On The New York Jets’ “Need” At Wide Receiver

Joe Caporoso on the New York Jets perceived “need” at wide receiver

Heading into the NFL Draft, the New York Jets two biggest needs were tight end and cornerback. After those two, outside linebacker, safety and wide receiver fell in some order of similar importance. The Jets added their tight end in the second round by stealing Jace Amaro with the 49th pick and added a third and sixth rounder at cornerback (we’ll discuss McDougle and Dixon more in the coming days). However, let’s today focus on their current collection of wide receivers and pass catchers in general…and why this “need” may be overstated.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, we have written at length this offseason about the rejection of the term “#1 receiver” and that trickles down to “#2 receiver…#3 receiver” and so on. It isn’t the actual terms that are necessarily incorrect but the way they are consistently used and framed.

The cookie cutter analysis on the Jets receiver situation is this: Eric Decker isn’t a #1 wide receiver. He is just a high-end #2 receiver that is being miscast. The Jets don’t have a #2 receiver because Jeremy Kerley is just a pretty good #3 receiver. Outside of that, they have a bunch of #4 and #5 receivers.

Again, I’m not sure what the criteria for “#1 receiver” mythical title is but if it is size, speed, touchdowns, yards receiving or any other reasonable wide receiver metric, Eric Decker likely meets it. He is 6’3, runs a 4.5, hasn’t a missed game in three seasons and has 32 touchdowns over those three seasons. As for Kerley, he remains a criminally underrated player who has suffered through generally terrible quarterback play the past two years and still managed to be productive when on the field. He has succeeded in other spots in the formation besides the slot. There is no need to put a number or a qualifier before discussing him, he is just a good NFL receiver.

Now that we have covered that again, let’s look at what the Jets currently have.

Eric Decker is going lead the Jets in reps at receiver and in all likelihood lead them in targets. This is an immense upgrade to last season. As of today, Jeremy Kerley would be the receiver to play the second most reps and see the second most targets amongst receivers. Personally, I don’t find that to be a dire situation. Keep in mind that Jace Amaro is basically an oversized slot receiver who is going to be prominently featured in the passing game, in a role that more resembles a receiver than a traditional tight end. Chris Johnson has averaged 49 receptions per year over the past four seasons. He is going to be a big factor, particularly in the screen and short passing game.

What we saw last year, particularly down the stretch, was that Marty Mornhinweg likes to give three wide receivers the bulk of the reps, with one or two working in through a handful of plays. Over the past four games, here is how the repetitions broke down:

  • David Nelson – 223 snaps
  • Santonio Holmes – 205 snaps
  • Jeremy Kerley – 173 snaps
  • Greg Salas – 40 snaps
  • Saliim Hakim – 15 snaps

It is worth nothing that Kerley was returning from an injury in the first game of this stretch, so his reps were gradually worked up from 27 to 33 to 59 and then 54 in week 17. Over the last two weeks, when he was 100% healthy, the breakdown looked like this:

  • David Nelson – 122 snaps
  • Jeremy Kerley – 113 snaps
  • Santonio Holmes – 110 snaps
  • Greg Salas – 18 snaps
  • Saliim Hakim – 4 snaps

So basically, after Decker and Kerley, the Jets are going to be looking for a third wide receiver who can handle a decent chunk of playing time on a week to week basis. However, that level of playing time could be lower than the 37 snaps per game Santonio Holmes played in the final two weeks. The addition of Jace Amaro and Johnson is going to impact the overall use of the receiver position and it wouldn’t be surprising if only two receivers regularly averaged over 30 snaps per game.

When you look at who is battling behind Decker and Kerley, it is going to be one of the most entertaining battles in Jets training camp. Nelson led the team in snaps the past month of the season, caught 14 of 21 targets for 146 yards with 2 touchdowns. Stephen Hill has the measurables but hasn’t put it together yet at the NFL level. Jacoby Ford has shown flashes of explosiveness but hasn’t been able to stay healthy and his roster spot is in jeopardy with the selection of Jalen Saunders.

We are going to dig deeper into the tape on Saunders, Shaq Evans and Quincy Enunwa this offseason but all three bring intriguing skill-sets. Enunwa is more of a project player but Evans and Saunders can be immediate factors offensively for the Jets with strong training camps. Don’t assume that Kerley and Saunders can’t share the field at the same time. Don’t assume that Evans can’t immediately push Nelson or Hill for reps on the outside. Saunders in particular has enough eye-catching talent, route running ability and home run capabilities to immediately demand inclusion in a handful of offensive personnel groups.

