These players on the New York Jets roster had their futures affected significantly by the results of Joe Douglas’ 10-player draft class.
Winner: Chris Herndon
Facing a lack of serious competition at the position, Chris Herndon entered the 2020 season with a chance to establish himself as the New York Jets‘ long-term tight end, but he botched that opportunity in grand fashion. Herndon averaged only 17.9 receiving yards per game over 16 appearances while recording five drops and two fumbles.
As things stand right now, Herndon will again enter the season with a chance to prove he can be a long-term answer. The Jets did not use any of their 10 draft picks on a tight end, leaving Herndon as the most talented receiving tight end on the roster without much debate. Nobody out of Ryan Griffin, Tyler Kroft, Daniel Brown, and Trevon Wesco can touch the upside and versatility that Herndon offers in the passing game.
On the undrafted free agent market, the Jets did sign Mississippi tight end Kenny Yeboah, who averaged 74.9 yards per game last year, but it would be a little premature to call Yeboah a serious threat to Herndon just yet.
Remaining in control of his own destiny despite an injury-eliminated 2019 season and a highly disappointing 2020 season, Herndon comes out of the draft as a massive winner.
Loser: Jamison Crowder
Jamison Crowder is entering the third and final year of the $28.5 million contract he signed with the Jets in 2019. He’s had a successful two years with the team, ranking 10th among wide receivers in receiving yards per game out of the slot in 2019 (40.5) and sixth in 2020 (39.9). The Jets have some flexibility with Crowder as they can cut or trade him to clear $10,352,932 in cap room while eating only $1 million in dead money.
Due to the escapability of Crowder’s contract and his potentially less-than-ideal fit in Mike LaFleur’s scheme (lacking top-end speed and elusiveness), it seemed plausible to think that the Jets might look to replace him. They were rumored to be in hot pursuit of free agent slot weapons like Curtis Samuel and JuJu Smith-Schuster, but Crowder escaped the free agency rampage unscathed.
Crowder’s future became much murkier after Laveranues Coles announced the Jets’ selection with the 34th overall pick. Mississippi slot man Elijah Moore has joined the fray, leaving Crowder looking like an odd man out in the Jets’ wide receiver room.
The Jets could certainly hang on to Crowder for one more year – doing so would give them a tremendous amount of depth at the wide receiver position to help supplement Zach Wilson’s development – but the contract situation looms large. Moore’s presence undoubtedly lays a dent in Crowder’s chances of suiting up with the Jets for a third straight season.
Winner: Cameron Clark
Taken 129th overall by the Jets in the fourth round of the 2020 draft, Cameron Clark did not play a single down of live football in his rookie season. After battling injuries early in the year, he was healthy and active later in the season, but could not get into the lineup over poorly-performing backups like Josh Andrews and Pat Elflein.
Despite playing at mid-major Charlotte, Clark came into the league with intriguing potential thanks to his performance in games against top-notch opponents such as Clemson. His tape suggested he had a relatively strong chance of finding success in the NFL if he transitioned inside to the guard position.
The Jets entered the draft with vacancies at both guard spots. They filled one of them in the first round with the selection of Alijah Vera-Tucker, but that turned out to be their only selection allocated to the offensive line.
Joe Douglas’ decision not to select a second offensive lineman could be a signal of his confidence in the development of Clark. Even if it isn’t, the lack of a second OL pick leaves an open starting spot that Clark can battle for.
Clark will presumably have an open shot to stake his claim to a starting guard spot. With his only viable competitors being a pair of mediocre-at-best veterans in Greg Van Roten and Dan Feeney, the Jets should be able to get a good idea of what they have in the fourth-round pick.
Loser: La’Mical Perine
La’Mical Perine was taken five slots prior to Clark in the 2020 draft, being selected by Joe Douglas with the 120th overall pick in the fourth round.
Despite being a recent Joe Douglas pick, Perine is going to have to fight hard for opportunities in 2021. The running back room has become crowded, and it can be argued that all of Perine’s competitors offer more intrigue than he does.
Ty Johnson and Josh Adams saw an increase in opportunities near the end of the season after Perine was placed on injured reserve, and they significantly outperformed the rookie. In 2020, Johnson and Adams rushed for 4.7 and 5.4 yards per carry, respectively, while Perine rushed for only 3.6 yards per carry, barely edging out Frank Gore’s mark of 3.5.
The Jets signed Tevin Coleman this March, who follows Mike LaFleur over from San Francisco. In addition to the coaching connection, Coleman offers a better track record of receiving ability than any running back on the roster, boasting career totals of 112 catches for 1,224 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Things have been shaken up even more with the selection of North Carolina running back Michael Carter at No. 107 overall. With home-run potential to the outside, Carter may be a better scheme fit than Perine, who was seemingly selected to fit into Adam Gase’s inside-heavy rushing attack.
Perine will certainly not be gift-wrapped a golden opportunity to make a second-year leap. He is going to have to earn it.