A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Board game: This is one of the most difficult drafts in recent memory to forecast. There's still some uncertainty at the top, with the Cleveland Browns reportedly still considering quarterback Mitch Trubisky. If the Browns don't know what they're doing (do they ever?), how can you make a prediction for the Jets at No. 6? Well, it's my job to try.
Below is an educated guess on the Jets' draftboard, which is kept under lock and key. The rankings are based on information and opinions culled from league sources, along with some personal intuition. You may disagree with some of the names in tier one, particularly the defensive linemen (the Jets' strongest position), but the board is stacked this way based on general manager Mike Maccagnan's steadfast belief in picking -- wait for it -- the best available player.
Chances are, the Jets' pick will spark a firestorm. It usually does, but this year they're choosing from a group that includes injury concerns and positions that usually don't crack the top 10 -- i.e. safety, running back and tight end. If they take a quarterback, Trubisky or Deshaun Watson, the controversy will rage for months, maybe longer.
Our board projection (top eight):
DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M: He's the consensus No. 1 prospect in the draft. Even if the Browns decide to take Trubisky, which would be a mistake, Garrett won't get past the San Francisco 49ers at No. 2.
DE Jonathan Allen, Alabama: Can you imagine the outcry if the Jets pick a first-round defensive lineman for the fifth time in seven years? In Maccagnan's world, it's all about the BPA.
DE Solomon Thomas, Stanford: This would be more controversial than Allen because Thomas (6-foot-3, 273 pounds) isn't seen as an ideal fit in a 3-4 scheme.
CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State: Personally, I'd be leery of Lattimore because of his history of hamstring injuries and lack of experience, but Maccagnan loves Ohio State players, especially the ones that run fast. See: Darron Lee and Devin Smith.
TE O.J. Howard, Alabama: People will scream because tight ends aren't supposed to get picked this high, but he's a once-in-a-decade prospect.
RB Leonard Fournette, LSU: Again, it's the BPA factor. I'd be a little surprised if Maccagnan pulls the trigger because of the overall value of the position, but there's no denying Fournette's talent.
S Malik Hooker, Ohio State: See Lattimore, except substitute "hip and sports hernia" for "hamstring."
2. Sheldon in the house: After skipping the first day of the offseason program (which is voluntary, by the way), Sheldon Richardson showed up for the remainder of last week, according to a source. With trade rumors swirling, some people thought Richardson might stay away until after the draft, waiting until his future with the team is clarified. That's how Richard Sherman, in the same boat, is approaching his situation with the Seattle Seahawks.
Perhaps Richardson is sending a message to the organization that he wants to remain with the team. There's some risk involved; if he suffers a serious injury while working out, the Jets would be on the hook for his $8.1 million salary. By next Saturday, the Richardson Watch will be over. My sense is the Jets will wind up keeping him. Basically, he's an expensive, one-year rental, and the Jets will have a hard time finding a team willing to satisfy their compensation demand.
3. Deciphering the Hack puzzle: One year later, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock still is trying to figure out why the Jets fell in love with Christian Hackenberg. So are a lot of people. Asked to compare Hackenberg to the top four quarterbacks in this year's draft, Mayock offered this candid (and sobering) assessment during a conference call with reporters on Friday:
"Hackenberg last year, his tape from his last two years in college was not very good. It was highly inconsistent at best. You can go back to that first year under Bill O'Brien and say, 'Look at what he was.' You can also say that Penn State didn't protect him, he got hit too often.
"What I said about Hackenberg a year ago is you could find a throw or two or three off every one of his tapes where you go, 'Wow, that's a big-time NFL throw.' But the majority of the tape was poor from a decision-making perspective, all the way through -- accuracy, consistency, decision making. So Hackenberg, to me, was like this puzzle that had to be unraveled, and I don't know if it will ever happen."
As for the current crop of quarterbacks, Mayock said he's "not banging the table for any of them," although he considers Watson the best.
4. Inside the schedule: One of the hidden aspects of the NFL schedule, released last week, is the rest factor. How many times does a team have to play on short rest? How many times does it face an opponent that has extended rest? The sport is so violent, so taxing that rest and recovery have become so important.
Looking at the Jets' schedule, they have a rest disadvantage in three games and the advantage only once. The toughest situation is Week 6, when they face the New England Patriots, who have a Thursday night game the previous week -- three days extra rest.
All told, the Jets' differential is minus-4 days.
If any team has a right to complain, it's the New York Giants, who have a minus-22 differential, easily the largest in the league. They face four teams coming off a bye week, a league high.
5. Happy 40th: This is the 40-year anniversary of arguably the greatest draft in Jets history -- 1977. It produced two Ring-of-Honor members (Wesley Walker and Joe Klecko), a five-time Pro Bowl selection (Marvin Powell) and a 13-year starter at guard (Dan Alexander). That doesn't include undrafted rookie Bruce Harper, who went on to a terrific career. The Class of '77 helped the franchise overcome its identity crisis in the post-Namath era.
"I'd have to say we were geniuses," then-coach Walt Michaels once told me, referring to the bountiful draft.
Maybe the current Jets can use the '77 draft as inspiration. Consider the similarities:
In 1977, their top seven picks were four, 33, 72, 90, 116, 129 and 144.
This year, their top five choices are six, 39, 70, 107 and 150.