Many are frustrated that more of a “name” like Marqise Lee or Martavis Bryant wasn’t added in the NFL Draft. There is a report out there that the Jets tried to move up for Lee but GM John Idzik only confirmed that the Jets did try to move up, without naming a target. Was it for Lee? Probably. But you can understand my hesitance in immediately accepting Ian Rapoport’s claim that is was a “furious effort” when he was convinced, along with Manish Mehta, that the Jets would trade up in the first round for a wide receiver. The basis of that speculation seemed to be nothing, outside of a loose assumption that the Idzik had previously worked with the Titans GM and they could work something out.

Regardless, we don’t know what the cost would have been or how great the effort actually was or if in fact it was 100% for Lee. Personally, I’d prefer Jace Amaro over Marqise at any point in the second round, nevermind getting to stay put for Amaro compared with having to give up picks to go get Lee. Amaro was an equal, if not slightly better prospect than Lee and filled a bigger area of need for the Jets. There is a reason 32 teams passed on Lee in the first round and the receiver starved Browns (post Gordon suspension) passed on him at the top of the second. There are valid questions about his knee and ability to stay healthy/productive at this level.

With Bryant, he was a fourth round player. Do the measurables give him a higher ceiling than Saunders or Evans? Sure. At the same time, he can very well be Stephen Hill 2.0. After seeing Hill struggle, the Jets were likely wary of using one of their fourth round picks on a project receiver, instead electing to wait until the sixth round. In reality, Saunders, Evans and Bryant are all comparable NFL prospects, which is why they were all taken in the same round.

Overall, the Jets have two proven veterans at receiver, with the third spot in the pecking order battling out between a capable veteran, a third year veteran who looks great on paper, and two fourth round picks. Yet, how many times are the Jets going to go with three or four “receivers” and have those 3rd and 4th spots in the formation be some combination of Amaro, Johnson, Jeff Cumberland or Bilal Powell? Probably a good amount. The number of times the Jets have three true “wide receivers” on the field could be a relatively low number in many weeks.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the VP of Social Media at Whistle Sports

  • Quote the Raven

    However, they could have selected Donte Moncrief with their third pick – 6’2”, 225, 4.3 at the combine. Just my preference over McDougle, who might still have been there early in the fourth round. Your view Joe?

  • Dan in RI

    I pretty much agree with your analysis, though I have a little trouble with the basic assumption that our biggest needs were CB and WR. Our TE and S situations were equally awful. We have not had a truly productive TE since Dustin Keller–and even he was a bit of a disappointment, always promising more than he delivered (and he was almost certainly a much worse blocker than Amaro will prove to be). And the only good safety we’ve had in a long time was LaRon Landry on a one year rental. Allen may develop into a good player, but he’s not there yet, and Dawan Landry is merely adequate.

    What we really needed was one or more bona fide pass-catchers and serious help in the secondary. That is what we got with Pryor and Amaro. Add to that the 3 WR’s we drafted and the 2 CB’s we drafted (who, admittedly, will probably need time to develop), and I think Idzik did a good job in addressing need and building competition and depth. I can’t wait for training camp.

  • Joe Caporoso

    Quote – It is a fair question. I thought Moncrief was good 3rd round prospect and wouldn’t have complained if they took him there over McDougle. I honestly did not know much about McDougle coming into the draft, although I’ve heard rumblings that OAK was targeting him in the 3rd round as well. I’ve just started to look through more of his game and I could see why the Jets were interested, our writer Mike OC is going to have a full breakdown of him tomorrow, that sheds further light on this.

    However, it is more than fair to debate the value of Moncrief versus him in the 3rd round, especially with some of McDougle’s injury concerns.

    Dan in RI – If I had to rank our needs coming into the draft I’d go: TE, CB, S, WR, OLB

  • Bill

    What about Brandin Cooks????

    4.33 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine
    226 receptions for 3,272 yards (14.5 avg.)
    24 touchdowns
    61 carries for 340 yards (5.6 avg.)
    8 kickoffs returned for 179 yards

    The Saints traded up to get him at number 20! After the Jets did not pick him!
    Do you think the Saints who obviously understand how to run a effective passing offense misjudged his talent?

    Cooks won win the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s top receiver.

    I’m thinking Pryor would have still been around in round two possibly. We certainly had enough picks available to get ……Cooks…Amaro and Pryor…if the Jets really wanted to cover all the bases.
    Who really knows, who is going to be on the team among the draft picks we got??
    It has boiled down to a crap shoot, as to who will even make the NFL, let alone start.

