New York Jets Draft Pick Analysis: WR/PR Jalen Saunders

Joe Caporoso with a closer look at New York Jets 4th round pick, WR/PR Jalen Saunders

The New York Jets used the first of their three fourth round picks on Oklahoma wide receiver and returner Jalen Saunders. Today we are going to take a closer look at Saunders’ game and where he fits on the team’s roster in 2014 and beyond. In case you missed it, here are previous breakdowns of Calvin Pryor, Jace Amaro, Dexter McDougle, IK Enemkpali, Trevor Reilly and Quincy Enunwa.

Measurables

  • 5 foot 9, 165 pounds
  • 4.4 forty yard dash, 34 inch vertical jump
  • 30″ arm length, 8 7/8 ” hands

Offensive Production

  • 2010: Fresno State: 30 receptions, 462 yards, 3 TDs. 19 carries, 166 yards.
  • 2011: Fresno State: 50 receptions, 1,065 yards, 12 touchdowns. 8 carries, 91 yards, 2 TDs.
  • 2012: Oklahoma: 62 receptions, 829 yards, 3 touchdowns.
  • 2013: Oklahoma: 61 receptions, 729 yards, 5 touchdowns. 5 carries, 44 yards.

Special Teams Production

  • 2010: Fresno State: 32 kick returns, 743 yards. 6 punt returns, 69 yards.
  • 2012: Oklahoma: 5 punt returns, 88 yards, 1 touchdown.
  • 2013: Oklahoma: 1 kick return, 55 yards. 20 punt returns, 308 yards, 2 touchdowns.

Feel good Mike Mayock quote

Saunders weighed in at a hefty 165 pounds at the Senior Bowl. At 165 pounds, he’s one of most physical receivers in football; he ear holes defensive backs. He can play in the slot or on the outside, and he can also play special teams.

Positives

Saunders is an extremely fluid and natural wide receiver. He is quick on his feet and demonstrates both precision and thoughtfulness in his routes. There is a clear understanding of how to set up defenders and he has the athleticism to sink his hips and pop cleanly in and of out his breaks. Saunders is elusive after the catch and dangerous in space, making him a threat as a returner and in the screen game. He is consistent catching the football and doesn’t have poor technique that will lead to drops at the next level. Saunders plays bigger and more physical than his diminutive size. He isn’t afraid to mix it up as a blocker and was able to line up and produce on the outside when asked to.

Negatives

There is inevitable limitations in the NFL that come with being 5 foot 9 and 165 pounds. Saunders isn’t built to regularly take a pounding over the middle or win contested balls in traffic. If he is asked to play on the outside too extensively, he susceptible to getting tossed around by bigger, stronger defense backs and struggle with releases. Saunders caught many passes at or behind the of scrimmage and wasn’t regularly utilized as a deep threat. He didn’t have injury issues in college but plays a reckless, fearless style of football that could lead to injury at the next level, if he doesn’t put on a little more muscle to his frame.

NFL Comparison: Andrew Hawkins, with lower top end speed.

Jets Comparison: A speedier, smaller Jeremy Kerley but with less overall polish and refinement to his game on offense but with more potential as a returner.

Roster Fit: Outside of Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley, Jalen Saunders is the biggest lock to make the Jets roster at the wide receiver position. He has the most NFL ready game of any of the team’s 2014 draft picks at receiver and was taken as their first pick on day three for a reason. His addition most likely bumped veteran minimum signing Jacoby Ford off the roster, as Saunders could potentially assume both punt and kick return duties. Offensively, it will be fun to see how Marty Mornhinweg utilizes his skill set. Saunders figures to be active in the screen game and to work behind Jeremy Kerley as the team’s primary slot receiver. Kerley and Saunders could share the field at the same time in certain formations, particularly making one up one of the bunches that Mornhinweg loves to use so much.

GIF-Sanity

Lined up at X (split end). Gets open, sits in the window, takes a hit and moves the chains

Saunders from slot on a dig route. Takes a hit and picks up YAC

Willing, scrappy blocker despite size limitations

165 pound problems

YAC

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