This is the seventh installment of our position-by-position breakdown for the New York Jets as we head to the April 28-30 draft:
Current personnel: David Harris, Erin Henderson, Lorenzo Mauldin, Mike Catapano, Bruce Carter, Freddie Bishop, Josh Martin, Trevor Reilly, Taiwan Jones, Deion Barnes, Julian Stanford.
Key newcomers: Carter, Bishop.
Departures: Demario Davis (free agent/Cleveland Browns), Calvin Pace (free agent), Jamari Lattimore (free agent)
Projected starters: Harris, Henderson, Mauldin.
Overview: You'll notice there are only three starters, not enough for a 3-4 base defense. The reason for this is because the Jets don't have two starting-caliber outside linebackers. Mauldin probably will get one of the spots, but there's a gaping hole on the other side. A concern? Yeah, you bet it is. The entire linebacking corps is under construction. By opening day, they could have three new starters, with Harris the only holdover. He's 32 years old, so they need to think about an heir apparent in the middle. It wouldn't be a surprise if they draft two linebackers, one inside and one outside. The Jets had only 12.5 sacks from players lining up as linebackers.
The last linebacker drafted: Mauldin was picked last year in the third round. He was used as a pass-rushing specialist over the second half of the season, but he's expected to graduate into a full-time role.
Potential targets (projected round)
Leonard Floyd, Georgia (first round): He fits the profile of what the Jets covet -- an explosive edge rusher with a high ceiling. He wasn't dominant in college (4.5 sacks, only eight QB hits last season), but his burst and versatility have scouts excited. Floyd lined up on the edge (61 percent), as an off-ball linebacker (29 percent) and in the slot (10 percent), according to Pro Football Focus. He's fast enough to cover receivers downfield. The downside is that he's built like a basketball player (6-foot-6, 244 pounds) and struggles at times against the run. The Jets are showing a lot of interest, but he probably won't be on the board with the 20th pick.
Reggie Ragland, Alabama (first round): He's a younger version of Harris -- a tough, heady, inside 'backer who plays downhill. Ragland (6-foot-1, 247 pounds) was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a national champion, recording 60 tackles and 2.5 sacks. The biggest question is his pass coverage; scouts are mixed on whether he's a three-down linebacker. The way the NFL is currently, he'd be a reach at 20 if the team plans to take him off the field on third down. If the Jets draft him, could he start alongside Harris this season, learning from a pro's pro.
Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky (first/second round): He's one of the most polarizing players in the draft. He has the talent to be a very good edge rusher (11.5 sacks last season), but there are red flags. He flunked two drug tests at Ohio State (both for Ecstasy) and was banned from the Big Ten. He'd be a huge gamble at 20.
Kyler Fackrell, Utah State (second round): He's not a household name but is drawing plenty of interest from teams, including the Jets. He's 6-foot-5, 245 pounds and can play every down. There's no projection here; he was an outside linebacker in college. His production wasn't great -- only four sacks last season. He needs to gain strength, as he managed only 15 reps on the 220-pound bench press.
Kamalei Correa, Boise State (second round): He was an athletic and productive edge player in college, recording eight sacks last season. Correa (6-foot-3, 243 pounds) played only 84 snaps against Power-5 competition, according to PFF. He relies on speed and quickness, traits the Jets need on defense. They've been doing a lot of recent work on him, a sign of interest.
Need factor (based on a scale of 1 to 10): 10.