    I would expect however that Cooks…Amaro and Pryor would all be starters, as I’m sure they will,
    the rest….who really can tell??

  • Yeah, not drafting Moncrief there was a huge miss, IMO. However, there may have been some ‘Stephen Hill’ buyer’s remorse at work there: http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/cfb/46395/349/donte-moncrief-metric-allstar

    The only thing I’d love to be able to get an answer on is this: while Hill was largely drafted based on his measurables, and probably the successes of Megatron and Demaryius Thomas, to an extent, he only had 49 total catches at G-Tech. Moncrief, is 20yrs old and was an accomplished WR, with a mediocre QB, in the toughest league in college football. If Moncrief went to LSU or ‘Bama he’d have been a 1st round pick. I mean, compare him to Kelvin Benjamin and tell me why that guy goes in round 1, when he’s not as explosive and wasn’t as productive and got to play with a Heisman trophy QB this year, and a 1st round NFL draft pick before that????

  • Sim

    You should say Shaq when you mean Shaq Evans… Because Evans for probably all of us means Mike Evans

  • LeeBur

    Agree with Lidman. I don’t know the stat, but WR out of power conferences who are under 21 years of age and enter the draft historically have a great chance to succeed. Another guy like that in this draft was Allen Robinson. Needless to say I was super high on both.

  • Joe Caporoso

    Bill – Fair point on Cooks and I was a big fan (I actually mocked him to the Jets).

    However, there is no way Pryor would have been there in round 2, especially with Ward and Bucannon going in the back end of round 1.

    It seems that the Jets ranked the drop off from the “top tier” of receivers to the second/third tier of receivers as less steep than the drop off from their top safety to the rest. They also may have just had Pryor substantially higher on their board than Cooks for all we know.

    Personally, I think Cooks will be electric at the next level and landed in the perfect situation to be a OROY candidate. I wrote the night after the draft that I was mildly disappointed they passed on him and only mildly because I really like Pryor as a player and think he will be a strong fit here and fill a long gaping need.

  • Ed

    I was on the Cooks bandwagon myself! Wanted him to be the pick. It looks like Jalen Saunders has the same kind of talent and ability. If that’s the case then I’m very pleased with the way things actually went!

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    I hadn’t realized Nelson led the WRs in total snaps over the last 4 games, which is interesting since he usually gets overlooked when discussing the team’s WRs.

    While he certainly isn’t a big play threat, according to his stats on nfl.com, he has no career fumbles & 20 of his 36 catches last season (& 70 of his career 130 catches) produced 1st downs. I would think a “move the chains” guy like him would continue to be useful to the team, but more likely as the 3rd WR.

    Based on last season, I think it is very possible all 3 WR draftees make the team. I also think Stephen Hill will get a bunch of playing time in the preseason & public praise from Rex in order to showcase him for a trade.

  • Nikolas

    The so called “wr need” after the Decker signing became less of a need and more of a choice. The team was seriously thin in the secondary and the TE position and that is why the FO decided to go in the first three rounds with a safety, a TE and a corner-back.
    I do not see why so many people are in love with Dontae Moncrief! Could he turn out to be a better receiver than any of the receivers we drafted? Sure. But so what? If Dexter McDougale turns out to be a solid CB, a player in a position of need, then how can anyone argue that Moncrief was the better choice? What is the measuring stick and standard?
    I have been an Idzik critic in the past, not because I do not like him, but because he did not sign a top CB in FA, to improve the team. But I will not criticize his moves in this draft; I think his draft was rational and thoughtful; solid.

  • The Dude Abides

    The Jets are still a run first team. WR are nice thing to have but not essential to Rex’s team. I mean those guys will get snaps but how many of those snaps are gonna be passing plays anyway? I think we did alright with what we had last year so this year is an easy upgrade. I worry about putting Kerely on the outside too often because of his size. While i think he’s a great WR there are limits due to his size. I would have liked me some Cooks , or Lee though not just for their name but the size and stats.

  • Dan in RI

    Joe, I agree our needs were TE, CB, WR, S, OLB. I think the organization targeted Pryor in the first because they felt that the draft was very strong at CB, and that a prospect they liked would be available in the later rounds, whereas the Safety talent was very thin after Pryor and Clinton-Dix. The need at WR has been slightly overblown, but I would say the need was roughly equivalent to the need at TE–and obviously they are complementary needs. OLB is clearly a position of need–and still is, despite drafting two late-round prospects. However, having Barnes coming back from injury, should help. Not to mention that Coples is now entering his second year at the position. He seemed somewhat at a loss at OLB in the beginning of the year (part of that, I’m sure was the lingering effects of his ankle injury, too), but he was looking much better as the year wore on.

