NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
The NY Jets could look to build around these five players in the future.
Every franchise has their players that are the building blocks for success. Pieces they rely on as the foundation for the team. It’s no secret that the NY Jets are looking to rebuild after this offseason.
A strange thing to say, considering that the team has not had a winning record since missing the playoffs at 10-6 in 2015. After last year’s 7-9 record, it was clear that 2020 was going to be a “prove-it” season for both Sam Darnold and Adam Gase.
Darnold has struggled to stay on the field and has shown to be regressing whenever he plays. Adam Gase has dragged the team to an 0-10 start, with the worst offense in the league.
Unfortunately for Jets fans, who thought a new era of New York football was upon them, it seems the team is ready to blow the roster up and start from scratch.
Joe Douglas will head into this offseason with a lot on his plate. Pending a few expected cuts of players with little to no cap penalty, Douglas could see himself working with over $100 million in free agency.
With quite a few big names to target this offseason, this article isn’t about who the team should add come March.
The Jets have limped, both figuratively and literally, to a losing record without so much as winning a single game. Despite this, there is a ton of young talent on the roster, as well as players with untapped potential that could be what New York uses to repair a weak roster.
The following are the top five players that the Jets must build around for future success.
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
5. Folorunso Fatukasi, NT, NY Jets
One of the most underrated players on the Jets’ current roster, Folorunso Fatukasi is an anchor on the Jets’ defensive line. His position on the roster is invaluable, even with the limited use he has seen this season.
While Fatukasi has excelled in his role, especially in run defense, his number of snaps have not been that of a true starter. Ever since Steve McLendon was traded away to Tampa Bay for a late-round pick, his snaps have finally started to increase.
It’s possible that people haven’t taken notice of Fatukasi’s presence because of the defensive unit’s performance as a whole.
With the rebuild in full swing, the Jets now have three rookies starting in the secondary. There is a nonexistent pass rush, leading to the Jets being torn apart year in and year out.
The Jets’ defense has very few bright spots, but the defensive line is one area where they excel. Fatukasi has earned himself an incredible Pro Football Focus grade of 84.2 on the season.
If the young defensive lineman could see his snaps continue to increase in numbers, his production would likely jump as well.
At just 25-years-old, Folorunso Fatukasi could help solidify the future of the Jets defense. Drafted in the sixth round in the 2018 NFL Draft, Fatukasi has proven he should receive the bulk of snaps on the defensive side of the ball.
While the Mike Maccagnan era will not be remembered as one of the best in New York history, it seems as though he at least hit on one of his late rounds picks in his forgettable tenure.
Next: 4. Marcus Maye
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
4. Marcus Maye, S, NY Jets
How quickly the tables turn.
Following the conclusion of the 2020 draft, the addition of Ashtyn Davis had the media convinced that the trade of Marcus Maye was a situation of “not if, but when”.
However, it was actually the other safety that was flipped for draft picks, with Jamal Adams being sent to Seattle for a pair of first-rounders. Maye was even named team captain at the start of the season. Maye shot from being potential trade bait, to being a part of the long term rebuild.
Being showered with newfound love by fans, Maye has not disappointed this season. Though in the last year of his rookie contract, Maye has more than earned an extension with the team.
If the team had shown that they weren’t interested in retaining their safety, he likely would have found a new home during their firesale at the trade deadline that saw Avery Williamson, Jordan Willis, and Steve McLendon sent away for draft capital.
Whether or not Maye was kept on the team to allow for the Jets to earn a compensatory pick for letting him walk in free agency is unknown, there were plenty of teams that likely would have traded a few worthy picks for a proven safety.
Maye has performed well on a defense that is the football equivalent of swiss cheese, being one of the few bright spots in a secondary that has been torn apart by opposing quarterbacks. Locking Marcus Maye up in a long term deal would likely make the 27-year-old a Jet for life.
Considering how his play compares to the lack of success Jamal Adams is having in Seattle, as well as the picks received for his services, it’s safe to say that the Jets kept the right safety.
