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Sorting all 90 players on the 2020 New York Jets roster into tiers

Sam Darnold, Le'Veon Bell, C.J. Mosley 2
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Grouping up all 90 current members of the New York Jets according to their current and future value to the team.

Undrafted free agent – longshot

  • DL Domenique Davis
  • DL Sterling Johnson

The Jets are set along the defensive line, with five players at the position (Henry Anderson, Foley Fatukasi, Steve McLendon, Nathan Shepherd, Quinnen Williams) whose roster spots are as close to guaranteed as possible (six if you consider Kyle Phillips part of the group).

However, considering that the Jets defensive line ranked just 25th against the pass (compared to 3rd against the run) in 2019, perhaps Davis or Johnson can steal a spot if they show some serious pass-rushing upside.

Undrafted free agent – average chances

  • CB Javelin Guidry
  • CB Lamar Jackson
  • CB Shyheim Carter
  • WR Lawrence Cager
  • WR George Campbell

While the Jets are lacking top-end talent at cornerback, they do have plenty of depth at the position with Brian Poole, Pierre Desir, Bless Austin, Arthur Maulet, Bryce Hall, and Quincy Wilson all looking like decent-or-better bets to make the team.

Carter, Guidry, and Jackson could conceivably swipe a spot at cornerback if they flash brightly enough, but perhaps one of them would make a more serious push by converting to safety. The Jets are razor-thin at that position behind Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Backing up the elite duo is Matthias Farley (one start over last two years), Bennett Jackson (zero career starts), and third-round pick Ashtyn Davis – all three are free safeties. There is not a true strong safety on the roster to take Adams’ place if he does not suit up for the Jets in 2020.

It is worth noting that Carter received the second-largest guarantee of the Jets’ undrafted free agent signings at $72,000. He was a versatile piece in the Alabama defense, so perhaps he is a candidate to make the switch over to safety.

Regarding the wide receivers – neither Cager nor Campbell was productive in college, averaging 30.1 and 42.2 receiving yards per game, respectively, but they both had career-best seasons in 2019 after transferring to a new school as redshirt seniors. Cager transferred from Miami (FL) to Georgia and posted 59.5 yards per game, while Campbell transferred from Florida State to West Virginia and racked up 52.1 yards per game and seven touchdowns on only 19 catches.

Don’t get your hopes up, though. Cager and Campbell are both older prospects who barely produced at all and have constantly battled injury issues. They are certainly longshots.

The only reason that Cager and Campbell are not ranked in the bottom tier is because of the Jets’ lack of depth at wide receiver. Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman, and Denzel Mims are locks, while Vyncint Smith and Braxton Berrios have an edge thanks to special teams. However, beyond the top-three, there is no sign of reliable receiving talent.

With Smith, Berrios, Josh Doctson, Josh Malone, Jehu Chesson, and Jeff Smith as the other competitors for the WR4 spot, it is a wide-open race. Outside of Doctson, the other five players have combined for two receiving touchdowns in the NFL. Doctson averaged the fifth-fewest yards per route run among qualified wide receivers in his most recent qualified season (2018, 1.04).

Cager and Campbell just may have a shot thanks to that ghastly depth chart.

Lawrence Cager
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – NOVEMBER 02: Lawrence Cager #15 of the Georgia Bulldogs rushes after a catch during a game against the Florida Gators on November 02, 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Bottom-of-the-roster competitor

These players have a sub-50% chance of making the team and have not shown anything more than backup-quality talent at best.

The Jets have three running back slots sealed with Le’Veon Bell, Frank Gore, and La’Mical Perine, but Dixon is an interesting name to watch. He has been a solid player when healthy, averaging 4.8 yards per carry with a fantastic 33.8% first down rate on 148 career carries. Of course, that only means so much when you play only 18 of a possible 64 games over a four-year span.

Keep an eye on Franklin-Myers at defensive end. Injuries kept him off the field in 2019, but he had a promising rookie season with the Rams in 2018, ranking at the 63rd percentile among edge defenders in pass-rush productivity (per-snap pressure rate with greater weight to sacks) as he picked up 27 total pressures (2 sacks) over 216 pass-rush snaps.

