4. Chris Herndon, TE, NY Jets
Back in 2019, when the Jets unveiled their polarizing new uniforms, Chris Herndon was front and center, showing off the Jets’ new look with his teammates.
Herndon was a part of a select group of cornerstone players selected to don the new attire and represent the team’s bright future. He was center stage alongside Sam Darnold, Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams, Robby Anderson, Avery Williamson, and Quincy Enunwa.
Two years later, only tight end Chris Herndon remains, and based on his recent level of play, it’s as if he no longer exists on the team either.
The likelihood is that, much like his former teammates, it could be a matter of time before Herndon becomes an ex-Jet too. Perhaps the current look of the NY Jets will also become a distant memory before all is said and done.
It’s easy to forget that Herndon is still on the Jets roster, and it’s also easy to forget how much potential he showed back in his rookie campaign in 2018. At the time, Herndon was shaping up to be one of the Jets’ best mid-round picks in years.
The fourth-round pick out of Miami finished first among all rookie tight ends in receptions (39) and touchdowns (4) and was second in receiving yards (502), behind only Mark Andrews. Herndon was named to the All-Rookie Team by the Pro Football Writers Association.
Chris Herndon appeared to be on his way to becoming one of the best young tight ends in football. But year two was a disaster for him. Herndon was suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2019 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
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By the time he was reinstated, it had taken him a month to get activated due to a hamstring injury, and then when he finally got back on the field, Herndon fractured a rib and missed the remainder of that season.
In 2020, while Chris Herndon was able to stay out of trouble off the field and stay relatively healthy on it, he only produced a modest total of 31 receptions for 287 yards and three scores.
There’s still potential for growth with Herndon, evidenced by the fact that he finished the 2020 season with 14 receptions in his last three games. However, working against Herndon is that the Jets have an entirely new coaching staff on offense.
On paper, Herndon doesn’t appear to be a fit for the new scheme. He is best-suited to play on the move rather than as an in-line player at tight end. Herndon lacks the physicality needed to play the position in the Jets’ new system.
Another factor is that Herndon is entering the last year of his rookie deal. The Jets could be looking toward the future with a new toy at tight end rather than taking on a reclamation project in Herndon.
Most experts are not expecting the Jets to draft a tight end early. However, the team could target a tight end once they reach the third or fourth round.
The Jets’ scouting department and the former San Francisco 49ers’ assistants on the staff would love to strike gold the same way San Francisco did in 2017 when they drafted George Kittle in the fifth round.
It’s not very likely, however, there’s no doubt that the Jets will be in the market for a tight end who has similar traits to Kittle from a physicality standpoint.
If all else fails, and the Jets cannot draft a tight end, that projects as a potential Week 1 starter, the team could decide to run it back with Herndon for one more season.
However, if a team comes calling with a mid-round pick in 2021 or even 2022, New York might move on. The same decision that they should make with their current uniforms.
Next: 3. C.J. Mosley