Grading entire Jets 2017 NFL Draft class after rookie year
For the New York Jets, the regular season is in the books as here are grades for their entire 2017 NFL Draft class based on their rookie year.
Before the 2017 regular season even began for the New York Jets, the football world pretty much wrote them off. Many analysts, writers, and even fans believed the Jets would be so bad, it was hard to believe they could even win a single game.
Well as it turned out, they were an overachieving team in the aspect of developing a lot of their younger players, especially their 2017 NFL Draft class. They ended up going 5-11 for the second straight year and despite racking up a plethora of losses, have some good moments to take into the offseason.
Of course, the success of a draft class is based mostly on performance, development, and their upside going into their sophomore season. Some players excelled, others did alright, and several were hurt to the point of either missing the entire season or a good chunk of it.
In the grand scheme of things, this rookie draft class has a lot of positives to take into the long offseason ahead. Here are all their individual grades based on their rookie season.
Next: S Jamal Adams
S Jamal Adams
There aren’t enough good things to say about safety Jamal Adams and everything he brought to the table for the Jets in his rookie season. Besides being a fiery leader on defense, Adams carries himself like a seasoned veteran rather than a 22-year-old rookie.
Last season with the Jets, Adams totaled 63 tackles, two sacks, six passes defended, and two fumble recoveries. Sadly, Adams failed to get a single interception but literally had a few slip right through his hands.
Adams will only continue to get better over time as the Jets got it right when they drafted him with the No. 6 overall pick in last year’s draft. Adams isn’t perfect as he needs to work on the mental aspect of his game but again, that’s something he will adapt and learn over the next few years.
The upside is huge for Adams as he’s easily a defensive cornerstone that the Jets can build around for years to come. Make no mistake about it, he’s going to be an even bigger household name as he continues to make a name for himself as one of the top safeties playing today.
Next: S Marcus Maye
S Marcus Maye
While Adams got most of the spotlight last season, his partner in crime Marcus Maye had an even better year with the Jets. He might not get all the fame like Adams tends to get but Maye was a solid defensive player that had a pretty good year.
In 2017, Maye totaled 56 tackles, one forced fumble, two passes defended, and two interceptions. Maye showcased his incredible speed and was always able to make opposing quarterbacks think twice about passing it his way. His ability to let his actions speak on the gridiron proved he’s the real deal.
The Jets were smart to double up on two top safeties to secure the positional group with young, raw talent that will be building blocks in their defensive secondary. Since the NFL is a passing league, a team can never have enough quality safeties to stop opponents from keeping those chains moving.
It will be great to see how Maye continues to develop as he’s part of a new dynamic duo on defense for the Jets. These two will be quite the pair on defense as long as they continue to play at such a high level and remain healthy.
Next: WR ArDarius Stewart
WR ArDarius Stewart
Unfortunately for wide receiver ArDarius Stewart, he didn’t do much of anything in his rookie season. Still needing time to grasp the West Coast offense of the Jets, Stewart was buried on the depth chart for most of the year.
He did play in a few games but again, didn’t stand out from the pack or make his case to earn more playing time. Stewart totaled just 82 receiving yards, six receptions, and didn’t score a single touchdown.
Due to the depth chart of the Jets at wide receiver being a rather crowded situation, it undoubtedly cut into the reps Stewart could have gotten. There is hope that next season, with another full offseason under his belt, he can come into training camp and prove that he can be a decent wide receiver.
Stewart’s potential is there as he has an eye on making clutch receptions but again, just needs more opportunities to showcase his skill-set. Considering that Stewart also flashed some speed as a running option, shows that the talent is there. Could Stewart be further developed into a possible kickoff/punt returner? That could be a role he can contribute in the future if that’s the path he wants to take.
Next: WR Chad Hansen
WR Chad Hansen
Compared to Stewart, wide receiver Chad Hansen proved to be able to make a slightly more of an impact for the Jets. Hansen made a name for himself in college as a speedy receiver that made big plays every single time the football was in his hands.
The transition into the pros wasn’t easy for Hansen as he had some growing pains, mostly with wrong routes being run and not sticking to his assignments. Hansen has what it takes to develop but like Stewart, it also didn’t help his cause with how crowded the wide receiver position was all season long.
Last year, Hansen totaled 94 receiving yards, nine receptions, and like Stewart failed to score a single touchdown. Hopefully next season, he’ll be able to step up his game and give the Jets plenty of reasons to give him more reps at wide receiver.
Once everything comes together for Hansen, he should be able to move up on the depth chart and prove his worth. Especially if he can channel his old college form of racking up a lot of receiving yards and making big plays for touchdowns. Both of which the Jets desperately need on offense since last season has a lot of bad memories of three and outs and not being able to put points on the scoreboard.
