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Every player on New York Jets roster ranked by potential 2020 impact

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Michael Nania ranks every player currently on the New York Jets roster according to their potential level of impact in 2020.

I always find myself befuddled when it comes to ranking players on the Jets roster. How is this supposed to be done?

There are players on the upswing, players on the decline, players we haven’t even seen on an NFL field, players coming off of injury – each individual is in his own unique situation, and that makes it difficult to compare two players that are at a different stage of their respective careers.

So many questions enter my mind. Are we ranking according to players’ career performances to date? Or, is it based on what we are projecting them to do going forward?

How does positional value come into play? Is an average quarterback better than an elite safety? An elite kicker better than a mediocre wide receiver?

What about depth chart positioning? Is an efficient backup better than a bad every-down starter? One would think that the starter is probably more talented given that the coaching staff gave him substantially more playing time, but the backup made a more positive impact on the team.

Ultimately, I decided that the best way to do it is to just take everything into account. Past performance, future progression or regression, depth chart slot, talent, injuries, positional value – I kept every conceivable factor in mind and stacked up all 89 players that are currently with the Jets as best I could, with the 2020 season in focus.

89. Ian Berryman, P

Tough to imagine Berryman beating out the impeccable Braden Mann, who Joe Douglas just invested a sixth-round pick into.

88. Domenique Davis, DL (UDFA)

The undrafted rookie from D-II UNC Pembroke may have the toughest road to a roster spot of any player.

87. Leo Koloamatangi, OL

Koloamatangi is a 26-year old 2017 undrafted free agent pickup of the Lions who signed with the Jets practice squad in October. He has yet to appear in a regular season game but struggled in the preseason with Detroit, taking three penalties and allowing five pressures over 61 protection snaps in 2019.

86. Jehu Chesson, WR

A fourth-round pick out of Michigan by the Chiefs in 2017, Chesson lasted only one season in Kansas City as he caught two passes for 18 yards. He grabbed one pass for the Redskins in 2018 and did not play in 2019.

85. Corbin Kaufusi, EDGE

Kaufusi was an undrafted free agent pickup of the Saints just last year, but he is already 27 years old as he spent two years on his Mormon mission. Over 62 snaps in the preseason, Kaufusi collected three tackles but could not record a single pressure over 31 pass-rush snaps.

84. Ben Braden, OG

Braden has been a preseason mainstay for the Jets with 419 snaps over the past three exhibition campaigns. He’s been average in both phases over that time. Braden has yet to play on offense for the Jets in the regular season but he has played in three games on special teams.

83. Ahmad Gooden, EDGE

A 2019 undrafted free agent pickup of the Broncos, Gooden found his way on to the field for 24 defensive snaps over three games, picking up two pressures and two tackles.

82. Josh Malone, WR

A fourth-round pick of Cincinnati in 2017, Malone struggled mightily over two years for the Bengals, catching 7-of-22 targets for 75 yards (3.4 per target). He played in two games for the Jets last year but did not see a target. Malone is only 24 years old.

81. Anthony Cioffi, S

The soon-to-be 26-year old New Jersey native from Boston College signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2017 before playing two years with the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks. The Jets signed him this past February. He played well in the 2017 preseason, allowing no catches over 51 snaps in coverage while collecting seven tackles and a forced fumble over just 84 total snaps. With experience at cornerback and safety, he’ll have to push players like Matthias Farley, Bennett Jackson, Nate Hairston, and rookies Bryce Hall and Ashtyn Davis to contend for a roster spot.

80. Ross Travis, TE

An undrafted free agent pickup of the Chiefs in 2015, Travis has played 193 career offensive snaps for the Chiefs and Colts (24 total games), including 23 for the Colts in 2019 (three games). He is the fifth tight end on the depth chart and would need to push Daniel Brown or Trevon Wesco with his blocking ability to crack the team, which is plausible considering how poorly the tight end group blocked in 2019.

79. Wyatt Ray, EDGE

Cleveland picked up Ray as an undrafted free agent out of Boston College in 2019. Ray had an excellent preseason in which he picked up seven pressures over 69 pass-rush snaps while collecting five tackles that were each stops behind the line of scrimmage.

