverse skill set will not only create opportunities for himself but also for others within the Jets’ offense as well, through mismatches and one-on-one matchups that are created by moving him around–not to mention in the passing game, he could take at least some of the attention off of Wilson.

When a tight end can impact both the run and passing games effectively, it allows offenses to better disguise what they are doing play-call-wise because defenses can’t get a beat on what Bowers’ responsibilities are going to be based on where he is lined up. Is he blocking or is he running a route, and what type of route is he running?

At tight end on the roster, the Jets already have Jeremy Ruckert and Tyler Conklin, but as already alluded to, Bowers brings a completely different skill set and ceiling to the table.

Now, having said all of that, one could easily argue that even if the board falls as Kiper projects, taking a tight end – a non-premium position in the NFL – is not the prudent move for the Jets.

Addressing the offensive line is easily the Jets’ most important need this offseason, with only Alijah Vera-Tucker and Joe Tippmann locked in as starters for the upcoming season. If the Jets don’t take an offensive lineman at pick 10, their next selection isn’t until pick 72.

Although this is a historically deep tackle class, all of the top options will be well gone by then, with NFL Network’s Peter Schrager saying that up to 12 offensive linemen could be taken in the first round.

It’s for this reason that trading down from the 10th pick could be on the Jets’ radar, allowing them to still make a first-round pick while also adding another third or fourth-round selection in the process.

This mock draft is a prime example of the important role free agency plays in creating flexibility for a team within the draft. If the Jets are able to add two capable starters along the offensive line in free agency, that doesn’t prevent them from also adding to that position in the draft, but it frees them up to take the best available player – like a Brock Bowers – depending on how the board falls.

Regardless of the team and what situation they find themselves in, every general manager wants options on draft day. As of now, creating that element is still a work in progress for the Jets, but free agency will help.

Story originally appeared on Jets Wire