Next: TE Jordan Leggett
TE Jordan Leggett
Unfortunately for tight end Jordan Leggett, he injured his knee during preseason action and it lingered all year long. He was inactive for every game except for Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns but wasn’t even used at all by the Jets, most likely as a precaution to his knee injury.
Leggett had a lot of hype heading into his rookie season due to how good he was at Clemson. In his collegiate career, Leggett totaled 1,598 receiving yards, 112 receptions, and 18 touchdowns. If he was healthy and able to play, one can only imagine the damage he could have caused at tight end alongside Austin Seferian-Jenkins in offensive formations using both at the same time.
The potential is there, but again, if you can’t play to contribute to a football team, especially after you were just drafted, that’s a problem. There is hope Leggett can return next season and live up to the potential of what made general manager Mike Maccagnan draft him in the first place.
Leggett, if he returns healthy, could be the hidden gem the Jets need at tight end. At this point in time, it’s not certain if Seferian-Jenkins will return since he’s an unrestricted free agent but if he bolts via free agency, Leggett could be an immediate surprise at the position upon his return in 2018.
Next: DE/LB Dylan Donahue
DE Dylan Donahue
The injury bug continues as in mid-October, defensive end/linebacker Dylan Donahue, unfortunately, suffered an elbow injury that landed him on the injured reserve list. Mostly used on special teams in 2017, Donahue has an incredible amount of speed and was being developed to be a situational pass rusher on defense.
Defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers was easing him into being a force to reckon with in defensive situations, especially on key third down conversions. Unfortunately, in mid-October, Donahue injured his elbow and never came back to continue honing his craft in this unique role.
Considering that Donahue has yet to find his place on the Jets defense due to his hybrid ways of playing both the defensive end and linebacker positions, they will need to figure out which role best suits his skill-set. One can imagine seeing Donahue mostly being used as a pass-rushing linebacker since the Jets lack that speed and aggression from the positional group.
Donahue is a developmental player and will probably need another year or two to figure out what his main role can be on defense. For now, it looks like he’ll once again be mostly used on special teams and hopefully, can stay healthy enough to continue being developed into a situational defensive player that brings fear to opposing quarterbacks.
Next: RB Elijah McGuire
RB Elijah McGuire
Before the regular season even began, there was much excitement around the potential of the Jets rushing attack. It was expected that Bilal Powell would emerge as a high-quality starting running back, Matt Forte would be used in a situational role, and rookie Elijah McGuire could spell relief.
Unfortunately, that’s now how any of it panned out. The Jets overused Forte, didn’t use Powell as much as they should have, and aside from one huge game, McGuire was buried on the depth chart for most of the season.
In Week 4 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, McGuire made the most out of getting more opportunities. He totaled 93 rushing yards, 10 rushes, and scored a touchdown. That’s the only touchdown he scored all season long as he wasn’t used as much as he could have been throughout the year.
It’s no secret as to why the Jets decided to part ways with offensive coordinator John Morton since he was a bit too pass-happy instead of utilizing what could have been a great three-headed monster at running back. Either way, McGuire will hopefully see more playing time next season since it’s expected that Forte won’t be back and well, a combination of him and Powell would be a great sight to see.
Next: CB Jeremy Clark
CB Jeremy Clark
When Maccagnan selected cornerback Jeremy Clark in last year’s draft, he knew he would be taking a player that is coming off a torn ACL injury. There was hope that he’d recover in time for training camp but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
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At the start of training camp, Clark was placed on the active/non-football injury list since he was still recovering from his injury. He wasn’t activated until late November but didn’t make any kind of impact at all on defense since he was mostly used as depth.
Clark has potential but will have to work his way up on the depth chart and hopefully, can stay healthy coming back from his unfortunate injury. If so, he will more than likely get a spot on special teams and see if he can make some noise there, otherwise, he could be a training camp casualty.
It’s hard to give a grade for a cornerback that didn’t record a single stat last season. So like others that missed the year or a lot of playing time, Clark gets an incomplete grade.
Next: CB Derrick Jones
CB Derrick Jones
Just like Clark, fellow cornerback Derrick Jones also falls in the same category. He wasn’t activated until late in the regular season but wasn’t used at all on defense. Jones is another developmental player that will need continued coaching and training before he’s able to step in and take care of business.
Physically, he’s a bit on the short side as he’s 6-2 and 188lbs so he’ll need some bulking up if he’s to be a cornerback capable of keeping up with any receiving threat in front of him. Clearly, the Jets believe he’s worth investing in since they kept him all year long but Jones will need to prove he’s good enough to stick around come training camp.
It’s expected the Jets will address their cornerback situation this offseason by either going after a top free agent like Trumaine Johnson or selecting better players in this year’s draft. If the Jets add another cornerback or two, Jones could also be on the roster bubble like Clark.
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Unfortunately for Jones, it’s hard to give him any grade since he didn’t play at all in his rookie year and besides his lackluster collegiate career, doesn’t show any upside on making the final roster in 2018.