Bottom-of-the-roster competitor (with Jets experience)

This group is similarly lacking in talent and roster probability as the previous tier, but these players may have somewhat of an edge considering that they each appeared for the Jets in the 2019 regular season.

Bello, Jackson, and Cannon offer special teams ability that could help their chances. Bello and Jackson were quietly fantastic as blockers for the kickoff return team while Bello also made a big impact in kickoff coverage. Cannon had 14 special teams tackles from 2018-19 (12 of those in 2019) and appeared regularly in kickoff/punt coverage and as a kickoff/punt return blocker.

McDermott started the Jets’ final two games at right guard and did a decent job, allowing only three pressures (no hits or sacks) but struggling in the run game (10th percentile among guards in PFF run blocking grade from Weeks 16-17).

Undrafted free agent – above-average chances

  • EDGE Bryce Huff
  • OT Jared Hilbers

Huff received the largest guarantee of the Jets’ undrafted free agent pickups ($90,000), while Hilbers received the largest among offensive players ($62,000).

Hilbers allowed 12 pressures (2 sacks, 3 hits, 7 hurries) over 433 snaps in protection at Washington this past season, yielding a pressure rate of 2.8% that ranked at the 85th percentile among tackles nation-wide.

With only three other tackles on the roster (Mekhi Becton, George Fant, and Chuma Edoga), Hilbers has a golden opportunity to snag a backup spot.

Huff was incredibly productive in college, ranking fourth among FBS edge defenders with 64 pressures in 2019. Strangely, he was not invited to the Combine. He then faced some more bad luck as his Pro Day was canceled.

In addition to his production, Huff’s film shows a player that was certainly worthy of being drafted.

Considering the Jets’ lack of pass-rushing juice at EDGE (the group ranked 28th in pressure rate in 2019) and his superior talent for an undrafted free agent, it is hard not to like Huff’s chances.

New York Jets, Jets X-Factor

Third-string quality

These players have a decent chance of making the team as a third-stringer, with the talent to match.

Andrews-vs-Harrison – for a backup spot on the interior – will be an interesting battle to watch. Andrews has rarely gotten the chance to play, logging only 99 snaps and no starts over six years as he was stuck behind elite players in Philadelphia and Indianapolis. Harrison has gotten plenty of opportunities to play and has been mostly poor. Each player offers experience lining up at both guard and center.

Langi, Luvu, and Willis will clash for one of the last spots on the edge. Langi’s fantastic season on special teams (particularly as a kickoff blocker and kickoff cover man) is a boost. Willis showed flashes as a pass-rusher in 2019, with his 74.8 pass-rush grade from PFF ranking 30th out of 134 qualified edge defenders (78th percentile). He picked up 11 pressures over 97 pass-rush snaps, including a strip-sack of Gardner Minshew in Jacksonville.

Cashman showed intriguing versatility as a pass-rusher and in coverage throughout his rookie season, but he struggled mightily overall. He has a lot of progress to make until he can help the defense in any capacity. Still, as a fifth-round rookie thrown into the fray much earlier than the Jets likely intended to, he deserves some leeway.

Morgan will be competing against Fales (and White) for the Week 1 backup job while Joe Flacco recovers from neck surgery. Whoever wins that role will presumably move to the No. 3 spot afterward, remaining inactive on gamedays.

Kicker competition

Brant Boyer recently labeled this battle a “true competition.”

Well, there is no questioning whether the two players are close. In 2019, Ficken ranked 30th out of 33 qualifiers as he connected on 70.4% of his field goals, while Maher ranked 32nd at 66.7%.

Maher has special leg strength. After just two seasons, he is already the first player in history to make three field goals of over 60 yards – and he did it without missing a single one. His issue has been the range of 30-to-49 yards out, where his 62.5% conversion rate was the worst among qualifiers from 2018-19.

Ficken has been slightly less awful than Maher on those kicks (71.4% from 2018-19, second-worst), but he does not have nearly the same long-distance power and has actually been below-average in every distance range (10-yard intervals). He is also much less reliable on extra points (Ficken has made 90.2% over career, Maher 98.6%).

