Frustrated and confused after seeing the NFL’s Top 100 player list? TOJ was as well. Due to that, we have decided to rank the current New York Jets on the roster from 50 all the way down to 1. Along the way, we will be classifying the players into the following five categories:
- Bottom of the Roster (strictly a depth and developmental player)
- Middle Class (Situational player, spot starter)
- Quality Starter (Capable starting player or very good role player)
- Red Chip (Swiping this term from Michael Lombardi, an above average stater/borderline Pro-Bowler)
- Blue Chip (Another swipe from Lombardi, an elite player at his position)
(STILL IN MIDDLE CLASS CATEGORY)
29. John Conner, Fullback - The Terminator was average at best last season, his first one as a full time starter. Hopefully, with a more run orientated approach this season he will develop into a more consistent lead blocker and bigger cog in the offense, as Tony Sparano hasn’t been shy in the past about using his fullbacks as runners for short yardage situations. Conner must also work on his hands, so he can be a reliable checkdown option.
28. Wayne Hunter, Tackle - Despite filling in for Damien Woody admirably at the end of the 2010 season, Hunter’s frankly awful 2011 makes it more than fair to question if he is capable starter in the NFL. The Jets are betting that Sparano will help turn into a competent every down player and for the sake of Mark Sanchez’s health, they better have bet right.
27. Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver - The hope is that he will quickly prove to be a capable starter and based on physical attributes, there is no reason he can’t become that immediately. Unless he gets injured, he will start from day one opposite Santonio Holmes and be relied on to prevent teams from double teaming him or Dustin Keller.
26. Kyle Wilson, Cornerback - Wilson bounced back somewhat from a disappointing rookie season in 2011 but still left something to be desired for a first round pick. People forget that when he was selected, he was anticipated to be a big time punt returner and hyped as somebody capable of the holding the fort down if Darrelle Revis missed time from a holdout. He is no longer a factor as a returner and has the looks of a good, not great nickel back that hasn’t proven he can be an every down player yet.
25. Joe McKnight, Running Back - He proved to be a very good kick returner last season but never really received the chance to flourish into a big part of the offense. Tony Sparano found a way to make Reggie Bush more successful than he ever had been in his NFL career last season in Miami and while McKnight isn’t on the same talent level as him, he does have a comparable skill set. He should be given every opportunity to be the team’s primary third down back and a big part of the passing games, particularly on screens.
QUALITY STARTER (CAPABLE STARTER OR VERY GOOD ROLE PLAYER)
24. Jeremy Kerley, Wide Receiver - Flashed a ton of potential in his rookie season and will be the team’s slot receiver in 2012. Davone Bess caught plenty of passes in Miami in this same offensive system and Kerley should do the same. He will also likely be the team’s primary punt returner. Kerley has excellent short area quickness and should be a frequent target on third downs.
23. Quinton Coples, Defensive End - For where the Jets took him in the first round, he better be ready to be a starter out of the gates. Coples has drawn rave reviews for his performance in OTAs and mini-camp, and seems to be playing with a chip on his shoulder. I was skeptical of the selection at the time but you have heard exactly everything you want to hear about a first round pick since he was taken. Coples has the potential to be a force up front, particularly in the Jets 4-3 alignments alongside Muhammad Wilkerson.
22. Aaron Maybin, Linebacker/Defensive End - The team’s top pass rusher last season, who should improve in 2012 with a full off-season to master Rex Ryan’s defense and work on diversifying his rush techniques. He has bulked up in anticipation of an increase of reps. There is no reason to think he can’t approach double digit sacks in this system.
21. Matt Slauson, Guard - Slauson has been the team’s starting guard the past two seasons and has proven to be competent. He played through a torn labrum and rotator cuff in his left shoulder last season and is anticipated to be 100% healthy in 2012. Slauson won’t be elected to any Pro-Bowls but won’t hold the Jets offensive back as a starter.
20. Eric Smith, Safety - Defensive backs coach summed up Smith perfectly when he said, “you will love him 300 reps, not at 900 reps.” He was overextended as a starter last season and was also banged up down the stretch run. However, Smith can thrive in Rex Ryan’s defense as a role player like he did in 2009, which will also allow him to focus on being the team’s top special teams player.
Check back tomorrow for players 10-20…