Next: 3. Denzel Mims
3. Denzel Mims, WR, NY Jets
Denzel Mims was a receiver that I was high on entering the draft. After the move that Joe Douglas pulled to trade back for extra picks, while still being able to nab the Baylor product, it was exciting to see such an expert play in management.
Though injury kept him from playing for a long while, Mims has shown flashes of greatness in the handful of games he has played.
His numbers don’t immediately jump off the page when looking at his stats. 13 receptions for 217 yards in four games doesn’t immediately scream elite. That is, until you consider that most of these numbers come in the first half of each game.
Adam Gase and Dowell Loggains love to pull a disappearing act in the second half of games, and targeting Mims often becomes an afterthought for the play-calling. As with La’Mical Perine, innovative play-calling would likely result in Mims balling out for the team.
Running a 4.38 40-yard dash at 6-foot-3, Mims can provide life into a receiving corps that once boasted Braxton Berrios at the top of its depth chart.
Giving a quarterback a weapon is crucial for a rebuild. The Bills traded for Stefon Diggs, as did the Cardinals with DeAndre Hopkins. Denzel Mims is going to be a solid receiver for the Jets and can stretch the field for the quarterback that the Jets take in this upcoming draft.
Mims was graded as a first-round prospect, only sliding likely because of an issue with drops that plagued him in college. In the small sample size we’ve received, it seems as though that problem did not transfer with him to the NFL.
If the Jets want to get out of the league’s basement anytime soon, getting Mims involved in the future is an absolute must.
Next: 2. Mekhi Becton
2. Mekhi Becton, OT, NY Jets
The first-round pick from the 2020 draft is proving to be a gem. While the rest of the offensive line is suspect at best and turnstiles at worst, Mekhi Becton has provided the team with reassurance on its blindside.
The truth is, no matter who your quarterback is, it’s almost impossible to rebuild if your offensive line fails to protect them. While an injury has continued to nag him through the season, that’s mostly been because he had played through discomfort on several occasions.
Becton’s run blocking has been incredible as well, allowing for the Jets’ run game to be presentable whenever run behind him. His injuries should not be a concern at the moment, and he will only get better as his career goes on.
New York has lacked any semblance of reliability at the tackle position since the retirement of D’Brickashaw Ferguson following the 2015 season.
The 11th overall pick was a much-needed addition to the team. While some of the offseason additions to improve the offensive line haven’t panned out as previously hoped, Becton is a special player.
If not for the missed time, Becton would likely be the Jets’ lone Pro Bowler this season. If he can stay healthy the rest of the way, he very well could make it as is.
After a history of missing on draft picks, it seems that New York hit a home run with this one. There is no doubt that Becton is one of the key roster pieces for the future.
Next: 1. Quinnen Williams
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
1. Quinnen Williams, DL, NY Jets
Showing flashes of greatness in his rookie season, Quinnen Williams has seemingly locked himself into the long term future with the Jets franchise. While penalties have become an issue for the young defensive tackle, it is no reason for concern.
Williams’ tremendous upside was the reason that general manager Joe Douglas shut down any trade rumors at the deadline. A few calls were reportedly made concerning the young talent, but Douglas shut the door, and Williams remained on the team.
While he hasn’t exactly lived up to being one of the best picks of the draft just yet, Quinnen Williams has certainly pushed himself to improve upon his game.
It has shown in his ability to pressure, hit, and sack the quarterback. Williams even added a forced fumble to his stat line this season.
Though the defense has ranked in the back of the pack in terms of production, the defensive line has been performing relatively well in comparison to the rest of the unit.
Williams was drafted under the assumption that he has a tremendous upside, and he has yet to reach his full potential. At just 22-years-old, he has yet to even sniff his prime.
The Jets have a lot of work to do if they plan on hoisting the Lombardi Trophy again someday.
While their roster is well on its way to being flipped around, as well as the coaching staff almost certainly on their way out, New York can at least take solace in the fact that they have a few young pieces to plan a successful rebuild around.