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Most underrated trait for each NY Jets draft pick

Olu Fashanu
Olu Fashanu

The New York Jets’ rookies offer more than meets the eye

You know the popular selling points for each of them. But what skills do the New York Jets’ rookies bring to the table that the average Jets fan might not know about?

Here is the most underrated trait for each Jets draft pick in 2024.

OT Olu Fashanu: Penalty minimization

First-round pick Olu Fashanu gets plenty of criticism for his small hands. What doesn’t get talked about enough is how impressive it is that he remained a highly disciplined blocker despite that physical limitation.

You’d think Fashanu’s small hands would cause him to be a little grabby since it might be harder for him to establish a grip on his opponents, but that’s not the case. Across 1,349 offensive snaps at Penn State, Fashanu committed just five penalties. That’s only 3.7 penalties per 1,000 offensive snaps, or one every 269.8 snaps.

Jets fans don’t need a reminder of how much their team’s offensive line has struggled with penalties in recent years. In Fashanu, the Jets are getting a prospect who has displayed the potential to commit penalties at a very low rate. This is a skill that will never grab your attention on gameday, but over time, the value adds up.

While Fashanu’s penalty minimization is a plus in itself, I think it’s even more important because of what it says about his polish as a player. For Fashanu to keep his penalties low in spite of his tiny hands, it speaks volumes about the cleanliness of his technique. Compare his five career penalties to some of the more “raw” first-round tackles: In 2023 alone, Taliese Fuaga had eight penalties while Troy Fautanu had six.

WR Malachi Corley: Deep potential

Malachi Corley is always billed to fans as the “YAC King,” but the Western Kentucky product has the potential to become much more than that.

In 2023, Corley caught 8-of-15 deep targets (20+ yards downfield) for 261 yards and four touchdowns. Three of the eight receptions were contested, too. Don’t sleep on Corley’s upside as a downfield threat.

RB Braelon Allen: Pass protection

Jets fans will be thrilled to watch Braelon Allen use his 235-pound frame to bowl over defenders in the run game. That’s not the only way Allen will weaponize that mammoth frame, though.

Allen projects as a brick wall in pass protection, too.

Pass protection is a facet of the running back position that does not get nearly enough attention. It doesn’t get charted in the box score, but it makes up a much larger chunk of a running back’s impact on the game than people give it credit for. Bad pass protection at running back can crush an offense, and great pass protection can be essential for setting up game-changing plays. Allen projects to provide more instances of the latter.

QB Jordan Travis: Ball security

Realistically, the Jets’ vision for Jordan Travis is to develop him into a good long-term backup. And to be a quality backup quarterback in the NFL, you have to protect the football. That’s the simplest way for a backup to keep his team in games.

Travis has the potential to excel in this category. He was outstanding at protecting the football with the Seminoles.

In 2023, Travis threw just two interceptions across 324 pass attempts, an interception rate of 0.6%. He also fumbled the ball only four times across his 12 starts.

RB Isaiah Davis: Ball security

To get on the field as a backup running back, it is essential to have good ball security. Teams aren’t going to put you out there if you might give the ball away in your short time on the field.

Isaiah Davis shouldn’t have to worry about that. He offers a track record of strong ball security, making him the type of running back New York can trust to come in and tote the rock a few times without killing the team.

Davis was a workhorse for the Jackrabbits, racking up 730 touches in his career. With all of that volume, Davis only fumbled four times. That’s a rate of just 0.54%, or once every 182.5 touches.

CB Qwan’tez Stiggers: Tackling

The most commonly discussed trait of Qwan’tez Stiggers is his ball skills, as he ranked second in the CFL with five interceptions in 2023.

On top of that, Stiggers’ activity as a tackler stands out. He ranked 33rd among all CFL defenders with 53 defensive tackles, which is quite a high ranking for a cornerback. For comparison, the highest-ranking NFL cornerback on the 2023 tackle leaderboard (Taron Johnson) was all the way down at 63rd.

Now, I don’t know if that means he was allowing a lot of receptions in his vicinity (unfortunately there is no publicly available coverage data for the CFL), which could be the case. Generally speaking, you should never bring up tackle totals when evaluating a cornerback. But for a late-round pick from the CFL who projects as a special teamer in year one, his high volume of tackles is something that suggests he could have upside in kick coverage as an NFL rookie.

DB Jaylen Key: Touchdown prevention

As the last pick of the draft, expectations for Jaylen Key are low. However, he does have the advantage of coming in at the Jets’ weakest defensive position, so he has an unusually good shot of making the roster for a Mr. Irrelevant.

The Jets’ biggest issue at safety in recent years has been a knack for making the big mistake. Jordan Whitehead was the epitome of this. Whitehead made his share of bone-shattering hits and had some clutch interceptions, but for every big play he made, he gave two back. Whitehead led all safeties with seven touchdowns allowed in coverage during the 2023 season.

By letting Whitehead walk in free agency and re-signing Chuck Clark, the Jets made it clear they’re seeking discipline and fundamentals at safety, not splashiness. Clark doesn’t offer the same upside as Whitehead in terms of interceptions or hard hits, but he is substantially less mistake-prone. Key fits the same mold.

Across five seasons at Alabama, Key never allowed a touchdown into his coverage, according to PFF’s charting. This is over a span of 787 coverage snaps.

It’s unrealistic to expect Key to continue his touchdown-less streak in the NFL for very long, but if he can continue limiting his massive blunders to a fairly low rate, he could get on the field even if he isn’t a highlight-reel machine.

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18 days ago

Smart players make fewer mistakes and I think that is even more prevalent on the offensive line. One thing that struck me about the Jets’ OL with Rex and Bill Callahan, other than their talent, was their intelligence (I remember something about them having their own “book club” in the group or something like that…). I don’t know if it’s coaching or the players themselves but the Jets’ OL over the past few years clearly lacked intelligence. I’m assuming it’s a bit of both considering Bill Callahan is the best in the OL business and it doesn’t seem the Jets have been able to find someone near his coaching ability.

Penalties are often blamed on “poor coaching” however I think that’s a minor piece of that puzzle (it’s not like any coach teaches players to be sloppy or careless) smart players make fewer mistakes. The Jets need to “get smarter” and not just on the OL. (Now, I don’t want to be “that guy” who piles on, but while I do think JFM was a major piece of this DL and there is no denying his talent but he did commit some very dumb mistakes. That I won’t miss…just as a side note).

I’m already growing weary of the “YAC King” label. Yes, it’s great, but now we’ve pinned Corley as a “Debo type” and it’s YAC, YAC, YAC, as you pointed out he may be able to do more, and…can we please not create this expectation he’s got to be Debo? Personally, I didn’t love the selection of #17 because it will be about 3 plays before some announcer or beat writer starts the Garrett Wilson comparisons.

I’m pretty confident the last two guys will spend the season on the practice squad but, let’s see how this plays out.