78. Shyheim Carter, CB (UDFA)

An undrafted pickup by Douglas, Carter was an excellent slot corner against SEC competition for the Crimson Tide, allowing 490 yards on 100 targets (4.9 per target) and 817 coverage snaps (0.60 per snap) from 2018-19. This past season, Carter ranked at the 91st percentile among cornerbacks in yards per target (5.3) and 87th percentile in yards per cover snap (0.77).

Carter is also a good run defender, recording an excellent 80.6 grade from Pro Football Focus in 2019.

The problems are Carter’s limited length (29⅝-inch arms, 3rd percentile) and his positional fit. Playing 87.7% of his 2019 snaps in the slot, Carter does not seem to have the ability to play outside, is a bit too small to convert to safety, and may not have enough athletic ability to continue thriving in the slot.

77. Jimmy Murray, C

A 2018 undrafted free agent out of Holy Cross, Murray signed with the Chiefs and had two good preseason campaigns. He allowed one pressure over 115 protection snaps in the preseason.

76. Sam Ficken, K

Ficken will likely be battling against Brett Maher for the kicking job. He has made an atrocious 66.7% of his career field goal attempts and a below-average 90.2% of his extra point attempts.

75. Bennett Jackson, S

The 28-year old New Jersey native has seldom played on defense, logging just 27 defensive snaps over three appearances throughout his six-year career. He appeared in two games for the Jets in 2019 and played well on special teams as a blocker for the punt and kickoff return units.

74. Brad Lundblade, OG

Lundblade was signed by the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State in 2018 but was waived three days later. He caught on with the Bengals thereafter and spent the previous two seasons on their practice squad. The Nashville native is undersized at 6’3″, 300 pounds, but has been great in the preseason, allowing three pressures over 166 snaps in protection. Lundblade is only 24 years old (turning 25 in September).

73. Sterling Johnson, DL (UDFA)

Johnson had a dominant career at Coastal Carolina after transferring from Clemson, but is undersized at 285 pounds.

72. Bronson Kaufusi, EDGE

Kaufusi made the Jets’ opening-week roster and played three games, but was demoted to the practice squad after producing only two pressures over 40 pass-rush snaps. He will be 29 years old in July.

71. Javelin Guidry, CB (UDFA)

An undrafted pickup out of Utah, Guidry was a California state champion in the 100-meter dash at Vista Murrieta High School, and was a national finalist in the 60 meters at Utah. At the Combine, he ran a 4.29 in the forty, tying him for the fourth-best time by a cornerback since 2000. He struggled mightily in coverage, however, allowing 1.29 yards per cover snap in 2019 (34th percentile among cornerbacks).

70. Jeff Smith, WR

Smith is best known for the play in which he slowed down on a route in Baltimore, hanging Sam Darnold out to dry. That was the only game he played all year, including the preseason. At just 23 years old, and after converting from quarterback to wide receiver in his sophomore season at Boston College, there is room for growth.

69. Mike White, QB

White was a fifth-round pick by the Cowboys in 2018. He’ll compete with James Morgan and David Fales for the backup job.

68. Lamar Jackson, CB (UDFA)

Jackson used his 6’2″, 208-pound frame to produce in college, allowing a 55.7 passer rating in 2019 (93rd percentile), but his film shows a player that thrived on his superior size alone and severely lacks the technical proficiency to thrive in the NFL.

67. Trenton Cannon, RB

Cannon will always have some degree of upside due to his incredible speed, but has not shown much of a feel for either running back or any special teams role.

66. David Fales, QB

Fales is positioned to be Darnold’s backup in 2020 despite starting exactly zero games over his six years in the NFL. He deserves kudos for lasting that long, though.

65. George Campbell, WR (UDFA)

Campbell is an incredible big threat. Seven of his 19 receptions in 2019 were touchdowns. He picked up 469 yards on only 30 targets, averaging 14.7 yards per target.

