Chris Herndon, TE, NY Jets
By default, Chris Herndon returns as the most accomplished, receiving tight end on the New York Jets roster. Entering his fourth and possibly final season with the green and white, Herndon is one of the holdover starters from last year's offense that ranked dead last in several offensive categories.
Herndon has survived the Jets offseason roster purge and has a chance to rejuvenate his once-promising career.
After his standout rookie year, Herndon appeared to be on his way to becoming one of the best young receiving 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. And to make matters worse, when he did return after the suspension, injuries wiped out his entire second season.
Year three saw Herndon produce as a modest contributor at best (31 receptions for 287 yards and three scores). The lone positive from the 2020 campaign was that he finished the year healthy and produced 14 catches in his last three games.
As far as 2021 goes for Herndon, the fact that the Jets did no go out and draft or acquire a starting tight end in free agency or through a trade bodes well for his chances to rebound in his fourth season.
The floor is his to become the pass-catching tight end he was early on as a Jet. Herndon has a new lease on life with a new coaching staff on offense that promises to be more tight-end-friendly.
Upon arriving at Florham Park, the Jets' new staff began extensive evaluations on the incumbent players on the roster, and the result of those meetings led to the decision to run it back with Chris Herndon.
With the Jets' new offense, expect Herndon to be utilized on the move a lot — the team will play to his strengths, but he might be required to have more of a physical presence than he has shown in the past, in both the run and pass game.
One underrated aspect of Herndon's game is his pass blocking skills, a trait many overlook when it comes to tight ends, but it's a value that is vital in the Jets' new system.
Particularly in how tight ends on some plays in the new system will often be required to pass block on extended play fakes.
Perhaps it was out of necessity because the Jets struggled with pressure on their quarterback, but in 2020, Herndon led all NFL tight ends in pass blocking snaps (109) and only allowed four pressures, one sack, and two hurries.
Herndon's pass-blocking grade by Pro Football Focus was 76.1. This trait could help Herndon transition nicely into the Jets' new offense.
How Chris Herndon fits in with his new coaches will be crucial in his chances to stick on the roster beyond this coming season. After all, Herndon is on a shrinking list of players on the roster that Jets general manager Joe Douglas never drafted.
Durability and reliability have been two of Herndon's biggest issues with the Jets since 2019, and if he repeats the flaws of his past in 2021, he won't have a future with the team.