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Which 2020 NY Jets draft pick will improve the most in 2021?

Is Denzel Mims the player who will take the biggest leap among the NY Jets' 2020 draft picks?
Denzel Mims, NY Jets, Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

Denzel Mims

First of all, let’s make it clear that Mekhi Becton must be excluded from this exercise. As the highest-drafted member of the New York Jets‘ 2020 draft class and easily its most impressive player as a rookie, Becton clearly has a better chance to take a seismic leap than any of his peers.

Denzel Mims is looking to build on a rookie season in which he caught 23 passes for 357 yards in nine games (39.7 yards per game). The Baylor product became just the sixth player in NFL history to post 40+ receiving yards in each of his first six career games before finishing on a cold streak with 33 yards over his final three games.

Mims’ stock is a bit low right now, as he takes reps with the second and third-team offense in training camp. Vyncint Smith has eclipsed him on the depth chart.

Let’s run through a few more of the non-Becton players from the Jets’ 2020 class who have a chance to take a leap in 2021.

Ashtyn Davis

Ashtyn Davis‘ path to a second-year breakout has been hampered by his slow recovery from a foot injury he suffered late in the 2020 season. Davis is on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list and has a conservative return date of Week 2 of the regular season, according to Robert Saleh.

It appears that Marcus Maye and Lamarcus Joyner have locked down the starting safety spots. Davis will need to carve out a rotational role to make a weekly impact when everyone is healthy.

Jabari Zuniga

Jabari Zuniga got on the field for nine games in his rookie season, but it’s tough to blame any Jets fan who thinks he didn’t play at all. He had one pressure and one run stop over 103 defensive snaps.

Zuniga was not a great fit in the Jets’ 3-4 defense under Gregg Williams. Oftentimes, Zuniga would be standing up on the edge as a 3-4 outside linebacker, which is completely out of his wheelhouse. Zuniga should benefit from the Jets’ 4-3 scheme that will allow him to line up on the edge with his hands in the dirt as a 4-3 defensive end.

While Zuniga’s roster spot should be safe, he has a lot of competitors to fight against for playing time. Vinny Curry, Bryce Huff, Ronald Blair, and Kyle Phillips are all in the mix at the EDGE position.

La’Mical Perine

La’Mical Perine was unable to establish himself as a clear-cut future building block in his rookie season, so he finds himself in the midst of a heated competition for snaps in Mike LaFleur‘s committee backfield. Perine, Ty Johnson, Tevin Coleman, Michael Carter, Josh Adams, and even Austin Walter have all gotten their share of touches in training camp.

Bryce Hall

Bryce Hall is a popular breakout pick among Jets fans. Hall took over as a starting outside cornerback near the end of his rookie season and performed fairly well. His length and instincts help him project as a good fit in a zone-heavy coverage scheme.

Braden Mann

Braden Mann showed a lot of potential in his rookie season but needs to be substantially more productive after ranking fourth-worst among qualified punters with 37.2 net yards per punt as a rookie.

Much of that ranking was not Mann’s fault, as his coverage team was brutal (and bailed out by Mann himself a few times). He has the talent to become a great punter, as he shows flashes of being able to blend phenomenal hang time, great power, and precise accuracy – he simply needs to be more consistent. Mann launched too many duds in his rookie year.

Bryce Huff

Bryce Huff looked promising as a situational pass rusher in his rookie season, ranking at the 73rd percentile among qualified edge rushers with a 14.8% pass-rush win rate at Pro Football Focus.

Huff projects to fill the Dee Ford role in the Jets’ defense, which would call for him to rotate in for somewhere from 30-40% of the defensive snaps per game with the majority of those snaps coming in passing situations.

Javelin Guidry

Javelin Guidry is competing with rookie cornerback Michael Carter II for the Jets’ starting nickel role. Guidry impressed with just 172 snaps as a rookie, forcing four fumbles and allowing only 9.3 yards per reception on throws in his direction.

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Other candidates

Cameron Clark, James Morgan, and Lamar Jackson highlight the Jets’ other possible second-year breakout candidates.

Clark is looking to continue making progress on his transition from tackle to guard. However, his status is up in the air after a recent neck injury.

A realistic breakout for Morgan would involve him enjoying a strong preseason to show the Jets that he can be relied upon as a backup quarterback to Zach Wilson.

Jackson struggled mightily in his rookie season, but he has a chance to make up for it as he remains in the middle of a wide-open cornerback competition.

Cool Your Jets Podcast Episode

On the latest episode of the Cool Your Jets podcast, Ben Blessington and Michael Nania discuss the second-year outlook for members of the Jets’ 2020 draft class. Plus, the duo makes its predictions on a variety of topics on the upcoming season, ranging from the Jets’ season-long sack leader to their list of team captains in Week 1.

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