With the NHL’s Seattle Kraken set to take shape tonight, it’s worth pondering which New York Jets would warrant protection.
As the NHL prepares to release the Seattle Kraken roster tonight (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2), we at Jets X-Factor have wondered: who would the Jets (New York, not Winnipeg) protect if the NFL were to hold a similarly styled expansion draft?
The last few expansion drafts in the NFL have operated on shorter “exposed” lists. Houston was the most recent entry in 2002 and the young Texans feasted on the Jets’ list, taking Ryan Young, Aaron Glenn, and Marcus Coleman within their first seven selections.
To perhaps loosen the carnage, we’ll stick with the NHL’s modern system where each of Seattle’s new opponents (save for the infantile Vegas Golden Knights) protect approximately 11 players. Keeping with the NHL protection format, we will put limits on five offensive players, five defenders, and one specialist.
We’ll also keep in mind the NHL’s rule that players who made their league debuts during the 2019-20 or 2020-21 seasons (first and second-year players, in this case) are not eligible to become members of the Kraken – so, in other words, don’t lose your mind when you don’t see, say, Zach Wilson or Mekhi Becton on this list. Draft picks from the 2021 and 2020 NFL drafts are automatically safe.
Without further ado, here are the 11 protected Jets.
WR Braxton Berrios
Are we cheating on this one? That’s a fair question, but Braxton Berrios shouldn’t be punished for being valuable on both sides of the ball. We’ve outlined the rules as being allowed to protect five offensive players and only one specialist, but Berrios has moonlighted as both.
In addition to hauling in 43 receptions over the last two seasons (37 last year), Berrios is one of six punt returners (min. 30 attempts) to average at least 10 yards per return over that same span.
Since Berrios is officially listed as a receiver, he’s fully welcome aboard.
WR Keelan Cole
The NHL’s expansion draft rules would’ve worked in the Jets’ favor when it came to keeping their receivers. Respective sophomore and freshman Denzel Mims and Elijah Moore would be exempt and the expansion draft might’ve been a safe place to unload Jamison Crowder‘s cap hit before a June restructuring soothed the blow.
Keelan Cole is signed to a one-year deal, but the Jets have some high hopes for him after he served as one of the top targets in Jacksonville over the past four seasons. A strong minicamp only strengthened his (hypothetical) case to stay.
RB Tevin Coleman
As the signer of a one-year, $2 million deal last spring, Tevin Coleman perhaps doesn’t factor into the Jets’ long-term plans. Wheels may already be in motion to make fourth-round pick Michael Carter the primary back by season’s end.
But the two-time Super Bowl participant, for the time being, serves as an early safety blanket for a group that’s famished on regular-season snaps. He’s someone who’s prepared for Mike LaFleur‘s offense based on their shared San Francisco tenure, and is a rare Jet with championship experience.
WR Corey Davis
Corey Davis, fresh off a career-best season in Nashville, is the favorite to become Wilson’s top target in year one. Even if the Jets didn’t have big plans for the former Tennessee Titan, a three-year, $37.5 million deal ($25 million guaranteed) would probably scare a hypothetical newcomer off.
RG Greg Van Roten
Again, you weren’t going to see Becton or Alijah Vera-Tucker on this list. Instead, a protection spot on the offensive line goes to Greg Van Roten, a rare returning starter in the team’s revamped blocking corps.
Van Roten’s greatest stat may in fact be a shocking one: according to Pro Football Reference, the Long Island native has committed only four penalties (one declined) in his NFL career. None of them came during the 2020 season, his first with the Jets. Van Roten’s total of 752 offensive snaps without a penalty was the best in the NFL among right guards.
LB Jarrad Davis
Yes, it’s a bit distressing that a good number of the names on this hypothetical “protected” list have yet to play a game in green. But not only does that serve as an indicator of just how far the Jets fell last season, but it also shows that these newcomers have the potential to reverse both the Jets’ short and long-term fortunes and that it would be well worth keeping them.
Jarrad Davis only has a one-year deal after coming over from Detroit, but he has a big role to play in the immediate future. His best gridiron showings (under Geoff Collins at Florida and Teryl Austin in his rookie year with the Lions) have come in the 4-3 that Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich are set to implement.
LS Thomas Hennessy
When it comes to protecting the specialist slot, punter Braden Mann (second year) is ineligible and the kicker’s role is hosting yet another competition (Sam Ficken/Chris Naggar). Thus, it’s a no-brainer to use the exemption on Thomas Hennessy, who has served four incident-free years as the Jets’ long snapper.
Related Article: That good Hennessy: NY Jets’ long snapper is an NFL star | Film
DE Carl Lawson
When you’re trapped in a division that guarantees an annual pair of matchups with Josh Allen for the foreseeable future, upping the pressure backfield is going to be vital. Thus, Carl Lawson is indispensable.
As broken down by Jets X-Factor’s Michael Nania and echoed by Lawson himself, Lawson’s relatively pedestrian sack totals shield the naked eye from discovering that he has become one of the NFL’s most fearsome pressure artists. The Jets obviously see the value, inking him to a three-year deal worth $45 million ($30 million of it guaranteed), making Lawson their most expensive offseason purchase.
S Marcus Maye
Time will tell what the future holds for the franchise-tagged Marcus Maye, whose dreams of an immediate, expensive long-term deal were dashed by last week’s deadline.
But if the Jets want to make any noticeable strides on the field and the wins/losses column, it behooves them to keep Maye as long as they can. With 2021 serving as a de facto “prove it” year, the Jets would probably prefer that it be staged in New York, especially when looking at what lies on the depth chart behind him.
LB C.J. Mosley
It’s hard to fault C.J. Mosley for the way his Jets career has gone. A stellar debut was canceled out by a lingering groin injury and he opted out of last year entirely in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet, Mosley has just enough upside, just enough experience, and just enough accolades on a lauded professional resume to wait out one more year.
DL Quinnen Williams
Saving the best for last? Thank the alphabet, but Quinnen Williams, set to enter his third season in green, is by far the biggest no-brainer on the list after quickly regaining control of his professional career’s narrative with a stellar sophomore season.
The excitement has been somewhat stifled by a foot injury suffered while training at the Jets’ facility, but 2019’s third overall pick has turned himself into one of the NFL’s most exciting young defenders.
Questions will undoubtedly linger in the future due to the Jets’ apparent inability to keep their homegrown defensive cornerstones. But, for now, Williams is safe from an imaginary 33rd squad.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags