The New York Jets adequately addressed their running backs unit this offseason. But any great franchise keeps developing talent. Here are 20 young runners who, with a little bit of coaching up, could step in and contribute to this program.
Mike Maccagnan is building a solid offensive unit around young Sam Darnold. But there’s still much work to do in terms of a feature receiver and overall WR/TE depth. The GM’s draft-day whiffs on Devin Smith (10 career receptions), Chad Hansen (nine), and ArDarius Stewart (nine) have come back to hurt this franchise.)
The running back stable looks set. The one-two punch of Le’Veon Bell and recent signing Ty Montgomery, spelled by Elijah McGuire and/or Trenton Cannon looks tremendous on paper. The overall upgrade, from a 2018 offense based on featured back Isaiah Crowell, will be incalculable.
One thing is for certain: the Jets have no need to spend draft capital on another RB. However, there will be a hearty pool of undrafted projects, to stash on the practice squad, and groom to contribute moving forward.
This multi-page analysis below breaks down the best available backs, based on where they rank in the overall draft and UDFA process. One or two smart decisions could propel Gang Green back to relevance.
Next: 1. Priority Free Agents
Priority Free Agents
Lexington Thomas, UNLV — The All-Mountain West back raged as one of the nation’s most explosive rushers. Valued as a lethal kick returner.
Aeris Williams, Mississippi State — A tough runner and solid blocker noted for his ball security. Yet none of his rushing credentials jump off the board.
Darnell Woolfolk, Army — The bruising back behind a rejuvenated West Point squad might be worth the wait. Might have to wait a while before this Cadet sees the field.
Tyrone Owens, New Mexico — Two years ago, the Lobo slasher was a surefire NFLer. Then came losing seasons and academic ineligibility.
Next: 2. Surefire Camp Invites
Surefire Camp Invites
D’Andre Ferby, Western Kentucky — An All-Conference USA selection as a freshman, whose since dealt with injuries and under-utilization. A punishing old-school feature back.
Nico Evans, Wyoming — The fifth-year senior, a top student who nixed an Ivy League full ride to Penn, in 2018 ranked #4 in FBS total rushing yards.
Darrin Hall, Pittsburgh — He and Quadree Ollison formed FCS 2018’s most underrated RB duo. A power-rusher, akin to his predecessor, Steeler James Connor — or that guy Curtis Martin.
Jalin Moore, RB, Appalachian State — The Shelby, NC slasher overcame a season-ending dislocated ankle injury to rehab and excel at the Combine. With Moore, it’s all about potential
Bruce Anderson, North Dakota State – Some insiders feel this undersized small-college rumbler could be the next David Johnson. Any questions?
Next: 3. Camp Worthy Talent
Camp Worthy Talents
Devwah Whaley, Arkansas — The most underrated underclassman in this draft. Whoever takes this Razorback will reap immediate dividends.
Squally Canada, BYU — A beast of a back, not particularly fast or shifty, but averaged 5.0 yards per carry over four seasons. Strong backup potential.
Marche Dennard, CSU-Pueblo — The PHX-bred All-RMAC back looked like a man among boys, leading his D-II ThunderWolves back to the DII playoffs.
Joe Protheroe, Cal Poly— The FCS All-American propelled a small-school triple-option offense, with 1,334 rushing yards as a blocking fullback. Would look great opening holes for Le’Veon Bell.
Next: 4. Wild Cards and Honorable Mentions
Total Wild Cards
Gabe Watson, Sioux Falls — The NCIS Offensive Player of the Year broke every school record, rushing for 1,957 yards and 26 touchdowns. Deserves a serious look.
Jaquan Hemphill, Hardin-Simmons — Two-time D-III All-American and ASC Offensive Player of the Year. A devastating performer who must prove it on the next level.
Chandler Burks, Kennesaw State — The Big South Conference’s first-ever Offensive Player of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year in the same season. The two-time FCS All-American QB with kick return skills could be the Jets’ next Brad Smith talent.
Lorenzo Alexander, Southern Arkansas — A devastating small-school star with nothing else to prove. Worth the round-trip tickets to try him out on One Jets Drive.
Ra’Quanne Dickens, Incarnate Word — Scouts are quite familiar with one the FCS most productive rushers. One of those small-town kids with bad grades, an incredible potential.
A.J. Ouellette, Ohio
Patrick Laird, California
Kealand Dirks, FB, Furman
Kenny Young, Miami (Ohio)
LeAnthony Reasnover, Eureka
Darian Green, RB, Portland State
Trevon Walters, RB, Alabama A&M
Sam McPherson, RB, Eastern Washington
KeShawn Williams, RB, Arkansas Pine-Bluff
Jaymar Anderson, RB, East Stroudsburg