Who could catch the New York Jets’ attention at the Senior Bowl?
One of my favorite New York Jets stories centers around the 1979 Senior Bowl. Jets scout Connie Carberg had to choose an injury replacement player to fly in at the last minute. She had nothing to go on but the phone conversation she was having with each prospect.
In the end, the passion and desire of a defensive end from East Central Oklahoma State University named Mark Gastineau – who would drop anything and everything to compete – won Carberg over. Gastineau flew into Ladd–Peebles Stadium in Mobile Alabama, the Jets fell in love, and the rest is history.
Could the Jets find their next Gastineau at this year’s Senior Bowl?
Here are five players who Robert Saleh and Co. may fall head over heels in love with over the course of the next week.
Cole Strange, OG – Chattanooga
If you’re looking for the next Quinn Meinerz then look no further than Cole Strange.
Meinerz, a guard from Wisconsin–Whitewater, made a name for himself in Mobile last year and not just because of his gut. His performance helped get him drafted by the Broncos in the third round of the 2021 draft.
The Senior Bowl is the perfect opportunity for prospects who don’t play in the FBS to make a statement; an opportunity to show that the step-up in quality faced is a step up in quality offered as well. Strange isn’t a hulking big inside presence like Meinerz but he’s a highly athletic move guard with plenty of pop in the hands.
Strange allowed a single sack and five pressures over 311 pass-blocking snaps in 2021 and although he’s only played on the left side of the line I have no hesitation around drafting him to develop as a right guard. He has played some left tackle in college and we all know how much the Jets love positional versatility on the offensive line.
Chad Muma, LB – Wyoming
You didn’t expect me to have a list around the Senior Bowl and not include Chad on it, did you?
Muma is hands down my favorite prospect in the 2022 NFL draft and he’s already starting to receive considerable buzz with his draft stock climbing every single day. He is what I’d call a football player through and through; he’s instinctual and aggressive, but smart and reliable at the same time.
Chad is a third-generation player at Wyoming with both his father and grandfather having played there. Muma finished with 142 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, and three interceptions this season. Not to mention, he was also a team captain and a leader on defense, and it is well-documented how much Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh value leadership.
While Muma was a team captain and one of the better coverage linebackers in college football last season, it’s his instincts I think coach Saleh will fall for. The Jets are blessed with some real linebacker talent on their Senior Bowl roster, but Muma is the guy that’s going to stand out.
Once the interview process is complete, people will be looking at Muma as a mid-second-round prospect.
Jeremy Ruckert, TE – Ohio State
Jeremy Ruckert certainly isn’t an unknown prospect being a member of Ohio State, but the childhood Jets fan was maybe a little unappreciated based on circumstance.
There are only so many targets to go around and considering the Buckeyes had Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba each receiving over 100 of them in 2021, it’s no surprise that Ruckert’s receiving numbers look pretty pedestrian. Ruckert turned his 39 targets into 26 receptions for 309 yards and three touchdowns – good but not great numbers.
Ruckert spent the majority of his time in-line or in the slot, but he could be spread out wide on occasions as well. One underappreciated aspect of his game is his ability to block. He’s a physical blocker that can work in traditional sets or on the move, and he looks to enjoy that aspect of his job.
Romeo Doubs, WR – Nevada
How Romeo Doubs is not getting more attention is absolutely beyond me. The Nevada man had 80 catches on 110 targets for 1,114 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2021 while putting up just a 4.8% drop rate and a 60% contested catch rate (via Pro Football Focus).
The production is there for everyone to see, but this isn’t a guy who just won one way against inferior competition. He has pretty much everything you could hope for in a receiver: the hands, the quickness, the footwork off the line, the immediate and deep separation, and the ability to make a living going over the middle.
If you want a fearless wide receiver, then Romeo Doubs is your man. I have a feeling the Jets will love the mentality that accompanies his physical skill-set.
Get ready to hear this name a lot next season.
Boye Mafe, DE – Minnesota
There is some debate as to whether Boye Mafe would fit the Jets’ defensive system – a lot of people see him as a 3-4 OLB – but I actually see him more as a pass-rushing wide-9 defensive end in an even front. He finished with six sacks and nine tackles for a loss in 2021 and his pass-rush looked much improved from his junior season.
Mafe is a relentless motor guy with a wicked first step off the edge. Athletically, he has absolutely everything you want, but the consistency of his technique and counter moves are a work in progress, and as such, he needs to head somewhere where he can develop over 1-2 years and just contribute as a pass-rush specialist early in his career.
I happen to believe that’s a role the Jets could do with considering how much Saleh likes to rotate his defensive lineman.