For this week’s TOJ 12 Pack, we are going to rank the top 12 players on the New York Jets roster. Spots were based 50% off 2013 production and 50% off 2014 projection. Disagree with the ranking? Let’s hear it in the comment section or over on Twitter…
12 – Dee Milliner, Cornerback - Maybe a stretch here. However, the player that Milliner was the final four games of the season and flashed as being a handful of other times before that should project to being a strong starter in 2014. He was a top ten pick for a reason and the Jets are going to give him every chance to be their lead corner. Milliner has the physical ability to handle the role, whether he does or not, will go a long to determining how good the Jets defense is.
11 – D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Offensive Tackle - No longer the player he was from a few years back, Ferguson had an inconsistent 2013 and it is fair to wonder if a decline will continue again in 2014. To be fair, he had to deal with regularly poor play next to him at guard and still had a few very strong games. Yet, Ferguson’s days of being one of the top left tackles in football are gone. The Jets can only hope he remains a consistent and capable starter for 2014 and then decide how to handle his contract going forward.
10 – Jeremy Kerley, Wide Receiver - Frequently pigeonholed as only a slot receiver. Kerley has simply been a good overall receiver the past two years, despite inconsistent quarterback play and a shaky supporting cast. Marty Mornhinweg will continue to find ways to utilize him in 2014 and after Eric Decker, he should be second on the team in reps and targets amongst wide receivers.
9 – Quinton Coples, Outside Linebacker - So much tantalizing ability but still hasn’t fully put it together through two seasons. Coples dealt with injury issues in 2013 and had to adjust to being used in a few different ways by Rex Ryan. If Coples can develop into the 10+ sack guy off the edge, the Jets defense will have a much needed new element to it.
8 – David Harris, Inside Linebacker - Much improved in 2013 after a fairly ugly 2012. Harris is stout against the run, knows the ins and outs of Rex Ryan’s defense and still has an uncanny ability to read screen passes. However, his lack of speed and quickness hampers him in the passing game. We are going to see less and less David Harris type linebackers in the NFL going forward but for now, he remains a solid starter.
7 – Chris Ivory, Running Back - The most talented runner on the team. Ivory was the offensive MVP last season despite being banged up in a handful of games and having limited usage in certain weeks. If he can stay healthy, he should be the team’s leading rusher and the guy being used to close games out.
6 – Chris Johnson, Running Back - Six straight 1,000 yard rushing, 36+ reception seasons and five straight years of playing a full 16 games. Johnson has his share of question marks (age, durability after offseason surgery, physicality) but is the most proven back on the team’s roster and should be a home run threat, particularly in the screen game.
5 – Nick Mangold, Center - Despite no longer being a top tier center in the NFL, Mangold remains a critical anchor for the team’s offensive line. He has had a shaky guard situation the past two seasons that hasn’t helped but even still, he is much more of a steady veteran now than the All-Pro machine he was back from 2008-2010. With how his contract is structured, it will be interesting to see how many more years Mangold spends in New York and at what price.
4 – Damon Harrison, Defensive Line - Harrison was a monster in the middle last season for the Jets defensive line. The former UDFA does an incredible job occupying blockers and is a huge reason why the Jets run defense was so stout in 2013. Can Harrison string together a second straight borderline dominant season? If so, he should be looking at a substantial payday from the team.
3 – Eric Decker, Wide Receiver - A highly productive receiver with excellent size and a strong all-around game. Decker is the most talented receiver the Jets have on their roster since…well let’s just say it has been awhile since they’ve had a guy with his ability. Despite many people looking to poke holes in his game and fit in New York throughout the offseason, Decker is a top 25 NFL wide receiver and adds immediate credibility to the team’s skill position group.
2 – Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Line - The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year. Richardson is freakishly talented and athletic for a man of his size. Similar to Muhammad Wilkerson, he has the ability to moved all over Rex Ryan’s defense, maximizing his ability. As good as Wilkerson is, I don’t think it is going to be long until Richardson is above him on this list…that is how good he looked throughout his rookie season. As Richardson continues to diversify and perfect his pass rush moves? Man, watch out…
1 – Muhammad Wilkerson, Defensive Line - The best 3-4 defensive end in football not named JJ Watt over the past two seasons. Wilkerson should be receiving a hefty contract in the coming year or so from the Jets. Since entering the league he has been a force against the run and regularly commanded double teams. With each passing year, Wilkerson has also improved his ability to rush the passer. I’d suspect 2013 won’t be his last year with 10+ sacks in New York. The presence of Sheldon Richardson, Damon Harrison and (fingers crossed on reaching potential) Quinton Coples should only help him continue continue to be highly productive. Rex Ryan loves to move Wilkerson around his defensive front and he has the versatility to thrive in his scheme.