New York Jets draft preview: Running backs

This is the first installment of our position-by-position breakdown as we head to the April 30 draft:

Position: Running back

Current personnel: Chris Ivory (signed through 2015), Bilal Powell (2015), Stevan Ridley (2015), Daryl Richardson (2015) and fullback Tommy Bohanon (2016).

Projected starters: Ivory, Bohanon.

Departures: Chris Johnson (free agent), John Conner (free agent).

Total salary-cap charge: $6.97 million (ranking: 13th)

Scouting report: Overall, this is a solid group, but there are a couple of deficiencies. Ivory, Powell and the recently-signed Ridley combined for 325 carries last season, but only two runs went longer than 20 yards. That's a concern. The most prolific receiver is Powell (65 career receptions), but we're talking about someone with no receiving touchdowns. That, too, is a concern. Chan Gailey's spread offense provides opportunities for the backs to make plays in space, either running or catching, and the Jets don't have an ideal fit for that role. They also don't have a gadget guy on the team, as they elected to release wide receiver Percy Harvin. General manager Mike Maccagnan passed on Shane Vereen and C.J. Spiller in free agency, opting to re-sign Powell and later adding Ridley. He'd better have something up his sleeve in the draft because the current stable of backs is four yards and a cloud of dust.

The last running back drafted: Bohanon, seventh round, 2013.

Potential targets: If the value presents itself, the Jets should make every effort to draft a running back. Otherwise, they could be starting over in 2016, as Ivory, Powell and Ridley will be free agents. Curiously, there hasn't been a lot of chatter connecting the Jets to private workouts and visits with the top backs. This is a good year for the position, and we could see as many as eight to 10 chosen in the first three rounds.

A few mock drafts have the Jets taking Todd Gurley (Georgia) with the sixth overall pick, but that would be a surprise because of the diminished value of backs in recent years. And let's not forget he's only five months removed from major knee surgery. Gurley is a "top-five talent, easy," one NFC scout said, but the injury adds risk. He becomes a more realistic possibility in a trade-down scenario, but he won't be around for long. He could crack the top 15, surgically repaired knee and all.

The Jets are showing some interest in Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin), who could be picked anywhere from 17th to 35th. He'd be ideal for the Jets because of his breakaway ability -- 40 runs of 15-plus yards in 2014, according to College Football Focus. A second-round option could be Tevin Coleman (Indiana), an elusive runner who rushed for 2,036 yards last year. He underwent toe surgery last December, so that bears watching. If they're looking for someone with third-down skills, it might be Jay Ajayi (Boise State), one of the most productive pass-catching backs. He had 50 catches last season.

Need rating (on a scale of 1 to 10): 7