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New York Jets: NFL.com praises the 2018 draft class

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 15: Quarterback Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets under pressure against the Houston Texans during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium on December 15, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 15: Quarterback Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets under pressure against the Houston Texans during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium on December 15, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
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The New York Jets 2018 draft class showed signs of greatness last season, enough to earn a top-10 spot in NFL.com’s team-by-team rookie class rankings.

Years from now, the New York Jets 2018 draft class will be defined by the success or failure of one man: quarterback Sam Darnold. As it stands in early 2019, the draft class is looking pretty successful so far.

NFL.com recently released grades for each NFL team’s rookie class, ranking all of them accordingly. The Jets were mostly praised earning a very solid B+ grade and being ranked as the No. 8 class in the NFL.

The bulk of this rationale comes from the promise shown by Darnold who gave glimpses of his stardom at points in the season. This was particularly true late in the season where the former USC standout threw for six touchdowns and just one interception over the final four games of the year and posted the highest QB rating in the league over that same timespan.

However, Darnold wasn’t the only Jets rookie to make a major impact in 2018. The article praised the selection of tight end Chris Herndon who proved to be an excellent value pick in the fourth round.

Herndon finished with 39 receptions for 502 yards and four touchdowns leading all rookie tight ends in two of the three categories, trailing only Mark Andrews of the Baltimore Ravens in receiving yards. His statistics were also good for second-best on the team in each of the three categories.

The Jets appear to have their tight end of the future in Herndon and a connection between the Miami product and Darnold should be something fans will be seeing for years to come.

The remainder of the Jets draft class showed flashes of being solid role players but none were able to emerge in 2018 as obvious building blocks. Third-round pick Nathan Shepherd started five games but eventually lost playing time to the overachieving Henry Anderson due to a lack of production.

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Sixth-round cornerback Parry Nickerson showed flashes of the potential he displayed in college but still remains a raw talent. That being said, he probably holds the most potential out of any of the Jets 2018 draft picks not named Darnold or Herndon.

Fellow sixth-rounder Folorunso Fatukasi saw the field for just one game failing to make an impact. He could potentially be a solid rotational defensive lineman down the line but he’s no lock to make the roster next season.

Perhaps the most surprising production came courtesy of the team’s third sixth-round selection, running back Trenton Cannon. Cannon was drafted to compete for the return specialist job but lost out to eventual Pro Bowler Andre Roberts. Instead, Cannon showed flashes of being an intriguing change-of-pace back as well as a reliable gunner on the punt coverage team.

Expect Nickerson and Cannon, at the very least, to stick around due to their special teams capabilities.

Next. Top 5 free agent edge rusher targets

When all is set and done, the Jets 2018 draft class appears a bit top heavy with Darnold and Herndon having the most immediate success. But as long as Darnold is successful, this draft class will be deemed a success.

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