Going into the 2017 draft, the New York Jets had deficiencies at almost every position group. Wide receiver was one of the few positions where an upgrade wasn’t entirely necessary. With Quincy Enunwa and Eric Decker coming off productive seasons, 2nd round draft pick Devin Smith set to return from injury, and the continued improvement of undrafted free agent Robby Anderson, the Jets presumably would use their draft capital to address other areas of need. Instead, the Jets doubled down on wideouts with premium picks in the 3rd and 4th rounds, selecting ArDarius Stewart from Alabama and Chad Hansen out of Cal.
The Jets depth chart dramatically changed after the preseason when both Quincy Enunwa and Devin Smith went down with season-ending injuries. (The team also cut veteran Eric Decker.) Mike Mccagnan acquired Jermaine Kearse from Seattle in the Sheldon Richardson trade and signed Jeremy Kerley off waivers to bring some needed experience to a young position group.
Through four games in the 2017 season, Jermaine Kearse has clearly emerged as Josh Mccown’s most reliable target. Kearse leads the team in targets and touchdowns, and is second in yards. He’s displayed the ability to stretch the field and has shown strong hands in traffic. Kearse’s contract runs through next season in which his cap hit is $5 million. The Jets could cut him with no salary cap repercussions, but if he continues to produce at this rate, expect him back next year.
The most encouraging wideout this season has been Robby Anderson. Anderson was undrafted in the 2016 draft, but has been the Jets’ most productive player from that class. In back-to-back weeks Anderson used his speed to haul in a long ball from Josh McCown. His 17-yard average per reception leads the team, and he is a needed deep threat that this team has lacked for too long.
After Kearse and Anderson, there is a steep drop-off in production from the wide receivers. The third-leading receiver for the Jets is Jeremy Kerley, who was signed after the 49ers cut him after the preseason. Why Mike Mccagnan signed Kerley, I’m still not sure. A team that is clearly rebuilding should not be signing journeymen players to one-year contracts, especially after drafting two players at that position. Although Kerley may be a better football player right now than rookies ArDarius Stewart or Chad Hansen, he is not the future. His role on the team is unclear, other than to block the mid-round rookies from getting on the field. I could maybe see the “sure-handed veteran target for a young quarterback” argument if Petty or Hackenberg were on the field, but of course, that is not the case.
Going forward, the Jets will have to decide what to do with Jalin Marshall who is now eligible to play after a 4-game suspension for PEDs. Stewart and Hansen should eventually get needed game reps, and Robby Anderson should solidify himself as a viable threat. Next year, a core of Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kearse, and Robby Anderson, with Stewart and Hansen off the bench would certainly be one of the stronger positions on the team.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com