3. Blessuan Austin, CB, NY Jets
Years ago, Blessuan Austin seemed as if he would be an early NFL Draft pick. During his first two years at Rutgers, he quickly established himself as one of the Big Ten’s rising stars. That was until back-to-back serious knee injuries led to his injury concerns that saw his stock plummet.
Luckily, the Jets were able to snag the 6-foot-1, 198-pound corner with the 196th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He began his rookie season recovering from his second ACL tear before making his debut in Week 9 against the New York Giants.
From there, Austin became a promising player in the Jets lineup. He started six of seven games as a rookie, deflecting four passes, forcing one fumble, and making 25 total tackles. Ultimately, despite a small sample size, he earned a 71.4 grade from Pro Football Focus.
It was never a question of Austin’s potential, simply his health. Thus, it was not surprising when the Jets entered the 2020 season with the sixth-round pick as one of their starters.
Except, Austin’s second year in the pros came with many ups and downs. He remained strong against the run game, but he struggled at times in coverage. He also found himself dealing with a neck injury that saw him hit the injured reserved mid-season.
Currently, with the way the roster is built, the Jets biggest concern comes at cornerback.
Austin leads all starters with 16 career starts, meaning there is a significant lack of experience at the position. Therefore, leaving Austin’s experience as a major part of his case to start this year.
Cornerback will also be amongst the most competitive positions on the team too. The team took three in the 2021 NFL Draft and paid undrafted free agent Isaiah Dunn a hefty sum.
New York also added special teams ace Justin Hardee in free agency, and has youngsters Bryce Hall, Javelin Guidry, and Lamar Jackson under contract.
Again, Austin’s experience gives him an advantage over all his peers at the position. Yet, the numbers at the position leave him little room for error in 2021.