On the other hand, Ficken’s kickoff numbers are slightly better. In 2019, Ficken ranked ninth in hangtime and 17th in average opponent field position on kickoffs, while Maher ranked 26th and 27th in those categories.

Maher clearly has substantially more upside than Ficken thanks to his rare long-distance capabilities, but his floor is lower, which is saying a lot considering that Ficken has kicked at a well below-average level.

This will be a neck-and-neck fight – the Jets better hope that the winner is able to soar far beyond his career norms, or they may end up paying for their lack of talent at this position.

Backup quality

  • WR Braxton Berrios
  • WR Vyncint Smith
  • OG Brian Winters
  • OT Chuma Edoga
  • OT George Fant
  • CB Quincy Wilson
  • RB Frank Gore
  • TE Trevon Wesco

Berrios and Smith would be a tier lower based solely on what they have shown as receivers, but their special teams excellence bumps them up. Berrios’ 11.4 yards per punt return ranked third out of 38 players with at least 10 punt returns, while Smith’s 29.9 yards per kickoff return ranked second out of 41 players with at least 10 kickoff returns.

Smith also offers gadget ability on offense. He picked up a first down all three of his rush attempts in 2019 and ranked at the 87th percentile among wide receivers with 5.9 yards after catch per reception. In addition, he broke wide open on a flea-flicker against the Giants, but Sam Darnold could not connect on the throw.

Neither Edoga nor Fant has not shown starter-level talent to date, but one of them will likely be starting at right tackle, a scary thought for the Jets. Whether or not Edoga takes a second-year leap will be a major factor in determining the offense’s overall potential.

Winters should not be ruled out of winning back his right guard job, but the Jets can clear the entirety of his $7.3 million contract off the books, so he needs to show quite a bit to prove worthy of that cap number. His lack of an anchor in pass protection leaves him in the quarterback’s lap constantly, making him a consistent liability as a starter.

Gore’s veteran presence will be welcomed, but he is nothing more than a change-of-pace backup at this point. He has averaged under 4.0 yards per carry in four of the past five seasons, including a career-low 3.6 in 2019.

Wesco struggled early in his rookie season, but finished the season strongly, especially when lined up at fullback. With a pair of mediocre-at-best blockers headlining the tight end position in Chris Herndon (around average) and Ryan Griffin (poor), the Jets need Wesco to pick up some slack.

Wilson was brutal for the Colts in 2019. They experimented with him at a few different roles, and he was burnt toast in all of them, leading to him spending much of the season on the bench. However, he was excellent in 2018, ranking eighth out of 90 qualified cornerbacks with only 0.81 yards allowed per cover snap. That includes a two-game stretch in the playoffs where Wilson allowed only 27 yards on five targets over 93 snaps in coverage against the Texans and Chiefs.

A former second-round pick going into just his fourth season (will turn 25 years old in August), Wilson still has time to figure things out and become a good starter. For now, he is a volatile reserve who could be anything from solid to unplayable.

Miami Dolphins v Indianapolis Colts
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – NOVEMBER 25: Quincy Wilson #31 of the Indianapolis Colts attempts to make an interception in the game against Miami Dolphins in the second quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 25, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Backup/third-string quality in the present, starter upside long-term

A quintet of rookies. It would be too optimistic to project any of them to perform at a solid level in 2020, but they will certainly get their chances to do so. Four of the five players should get some regular playing time throughout the season, save for Clark (but don’t rule it out). Davis may be a starter if Jamal Adams does not stick around.

With a lack of long-term stability in front of them on the depth chart at their respective positions, all five players have clear paths to ascend into starting roles in 2021 and beyond.

Borderline low-level starter/high-level backup

It would not be ideal to have any of these players starting 16 games for you, but as backups, they are about as good as you can reasonably hope for.

Flacco is no longer a capable starter – he had a below-average passer rating in each of the past five seasons – but you can’t do much better than him at the QB2 spot.

Burgess, Hewitt, and Onwuasor are not well-rounded enough to be starters in every-down roles, but each player has particular strengths that can be maximized in substitute roles. If one of them is called upon to start for a game or a short stretch, you can do a lot worse.

Maulet’s ability to finish tackles underneath made him a solid starter in the latter half of 2019. Whether or not he can play effectively as a starter for 16 games is debatable, but he should be useful as a third or fourth corner.

