Hyped former NY Jets draft pick seems destined to be a cap casualty

Israel Abanikanda's stock is plummeting
Israel Abanikanda
Israel Abanikanda / Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

When the NY Jets originally selected running back Israel Abanikanda in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft, there was immediate optimism that the New York native could carve out a role with the team.

Sure, it's not uncommon to see hype around mid-round running backs, but some referred to Abanikanda as one of the steals of the entire draft. Just over a year later, Abanikanda is firmly on the roster bubble fighting for his job.

Reports coming out of Jets OTAs this spring have not been kind to the former Pittsburgh standout. Not only has Abanikanda not done much to impress, but he's found himself plummeting down the depth chart.

Rookies Braelon Allen and Isaiah Davis as well as new free-agent addition Tarik Cohen have all reportedly received more reps with the first-team offense than Abanikanda. That doesn't exactly bode well for his chances of making the 53-man roster.

Israel Abanikanda seems unlikely to make the NY Jets' roster at this time

With Breece Hall sidelined due to a minor injury, Allen has emerged as the frontrunner to be the Jets' primary RB2 in 2024, as he's been working primarily with the first-team offense.

Davis has gotten a little overshadowed by his rookie counterpart, but he's also received plenty of snaps with the starters and flashed his potential as well. Even Cohen, signed less a little over a week ago, has showcased his pass-catching versatility and been sprinkled in with the starters.

Abanikanda has almost exclusively worked with the backups during open-media OTA sessions. Working behind rookies in OTAs is already a major red flag — as seniority is usually prioritized this early in the spring — but working behind a guy who was signed a week ago and who hasn't appeared in an NFL game in nearly four years should be a reason to sound alarms.

The second-year running back wasn't given much of an opportunity to make an impact in 2023, and when he did step on the field, he proved why the Jets were hesitant to give him snaps.

Abanikanda fumbled one of his two kickoff returns, struggled in pass protection, and averaged just 3.2 yards per carry on the ground. The Jets don't trust him as a pass blocker and have serious concerns about his ball security.

Combine that with the fact that he's a poor fit in the Jets' new power-run scheme and it's not a surprise that he's sliding down the depth chart.

There's still time for Abanikanda to salvage a roster spot and maybe even a role in the offense. After all, it's still only June, and you can only take so much away from spring practices.

That said, if the Jets' running back rotation this spring has been any indication, Abanikanda might find himself on the outside looking in at the roster bubble. He'll need to put together a strong summer to prove his worth and save his job.