  • Freddie Mac

    What could make everyone forget about missing out on a potential #1 WR will be the looming release of Andre Johnson from Houston. That’s looking more likely by the day and no one has much money remaining with a hole at WR. I’d guess the Jets could land him…if Idzik doesn’t draw a line in the sand on negotiations. But I digress.

    As for Joe’s premise of not needing a true #1, I would say that the team does need a WO who can garner safety respect. And that WO needs the height beyond what Saunders gives you. I think CB’s will smother this WR corps as it’s currently assembled. Amaro can help a bit in that regard but I believe you will see the effects of not having that threat opposite your possession WR (Decker).

    By sitting at our position in the 2nd round, the WR’s with #1 potential were gone. Idzik needed to move up to get either Lee or Richardson. Once they were gone, he had to go TE.

    To those defending the McDougle pick, keep in mind that he’s physically challenged to play the wide side of the field standing under 5’10. It’s a reach to believe he will win that starting position. Idzik cornered himself into a hole by not being more aggressive in FA. He couldn’t fill the gaps in need of starting-caliber players thru the draft as coming into the offseason, needs were obvious at #1 WR, #2 WR, #1 TE, Safety, #1A CB. Of those five positions, he only filled one through FA. That wasn’t good enough especially with upwards of 40M at hand and the historically high number of quality CB’s available. Maybe he’ll get a reprieve with Andre Johnson becoming available but CB is going to be a major concern this year especially with the passing offenses on the schedule.

  • joe dante

    When someone calls Decker a “possession receiver” I begin to ignore everything they say. Moncrief catches everything with his body good luck with that in the NFL.

  • Freddie Mac

    Go on believing he can create separation as a #1 all by himself.

  • To the person who said Pryor would have been there round 2, there is a zero percent chance that would have happened, all the safeties came off the board quickly after Pryor. Cooks is the only other guy on the board there that I wonder if the Jets will regret passing on. So I agree with you there…

    As far as Joe’s article. I agree fully. And to the people who wanted one of those project wr’s who’s big and fast, we still do have Stephen Hill on the roster, and unlike those players, Hill has at least proven he can go out and have a big game in the NFL, Hill is still on the team by the way. And on paper he’s a perfect fit with Decker/Amaro/Kerley, so let’s hope this is the year the step is made…

    Anyone who doubt’s Decker is a legit top option in a passing game, please revisit his highlights the past 2 years.

  • Joe Caporoso

    Thanks for reading everybody!

    – Freddie Mac: Enough with the extended antagonizing back and forth/name calling with Frank. End it and move on. I appreciate both of you reading/interacting but it hurts the experience for other readers.

    The term “true #1 WR” means nothing. I have no idea what you mean by that and the fact that you think Lee or Richardson (?!) are more likely to be that than Decker further confuses me. Also I have no idea why’d you classify Decker as a possession receiver. He isn’t…at all.

    Dan In RI – Coples is a HUGE x-factor on the defense this year. If he can play to his potential and be the double digit sack guy he should be, it takes the D to a whole other level. Also excited to see Barnes back in action.

    Dude Abides – Agree, the Jets are going to lean on their run game frequently. I loved Cooks as a prospect but would have similar concerns with him and Lee about their size and competing regularly on the outside.

    Nikolas – Agree, there seemed to be a coherent theme/philosophy throughout the entire draft which was encouraging to see.

    J. Johnson – Nelson definitely shouldn’t be slept on. I’d say he is a better bet to make the roster than Hill at this point.

  • Freddie Mac

    That’s your opinion Joe. Not a fact. It’s my opinion as well. He’s had Demaryus Thomas to open things up as a #1 on that team his entire career. He’s not quick off the snap and doesn’t possess elite acceleration that keeps safeties honest. He’s a 2nd option and a slower, bigger option at WO for this team and I classify him as the Z receiver. He doesn’t have the skill set as an X receiver IMO. I don’t care that you have a problem with the terminology but surely you can differentiate the WR positions, no? If you are claiming there’s absolutely no difference, I beg to differ. Sorry, I’m not letting that slide. You should know better than that. Consult with your staff on this.

  • Joe Dante…almost all college WR come into the league and need to improve route running and ‘hands’ catching. My only point, on Moncrief is he has first round ability and was there in the 3rd round. He’s almost as fast as Brandon Cooks and has similar body size to Kelvin Benjamin and produced in the toughest conference in college football, with ordinary QB play. He’s bigger, faster and was just as productive as Odell Beckham Jr, who played with a much better QB and surrounding cast.

