ESPN recently published its NFL future power rankings. Essentially, analysts got together and ranked the NFL teams based on where they will be three years from now. The Jets came in at No. 31 on the list — here was the reasoning:
2016 record: 5-11 (Fourth in AFC East)
AFC East future rank: fourth
Why they’re here: The Jets are in tear-down mode. It’s not a mystery. After purging the roster of several veterans on more lucrative deals, the Jets have started compiling some assets. Question marks pepper the roster, starting at quarterback, but the team also possesses what is almost assuredly the least imposing group of wide receivers in the NFL. — Field Yates
Biggest worry: This is by far the worst QB situation in the league. They need to figure out whether Christian Hackenberg can give them a chance to win. Then they can move on to the monumental task of rebuilding the entire roster. This team is not winning anytime soon. — Louis Riddick
What could change for the better: The Jets ranked last in QB outlook, but there is a very good chance the team will be in position to select from a highly rated draft class in 2018. Using an early pick for someone such as USC’s Sam Darnold would quickly move the Jets into the top 10 for QB outlook when the time comes to produce future rankings next offseason. That is a realistic scenario given how poorly the Jets seem destined to finish in 2017. — Mike Sando
The 2017 season is going to be rough for the Jets. There is no way around it. Odds are they will be one of the three or four worst teams in the league along with the Browns, Niners and Rams. To say they will be the second-worst team in the league three years from now, however, is simply lazy and illogical. Here are three reasons why:
1) Young Talent on Roster
Leonard Williams is one of the most talented defensive linemen in the league. The 23-year-old will only get better and has multiple All-Pro selections in his future.
Deon Simon (27) and Muhammad Wilkerson (27) will round out the defensive line. Simon represents a serviceable run-stuffer at nose tackle, and I expect Wilkerson to return to Pro-Bowl form after a sub-par 2016.
Jamal Adams (21) has all the makings of an Eric Berry-type superstar at safety. Marcus Maye (24) will provide the perfect complement as an above-average, physical starter.
Quincy Enunwa (25) headlines a young receiving corps that has a lot of potential. Enunwa seems like the only sure-thing at this point, but I expect at least one more reliable starter to emerge out of a group that includes Robby Anderson (24), ArDarius Stewart (24), Chad Hansen (22) and Charone Peake (24).
On the offensive line, Brian Winters (26) and James Carpenter (28) represent one of the most underrated guard tandems in the league. I’m not sure about Kelvin Beachum (28) long-term at left tackle, but there is reason for optimism on the right side with Brandon Shell (25).
Darron Lee (22), Jordan Jenkins (23) and Lorenzo Mauldin (24) have had their fair share of growing pains, but they have also shown potential as starting-caliber linebackers in the league. Age is on their side, and operating under the tutelage of Kevin Greene will be beneficial for their development going forward.
It’s not like this roster is completely devoid of talent, and all of that talent is young. Carpenter is the only player I mentioned who, in three years, will be over the age of 30.
2) 2018 Draft
Yes, I get it — the whole “tank for a top QB” thing doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does. The Jets will likely be drafting inside of the top-five come April 2018. Whether it’s Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Mason Rudolph or someone else, the Jets will have their pick of the litter in a QB-heavy draft. Just like that, the QB issues Yates, Riddick and Sando touched on could be solved.
Even if they opt to steer clear of the QBs, a top-five pick can still land a blue-chip player that changes the complexion of the roster. The QB issue can then be resolved using…
3) Cap Space
According to spotrac.com, the Jets will have the 2nd most cap space in the league next offseason with nearly $56 million to spend. I’m not exactly sure where the holes will be — cornerback, linebacker, quarterback, left tackle and running back seem like potential areas of need — but they will definitely have the means to fill those holes.
With $56 million of spending money and a top-five pick to go along with the young talent already on the roster, the Jets can be a borderline playoff team at the end of this rebuild. Three years from now, as a borderline playoff team, the Jets will be ranked somewhere between 10 and 16 — not 31.
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