64. Lawrence Cager, WR (UDFA)

The 6’5″, 220-pound red zone threat transferred to Georgia for his redshirt senior year and had his best season when healthy, averaging 4.1 receptions for 59.5 yards.

63. James Morgan, QB (R)

Morgan a down year in 2019 as he battled injuries throughout the season, but he was excellent in 2018. The Jets would gladly take instant high-quality play from Morgan in the preseason or any relief appearances, but they are surely hoping that he never has to see the field in 2020 and can get time to develop into a solid backup in 2021. Perhaps he will remain the QB3 behind Fales in his rookie season.

62. Jared Hilbers, OT (UDFA)

Hilbers received a relatively large $62,000 guarantee (most among the team’s offensive UDFA signings) that suggests the Jets had him as one of their most prioritized targets. He allowed 12 pressures (2 sacks, 3 hits, 7 hurries) over 433 snaps in protection for Washington this past season, yielding a pressure rate of 2.8% that landed him at the 85th percentile among tackles nation-wide.

61. Bryce Huff, EDGE (UDFA)

Huff had the production and talent to be drafted, but did not get the opportunity to work out at his pro day after he was strangely snubbed from the Combine. Over 359 pass-rush snaps in 2019, Huff racked up 64 pressures (8 sacks, 12 hits, 44 hurries), the fourth-best total among edge rushers in the FBS. Huff’s efficiency complimented the volume, as his pressure rate of 17.8% was seventh-best among qualifiers and good enough for the 99th percentile.

With the Jets needy for some juice at EDGE, Huff’s speed-first approach gives him an inside track to a roster spot.

Huff received a $90,000 guarantee from the Jets, most among their undrafted free agent signings, suggesting he was their top priority in the post-draft process. On the Cool Your Jets podcast, Huff said the Jets were contacting him well before the draft was over.

60. B.J. Bello, LB

We have surpassed the portion of the list that is made up mostly of players who either have never played a regular season game or have only played a handful of snaps. Now, we will begin to see low-level backups and special teams players who have been able to stick in the league. These players obviously have less upside than some of the younger players ranked near the bottom, but for now, they deserve a higher ranking due to the fact that they have proven they can stick in the league.

Bello, 25 years old (26 in October), has 27 games of regular season experience with the Browns, Dolphins, and Jets. He played 104 special teams snaps over eight games for the Jets last year and did a good job as a blocker for the kickoff return unit with six assists on returns past the 25-yard line (tied for third-most).

59. Josh Adams, RB

Adams picked up only 12 yards on eight carries for the Jets last year. In 2018, he ran for 511 yards and three touchdowns on 120 carries for the Eagles.

58. Brett Maher, K

Maher will go at it with Ficken for the kicking job. Maher has Ficken beat handily in career field goal percentage (7.5% edge) and extra point percentage (8.4% edge), but Maher is hardly a sure thing either with a 74.2% career field goal percentage. The Cowboys released him last season after he went 20-for-30 (66.7%).

As detailed at his Jet X Player Profile, Maher has been strong from 50-plus and even 60-plus yards out, but he has been maddeningly inconsistent from 30-49 yards out.

57. Conor McDermott, OG

McDermott started the Jets’ final two games at right guard. He allowed only three pressures over those two games, but graded poorly in the run game. The UCLA product is heading into his fourth NFL season and will turn 28 years in October.

56. Frankie Luvu, EDGE

Luvu was phased out of the picture on defense, playing only 44 snaps from Weeks 2-17 after logging 25 in the opener, but he found a home on special teams as he ranked fifth on the team with 211 special teams snaps.

Luvu showed pass-rushing promise in his 2018 rookie season, ranking 47th out of 109 qualified edge defenders in pass-rush productivity (per-snap pressure rate with greater weight to sacks) with 27 total pressures on 236 rushes.

55. John Franklin-Myers, EDGE

Franklin-Myers had a solid 2018 rookie season after being drafted in the fourth round. He ranked 41st out of 109 qualified edge defenders in pass-rush productivity and a strip-sack in the Super Bowl. Injuries kept him off the field in 2019.