Below-average starter

  • DE Henry Anderson
  • CB Pierre Desir
  • OG Alex Lewis
  • WR Breshad Perriman

These players will likely be starting for the Jets, and while deserving of that role on this particular team, they are in the bottom half among all starters in the league at their respective positions.

Anderson was a very good starter in 2018 but dwindled to a pedestrian level in 2019, as his pressure total dropped from 48 (12th among IDL) to 18 (56th).

Desir was excellent in 2018, thriving against the run and holding up well in coverage, but had a rough 2019 season as he battled a hamstring injury.

Lewis has consistently earned well below-average grades from PFF. Contrarily, I think he is right around average based on my own evaluation of his film. We can settle in the middle and consider him a below-average starter.

Perriman showed unlimited potential in December, but that was the first time he had shown even starter-level ability in his five-year career. Which version of Perriman will the Jets get? Most likely, it will be a version directly in-between his ceiling and floor, which is a slightly below-average starting wide receiver.

Below-average in the present, star upside long-term

Mims is in a unique boat. As a second-round pick, his odds of producing in 2020 are not very good. Just 14.8% of second-round wide receivers since 2000 have averaged at least 50.0 receiving yards per game as rookies. The average second-round receiver over that span has caught 30.1 passes for 402.3 yards and 2.6 touchdowns as a rookie.

However, I think his ceiling is markedly higher than his fellow Jets rookies that are bunched together a few tiers back. Mims’ contested catch prowess, subtle ability to create separation at the catch point, size, speed, and physicality all scream “No. 1 receiver.”

Will he get there? Only time will tell. It is obvious that he has the talent to do it, though.

Baylor v Oklahoma
NORMAN, OK – SEPTEMBER 29: Wide receiver Denzel Mims #15 of the Baylor Bears catches a touchdown in front of cornerback Tre Brown #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on September 29, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

Average starter

Phillips and Griffin are one-dimensional players who are good enough at their strength to balance out their weakness. Phillips’ tremendous run defense (third among EDGE with 16 tackles for loss against the run) makes up for his work-in-progress pass-rushing. Griffin’s solid presence as a receiver is enough to keep him on the field despite his abysmal blocking.

Basham and Jenkins are jacks of all trades but masters of none. Neither is a terrible pass-rusher, but they cannot be considered anything better than average. They are tough and generally well-disciplined against the run, but not elite in that phase, either. Both do offer the ability to drop into coverage, a nice plus.

Van Roten’s career grades at PFF project him as a perfectly average starting guard.

This is a fair middle ground for Austin. He was arguably an above-average starter in 2019, ranking at the 72nd percentile among cornerbacks in yards allowed per cover snap (1.0), but he finished the season in Gregg Williams‘ doghouse and also faced a schedule of mostly-terrible passing offenses.

On the optimistic side, it is fair to project that Austin will become a very good starter given that he was already solid as a rookie even while facing a myriad of obstacles. Conversely, reasons can be brought up that Austin will regress, including his injury issues of the past and the possibility that his 2019 success was a fluke due to a weak slate of opponents and some clever masking by Williams’ scheme.

Good starter (plays less than half of snaps)

  • DT Foley Fatukasi
  • LS Thomas Hennessy
  • DT Steve McLendon
  • DT Nathan Shepherd

Fatukasi, McLendon, and Shepherd each played excellent football in 2019, grading at the 93rd, 90th, and 71st percentiles, respectively, in Pro Football Focus’ overall grade among interior defensive linemen. Fatukasi ranked fifth at the position with eight tackles for loss against the run while McLendon ranked sixth with seven. Shepherd ranked at the 83rd percentile with a 10.4% pressure rate.

All three players participated in less than 50% of defensive snaps in the games that they appeared in, thriving in their niches.

Hennessy was PFF’s top-graded long snapper with an 82.3 grade, leading the position with four tackles while also downing three punts (T-1st on NYJ) and assisting on three positive stops in punt coverage (T-3rd on NYJ). He is an unstoppable monster that keeps opposing special teams coordinators up at night.

Average in the present, star upside long-term

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