    I can find scouting reports that say how he ‘elevates and plucks balls out of the air’ and you can find ones that say he had drops and catches the ball with his body. Who led the NFL in dropped passes last year? Here is the list, go take a look at the names on it: http://goo.gl/CJHQPn

    This is a kid who, at 19, caught 10 TDs, in the SEC (Beckham had 2 that year). Had he come out last year, he’d likely have gone in round 2, at worst. He fell because Ole Miss brought in the top WR recruit in the country, so Moncrief’s numbers fell, yet he still led them in TDs and YPC. He may wind up being nothing, there is always that chance. But, when you look at production and then look at how is size/speed/explosion metrics compare with some of the top WR in the game (http://goo.gl/BDxesE), I think the risk/reward, in round 3, was worth it, for a team that needed WR help.

    I’ll look at it another way, this trade took place: The Texans acquired a third-round pick (No. 83) from the Eagles for fourth- and fifth-round picks (Nos. 101 and 141). At No. 83, the Texans took Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix.

    The NYJ took Shaq at 115 and Jeremiah George at 154, so the best picks they could have offered were worse, and maybe Philly doesn’t accept that..but it is close. There is little doubt in my mind that Moncrief is much better than Evans, and sacrificing George, would have been worth the risk.

  • Freddie Mac

    And BTW, you need to tell that clown Frankie to cool his jets. He continually insults posters here. How can you allow that? He’s an eyesore and shows zero respect for anyone here. It’s disgraceful.

    Does anyone else agree? I see him attacking many of you for simply offering your opinions. He’s the worst I’ve ever seen anywhere. I guess you all are okay with it since his actions seem to be condoned. I’m amazed.

  • Joe Caporoso

    Freddie I don’t think you know the difference the between the Z and X receiver or have any idea how the Jets offense works or worked last year. You can scan my body of work from the past year if you don’t think I know the difference, the work speaks for itself.

    Thanks for the continued reads/traffic though!

  • Freddie Mac

    I’m with you Lidman. A better playmaker was vital at WR IMO. We’ll see how things shake out.

  • Freddie Mac

    Right, joe. Whatever you say.

  • Big Al

    i cant agree Mcdougal was a better value pick over pryor,, the fact that one of the best passing offenses in the history of the NFL, Saints, moved up to get Cooks, tells u everything u need to know, when cooks becomes jerry rice, we will look back on this draft and say, what could have been,,,

  • Big Al

    i corrected cooks instead of mcdougal and it didnt correct it,, whatever, jets blew it

  • Big Al..I liked Cooks too and you may be right, that the Jets blew that, but only time will tell. The one thing I would point out is that position depth has to be taken into consideration. The draft was WR deep with 15 of the 34 taken, going in the first 3 rounds. Safety, appears to be a bit thinner as only 7 of the 20 taken went in the first 3 rounds. Even more compelling is that 4 of the 20 S taken, went in round 1 compared to 5 WR.

    As I said, it’s simply a probabilities games. However, if Pryor is average, or worse, and Cooks makes a Pro-Bowl or two..it’s not going to matter which position was deeper.

  • Freddie Mac

    I’ll go on record stating that I wasn’t that high on Cooks. I loved Beckham more than any WR in the draft and Lee 2nd. I thought they were the two best WR’s for this team in terms of route running and overall talent and complementary play to Decker. I have no regrets in passing on Cooks.
    Cooks is choppy and not as fluid as you’d like running after the catch. Comparisons of Cooks to DeSean are overblown IMO.

    I’m crossing my fingers for an Andre Johnson release from Houston. I think it can happen and I think the Jets would be poised to grab him.

  • Mark

    Hill may surprise us all and become that tall, deep threat. He and Geno were not on the same page often, and it resulted in Hill getting clobbered and often over/under thrown. All this can and should improve.

    Maybe Hill does not have the strength to fight for the ball and break free from the tackles but he showed me last year that he can take a hit and hold onto the ball.

  • John Hunter

    Idzik addresses the hole at WR in FA with a solid signing of Decker. Adding Patterson doesn’t reflect the same solidity to the hole at CB. Add the fact we added a top 2 pass catching TE in Amaro at 49. The need at CB was simply greater in the 3rd, which probably made picking McDougle a priority on our board. I’m sure if we had signed DRC in FA, Idzik would’ve went with the BA WR over BA CB at 80.