54. Harvey Langi, EDGE

The kickoff legend. Langi led the Jets with 10 blocking assists on kickoff returns and seven stops in kickoff coverage.

53. Josh Andrews, IOL

Andrews has only played 99 career regular season snaps over six seasons, with no starts, but he seems to be valued by Douglas and company. He did a respectable job filling in at center for Ryan Kelly in a game at Pittsburgh this past season.

52. Daniel Brown, TE

Brown led the Jets with 299 special teams snaps, making six tackles. He was a liability on offense, however. His run-blocking grade ranked at the 4th percentile among tight ends while his pass-blocking efficiency (per-snap pressure rate allowed with greater weight to sacks) ranked at the 10th percentile. As a receiver, he ranked at the 13th percentile in yards per route run with 72 yards over 101 receiving snaps (0.71).

51. Kenneth Dixon, RB

Dixon ran for 55.5 yards per game on 5.6 yards per attempt over six games with Baltimore in 2018, but missed the 2019 season with a fractured knee.

50. Thomas Hennessy, LS

Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded long snapper in 2019, the New York native led long snappers with four tackles in punt coverage, assisted on three more high-quality stops in punt coverage, and tied for the team lead with three downed punts.

49. Jonotthan Harrison, C

Harrison’s play at center over the past two seasons has been detrimental to the success of the offense.

48. Matthias Farley, S

Farley ranked fourth on the Jets with 214 special teams snaps, picking up five tackles and tying for the team lead with nine blocking assists.

47. Jordan Willis, EDGE

Willis showed some flashes of intriguing bend off the edge last year. His 74.8 pass-rush grade from PFF ranked 30th out of 134 qualified edge defenders (78th percentile).

46. Nate Hairston, CB

The appeal of bringing Hairston over from the Colts was moving him back to the slot, where he thrived for Indianapolis in his 2017 rookie season. He didn’t get that luxury with so many injuries on the outside in 2019. With the depth at cornerback improved, Hairston should be able to slide into a more comfortable nickel role behind Brian Poole.

45. Josh Doctson, WR

Doctson missed 14 games in his rookie due to an Achilles injury. He could never fulfill his No. 22 pick status, averaging only 33.4 yards over 31 games with the Redskins over his next two seasons. Doctson got regular playing time – he just could not get open frequently enough to produce.

Doctson played one game with the Vikings in 2019 after being cut by Washington in late August. He was placed on short-term injured reserve to start the season, adding to his injury history.

The door is wide open for Doctson to earn targets with the Jets, but it’s hard to expect much.

44. Cameron Clark, OG

I loved the Clark pick. He dominated at Charlotte (98th percentile with 1.4% pressure rate allowed in 2019) and maintained that same level of performance under the spotlight against Clemson, ripping apart the Tigers defense.

The Jets will likely allow Clark to use 2020 as a transitional year while the veteran stopgaps hold down the guard spots, but he has a great chance to take over as a long-term piece in 2021. Still, don’t rule out the possibility of him pushing for a spot this year.

43. Trevon Wesco, TE

Wesco got off to a shaky start but steadily improved his blocking throughout the season. Whether or not Wesco can continue that progression is quietly a huge key for the offense.

42. Ashtyn Davis, S

Davis’ tape suggests that he may have some developing to do before he can be relied upon as a versatile role player on defense, let alone take over for Marcus Maye.

41. Blake Cashman, LB

Cashman has intriguing upside but his tape left a lot to be desired in 2019. He now has a long road to playing time with five off-ball linebackers ahead of him on the depth chart.

40. Jabari Zuniga, EDGE

With Douglas investing limited money in Jordan Jenkins and the only other regular contributors at the position being Tarell Basham and Kyle Phillips, it’s open season at EDGE. If Zuniga can provide a semblance of hope in the passing game, he can earn playing time right away.

39. Braxton Berrios, WR

Berrios did a tremendous job as a punt return, ranking third out of 38 qualifiers with 11.4 yards per return. With wide receiver depth limited, he should have a strong opportunity to earn the No. 4 or No. 5 wide receiver role.

