The Jets X-Factor crew submits its predictions for the 2020 New York Jets offense: breakout player, rookie of the year, Sam Darnold’s touchdown total, and more.
Who will be the Jets’ best player on offense?
Ben Blessington: Sam Darnold
Joe Blewett: Connor McGovern
Michael Nania: Connor McGovern
Robby Sabo: Sam Darnold
Sam Crnic: Sam Darnold
McGovern is my pick. A top-10 center at Pro Football Focus in 2019, McGovern inarguably had the best 2019 season of any offensive player on the current Jets roster.
Here’s the interesting domino effect associated with McGovern’s play. If he does replicate his performance from a year ago, that would substantially raise Sam Darnold‘s chances of taking a massive jump. With a lack of elite talent on the roster at the moment, Darnold could rank in the top 12-16 range among starting quarterbacks and easily be considered the team’s best offensive player.
Two more players to watch out for: Chris Herndon and Le’Veon Bell. Herndon’s rookie year suggested he has elite potential. Bell was easily the league’s best running back from 2014-17, leading the NFL in scrimmage yards over that span (6,737) despite missing 15 games. His average of 137.5 yards per game during that period was over 30.0 yards ahead of second-ranked Antonio Brown (104.9). With even just average-level blocking from his offensive line, Bell’s production should rise back to an elite level in 2020, as I detailed here.
Do not count out Jamison Crowder, either. Crowder ranked fourth in receptions (58) and touchdowns (5) from the slot in 2019. If the offensive line improves enough in pass protection, Crowder should see an uptick in downfield production that gives him the potential to approach 1,000 receiving yards.
Who will be the Jets’ best rookie on offense?
Ben: Denzel Mims
Joe: Mekhi Becton
Michael: Mekhi Becton
Robby: Mekhi Becton
Sam: Mekhi Becton
This seems to be a competition between solely Becton and Mims, the only two rookies who should get ample playing time in 2020. James Morgan, La’Mical Perine, and Cameron Clark will start their careers as backups, barring injuries.
Mims has not been able to participate in camp practices yet, but should be back soon. In most cases, a second-round rookie missing this much time would be detrimental to his chances of getting early playing time, but Mims should slide right in with the first-team offense given the Jets’ lack of depth at wide receiver.
If he can quickly forge some chemistry with Darnold, Mims will have every opportunity to put together a rookie season similar to the ones we saw from post-first round receivers Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, or Marquise Brown in 2019. Targets are there to be had with no clear-cut star hogging the spotlight.
Becton will take on the challenge of starting at left tackle from Day 1. As I broke down here, highly-drafted rookie tackles have been incredibly boom-or-bust in their debut campaigns. Some have been instant stars while many have struggled mightily, but few have settled in around league average.
The odds are strong that Becton will be either great or brutal in his first season. If he is the latter, it would obviously hurt the Jets’ chances of succeeding in 2020, but it would not sink Becton’s long-term outlook much at all. Players like D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Trent Williams, and Russell Okung overcame rocky rookie seasons to become elite players. Growing pains are normal and should be expected, not frowned upon.
One dark horse to watch out for – Lawrence Cager. The undrafted rookie out of Georgia has been generating a lot of buzz in camp and has a path to playing time with the myriad of injuries at wide receiver. Plus, as a six-foot-five, 220-pound red zone weapon, he offers a profile that is unmatched by any other receiver on the current roster and has been lacked by the Jets offense for years.