Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) celebrates his sack of Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (not shown) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Jets currently have a number of young and very talented players on their roster. Here are their top five youngest players heading into 2016.
Since the Maccagnan-Bowles regime was brought to the New York Jets over a year ago, the team has been looking to build a group of young talented players alongside some savvy veterans as well. On defense especially, the front office has done a great job of this, picking up some major youthful pieces through the draft and free agency.
There are plenty of young, hungry players on the Jets who are looking to prove their worth even more so than they already have in this league. Who will make the list as a top five young player currently on the Jets?
With all that being said, here are the top five youngest players who are currently on the Jets.
Next: 5. A young linebacker on the rise
Nov 8, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (55) reacts during the third quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
5. OLB Lorenzo Mauldin
After being selected with the Jets third round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin has been anything but a disappointment. The 23-year-old pass rushing specialist has proven to be a tough, hard-working player with the potential to become a dominant force at the professional level.
Despite starting less than half of the games and being injured for a solid portion of his debut NFL season, Mauldin managed to record an impressive four quarterback sacks to go along with seventeen combined tackles. Considering everything, Mauldin had a very promising rookie season, and the Jets are counting on him to continue his development into the future.
Mauldin has already proven that he can be a very effective pass rusher in the NFL, the real question has to do with his ability in other areas. The Jets will need him to develop into a three down linebacker with the ability to stop the rush as well as rush the quarterback.
Mauldin will definitely be a significant part of the future of the Jets young and talented defense. If Mauldin continues to develop into a very well rounded three down linebacker, he could become a main-stay on the Jets’ defense for years to come.
Next: 4. Watch out for this Louisville Slugger
4. SS Calvin Pryor
Being that the Jets selected him with their first round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, there were high expectations for the “Louisville Slugger” heading into his rookie season. Unfortunately, Pryor came up short in the expectations department as head coach Rex Ryan put him into situations that were too foreign for him as a rookie.
In his second season, under new head coach Todd Bowles, Pryor burst onto the scene with a very impressive sophomore season. The 23-year-old was finally being used in ways that made him a very impactful player, and he was an absolute force on last season’s defense.
Pryor recorded the first two interceptions of his career during the 2015-2016 season to go along with 69 combined tackles. His ability to be incredibly disruptive with his hard-hitting style was put on full display as Jets fans were finally able to see why Pryor warranted a first-round draft selection.
If Pryor continues to grow as a strong safety in this league, he will be a leader on the Jets’ defense for a long time. His aggressive and ambitious style of play is very well liked by Bowles and Jets fans everywhere.
Next: 3. A young defensive end with major upside
Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Leonard Williams (92) rushes the quarterback during the first half at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Dolphins 38-20. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
3. DE Leonard Williams
Having the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Jets never expected to see arguably the best defensive player in the draft fall right into their laps. Seeing Leonard Williams fall to them at No. 6, the Jets felt as if they had no choice but to select the freakishly talented defensive lineman from USC.
While Williams may not have had quite as dominant of a rookie seasons as some expected, his impact was still felt in a big way from the start of the season to the finish. Williams had three sacks last season to go along with sixty three combined tackles.
The “Big Cat” as some like to call him, has already proven to be a very good player on the field, and a very good teammate off of it. It will be interesting to see what next season has in store for the 21-year-old sophomore.
We can be very certain that the higher ups of the Jets have pretty high hopes for the defensive rookie of the year award nominee. His continued development will be vital to the present and future success of the Jets’ defensive line.
Next: 2. A defensive tackle with everything to prove
Dec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson (91) sacks New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. New York Jets defeat the New England Patriots 26-20 in OT. Mandatory Credit: Jim O
2. DE Sheldon Richardson
After being selected by the Jets with the thirteenth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Sheldon Richardson has had a very up and down start to his NFL career. Richardson won the defensive rookie of the year award in his rookie season, and followed that up with a very impressive sophomore season.
The issues for Richardson started to come up in his second offseason as a pro as he was suspended four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. This along with the “racing incident’ that proceeded it, put Richardson under major scrutiny in the New York Media, which is not somewhere that you want to be.
Despite his off-the-field issues, Richardson has proven that he is an elite talent in the NFL after another impressive season with the Jets. He can stop the run, get to the quarterback and he has proven to be quite versatile as Bowles experimented with Richardson at linebacker during portions of last season.
The main question for Richardson is whether he can stay out of trouble off the field or not. If he can do so, he has the chance to be remembered for a long time in New York.
Next: 1. A young defensive end looking for the long-term
Nov 12, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) lines up against Buffalo Bills tight end Matthew Mulligan (82) in the 1st quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
1. DE Muhammad Wilkerson
With the thirtieth overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft came some expectations for defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, and the 26-year-old has completely exceeded them. As he has settled into the prime of his career, Wilkerson has grown into one of the most dominant defensive players in the game today.
Wilkerson’s fifth season in the NFL was a smashing success as he cemented his status as one of the premiere defensive lineman in the game. “Mo” had 12 sacks and 64 combined tackles in what was another productive season.
There is no questioning Wilkerson’s talent level at this point in his career with all of the contributions he has made to the organization. Wilkerson can do everything that is asked of a defensive lineman at an elite level along with the fact that he is a great teammate, and one of the leaders of the locker room for the Jets.
If the Jets can find a way to keep him, Wilkerson has some serious potential to become a legend at some point. Only time will tell whether Wilkerson’s price tag is ultimately too expensive for the Jets to pay.