38. Bryce Hall, CB

Hall was a tremendous value in the fifth round, but it remains to be seen where he will fall in 2020. It is uncertain where he is in his ankle injury recovery. The cornerback depth chart is loaded, so the Jets can use 2020 as a redshirt year for Hall just as they initially planned to do with Bless Austin last year.

I lean towards Hall getting little to no playing time this year, but if healthy, he should be squarely in the mix to earn as many snaps as possible. Long-term, he has the potential to be a high-level playmaker as a starter on the outside.

37. Vyncint Smith, WR

Smith will likely be the lead candidate for the kickoff return job after ranking second out of 41 qualifiers with 29.9 yards per return.

Especially with Quincy Enunwa and Josh Bellamy out for the season, Smith is now one of the biggest wild cards on the wide receiver depth chart. He is the only outside receiver on the team that played under Adam Gase in 2019, so he has an inside track to the No. 4 role behind Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims, and Jamison Crowder.

Smith flashed potential in 2019 through his speed with the ball in his hands. He ranked at the 87th percentile among wide receivers with 5.9 yards after catch per reception. The Jets also fed him three rush attempts, two of which went for first downs and the other for a touchdown. Over the final six weeks of the season, Smith averaged 9.5 yards per target and ranked 43rd out of 98 qualified wide receivers with 1.62 yards per route run.

On the downside, Smith is not a good run-blocker (4th percentile PFF grade in 2019) and is raw as a wide receiver overall. “Gadget guy” may be the extent of what he can offer.

36. George Fant, OT

It feels like a stretch to expect reliable play from Fant, who has allowed a 9.2% pressure rate throughout his career (Edoga and Brandon Shell combined for 9.0% in 2019). He will already be 28 years old in July, so it’s tough to imagine him getting all that much better.

The best-case scenario for the Jets would be to have Chuma Edoga develop into at least a serviceable starter at right tackle while Fant takes on the backup swing tackle role where his talent level is best suited. His athleticism works well in the tight end/sixth lineman role that the Seahawks utilized him in.

The result of the competition between Edoga and Fant will be a critical determining factor in the Jets offense’s success. If the winner can take a major leap, the Jets could be in great shape (and if that happens, it most likely has to be Edoga). If both players perform as they have to date, Darnold is in trouble.

35. Chuma Edoga, OT

I am a big fan of Edoga’s potential, and he did gradually improve throughout his rookie season, but he was still a major liability overall. He needs to take a huge leap just to become adequate. To be fair, he did have an incredibly rough road. As the fifth-youngest tackle to start a game in 2019, Edoga was tossed into the starting lineup earlier than expected and then had to switch positions twice.

34. Quincy Wilson, CB

Wilson had an atrocious 2019 season but was mostly solid throughout his first two seasons from 2017-18 after being taken in the second round. The Colts used Wilson in a role that him matching up largely against tight ends in 2019, so considering his lack of success that season, one would imagine the Jets will be moving him back to the right cornerback spot he primarily played in his first two seasons.

33. Braden Mann, P

Punters can have a growth curve like any other position, but I expect Mann to come straight in and play at a high level. His improved precision in 2019 suggests that he has already been learning how to control his superb leg strength.

32. James Burgess, LB

Burgess filled in respectably this past season but still was a major liability in coverage and missed a ton of tackles. He is an excellent backup, but the Jets would be a lot better with his snaps going to the combination of C.J. Mosley and Avery Williamson.

31. Neville Hewitt, LB

Hewitt is similar to Burgess – poor in coverage, misses a lot of tackles, but is able to shoot through gaps and make plays – although I think Burgess was better this past season. However, Hewitt does offer value as a blitzer and on special teams that Burgess does not. Another good depth piece for the linebacker position.

30. Brian Winters, OG

Winters is incredibly tenacious and moves well as a run-blocker, but his pass protection is consistently poor. My hope is that Greg Van Roten wins the right guard spot and provides at least a slight upgrade over Winters, but I would expect Winters to compete with Van Roten for that role – if he is still around. The Jets can clear his entire $7.3 million cap hit, so if another big move comes along (looking at you, Logan Ryan), Winters could be hitting the road.

