2. Chris Herndon, TE, NY Jets
Like Blessuan Austin, Chris Herndon is a player that flashed his upside as a rookie but has had many ups and downs since. Unlike Austin, Herndon is entering a contract season and is one of the few draft picks that remain from the Maccagnan regime.
Taken in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Jets fans have been waiting for his breakout season for two years now. After all, he was the most exciting Jets tight end since Dustin Keller during his first season.
In 2018, Herndon played in every game and started 12 of them. He finished his rookie season with 39 receptions, four touchdowns, and 502 total yards. More importantly, he had built a strong connection with fellow rookie, quarterback Sam Darnold.
From there, things went downhill for the Miami product. He was suspended four games to start his second year, as he violated the NFL’s substance abuse policy, after pleading guilty to having been intoxicated while in a car accident prior to his rookie year.
Then, his season debut was delayed by a hamstring injury, before a rib fractured landed him on season-ending injured reserve.
Finally, in 2020 he played in every game, only to be misused by his former coach. In 13 starts, he caught 31 passes, with three touchdowns and totaling 287 yards receiving. He found his yards before reception down significantly, and drops became a significant problem.
Under new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, tight ends are going to play a major role in the passing game, as he has spent time with George Kittle and Jordan Reed in recent years.
At the same time, Herndon is in a loaded room with players such as Ryan Griffin, Tyler Kroft, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco, and Kenny Yeboah.
At the moment, Herndon enters as the favorite for the starting job. Though, if he struggles to find his footing in the new offense, the Jets are going to need to turn elsewhere at tight end sooner rather than later.