29. Arthur Maulet, CB

Soon to be 27 years old, Maulet probably does not have a ton of progressing to do, but he proved to be a solid depth piece in 2019. He can lay the boom coming downhill out of zone coverages and plays the run well, although his man coverage is not ideal for a starter.

The Jets will be best off if one of their more talented coverage men (Austin, Desir, Hall, Wilson) proves worthy of the starting spots outside, but Maulet is a great third or fourth outside corner.

28. Patrick Onwuasor, LB

The last time that Onwuasor got to play with C.J. Mosley, he was an electric playmaker in the passing game. He is yet another good depth piece for the linebacker room.

27. Frank Gore, RB

Gore is reliable in pass-protection and provides a nice change of pace for a few drives per game. He was excellent for Gase in 2018. His 2019 numbers are poor, but he faced a lot of loaded boxes in garbage time that limited his chances of producing. I’m giving him points here for his off-field impact as well.

26. Henry Anderson, DE

Anderson does not seem like a fit in this defense. His pass-rushing impact disappeared under Gregg Williams, although he was still a decent edge-setter against the run.

25. La’Mical Perine, RB

I think Perine will immediately come in as the RB2 and see about five carries and a reception or two per game, stepping into a split role with Gore if Le’Veon Bell goes down. Running backs tend to have a career arc that peaks at the beginning and gradually dips from there on out, and when you couple that with Perine’s perceived NFL readiness, he should be able to help the Jets quickly.

If Bell is not retained heading into 2021, Perine could be positioned to take over the starting job.

24. Kyle Phillips, EDGE

Phillips is not going to give you much of anything in the passing game, but he is a fundamentally sound edge-setter who can track down a long-lasting play in the backfield as well as anyone.

23. Pierre Desir, CB

One of many high-variance players at the cornerback position. Will the Jets get the top-notch cover man from 2018 who locked down DeAndre Hopkins in the playoffs? Or, will they get the banged-up sieve that Desir was in 2019? At 30 years old in September, the latter may be more likely, but perhaps Desir has enough tread on his tires to recapture his old magic with a return to health. Desir played only 903 defensive snaps over his first four seasons, so he does not have a ton of mileage on him despite the age.

22. Greg Van Roten, OG

Van Roten is 30 years old and does not possess any exciting physical tools, but he is a smart and technically sound player who managed to provide high-level protection for Carolina in 2019. The idealistic Jets offensive line scenario (barring any new additions) involves Van Roten beating out Winters for the right guard spot and maintaining his excellent 2019 protection numbers.

21. Denzel Mims, WR

Mims has the tools to become that long-term No. 1 the Jets have been longing for, but rookie-year expectations should be tempered. The average second-round wide receiver over the past two decades has caught 30.1 passes for 402.3 yards and 2.6 touchdowns in his rookie season.

Mims should beat those numbers as he takes on a featured role in this depleted offense, but I don’t think he will dominate right away. I see a line around 50/700/5 for Mims this year – a key goal for me is to see him average at least 8.5 yards per target.

20. Breshad Perriman, WR

The Perriman story is simple. In  December of 2019, he was arguably the best wide receiver in football as he picked up 506 yards and five touchdowns over five games. Over the 80 regular season weeks between the 2015 NFL Draft and Week 13 of 2019, Perriman amassed just 916 yards and five touchdowns, earning a reputation as one of the most disappointing first-round picks in recent memory.

Which version will the Jets get? Most likely, something directly in-between those two points – but do not count out a major flop from Perriman. Smart money says he has a greater chance of being the player he was over his first 46 career games than the one he was over his most recent five, especially when you consider his hot stretch came on a Tampa Bay offense that is tailor-made for racking up passing production (constantly trailing, gunslinger quarterback, air-it-out head coach).

Let’s not count out a continuation of December, though. Still only 26 years old (27 in September) and having battled numerous injuries, perhaps all Perriman needs is good health and a featured role.

19. Jordan Jenkins, EDGE

Jenkins is a very decent player. His edge-setting and overall run defense is about average while his pass-rushing hovers around the same neighborhood. That profile would have made him a poor investment on a lucrative long-term deal, but at $3.94 million on a one-year deal, Douglas got a steal.

18. Ryan Griffin, TE

Griffin’s run-blocking hurt the Jets offense quite a bit, but he is a skilled receiver possessing soft hands, toughness after the catch, and slick route-running ability. He and Herndon will form one of the league’s best one-two punches in the receiving game.

17. Tarell Basham, EDGE

I see Basham as a slightly better version of Jenkins that is also active on special teams – he just has a bit more quickness to his game. He’s a very good stunt looper and has the ability to win as a rusher with lateral agility and a swipe move, also providing solid run defense. Basham was also dropped into coverage quite a bit and held up about as well as you could ask, hustling to the ball with good speed to limit yardage after the catch.

16. Mekhi Becton, OT

Long-term, I expect Becton to become a full-on force, but I do think that when we look back his rookie year will pale in comparison to the rest of his career. I think Becton will immediately be an elite run-blocker, but he may only be average or slightly below as a pass-protector to start out.

15. Nathan Shepherd, DT

Shepherd produced pressure at a highly promising level upon returning from suspension. With the interior defensive line so deep, it will be interesting to see whether Shepherd warrants a more regular role than the 25.8 snaps per game he logged in 2019.

14. Bless Austin, CB

The shocker of the list! Let me tell you right now – in one year, you will be wishing you bought Bless Austin stock just as right now you wish that you bought Zoom stock.

Austin did the unthinkable in 2019. Coming off of two ACL surgeries, he got drafted in the sixth round. After missing the entire preseason and most of the offseason practices, Austin returned to the practice field in October. That alone would have made his rookie season a success. The man was never supposed to play in 2019.

But the Queens native had no interest in settling for what was “supposed” to happen.

Austin not only got on the field for regular season action, but he became a starter – and a darn good one, ranking at the 72nd percentile among cornerbacks with 1.00 yard allowed per route run. It would be impressive for any rookie corner to produce at that level, let alone one that played two games in most recent college season, missed the entire offseason and preseason, and did not practice with the team until mid-way through the regular season.

Austin plays the run excellently, is a strong finisher in the flat, has great length, and fluid hips. With some seasoning (Austin was benched by Gregg Williams after an egregious coverage blunder at the end of the first half against Pittsburgh), I think Austin will become a good starter. His rookie year foundation was so good that he should be on the way to success with even just a normal amount of progression.

13. Brian Poole, CB

Poole’s 2019 production from a statistical standpoint warrants a top-5 spot on this list, but I envision regression in his future. He was average at best prior to coming to New York and received only a one-year deal. Despite his numbers, the league only valued him as worthy of another one-year deal. When you turn on his film, there are lucky bail-outs here and there (drops, bad throws) that helped his numbers – every cornerback gets some of those, but Poole may have been luckier than most.

To boot, when a team’s outside cornerbacks are Trumaine Johnson, Darryl Roberts, and a bunch of guys starting for the first time, teams are going to turn their attention there. Poole likely benefited from playing alongside lesser defensive backs that attracted a lot more attention from opposing offenses than he did.

Coverage aside, Poole is yet another strong tackler and run defender in the secondary. He also provides blitzing ability that Williams used plenty in 2019.

Expect Poole to decline from elite status in 2020, but the Jets were certainly not finding a more promising option in the slot if they let him go. He is a good fit for this defense and should have at least an average season with the upside to perform solidly once again.

12. Folorunso Fatukasi, DT

Fatukasi’s innate snap timing and beastly power make him one of the most disruptive run defenders in the game. He will probably never be a great pass-rusher, but he creates enough penetration in that phase to keep from being a liability on passing downs.

11. Marcus Maye, S

Maye is a heady player who rarely blows an assignment and can be relied upon to effectively handle any sort of deep zone. He is a good run defender and hard hitter when coming downhill. While he misses more tackles than you would like, Maye still does a lot more good than bad, admirably fulfilling his responsibility of limiting big plays.


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