Pro Football Focus has put together its annual feature naming one “secret superstar” on each team. The reason I use quotes is they usually stretch the meaning of superstar. Typically they name role players who fly under the radar. For this season their Jets choice is James Carpenter.
G James Carpenter
2016 snaps: 994
Key stat: Had three perfect games of pass protection in 2016, all coming against AFC East opposition (Buffalo twice, New England)
Carpenter was a first-round draft bust for the Seattle Seahawks, but when he moved to a more favorable blocking scheme with the Jets, he has quietly become a very solid player over the past two seasons. In 2015 his run-blocking was vastly improved, but in 2016 his pass protection took a step to meet it, and he surrendered only 24 total pressures over his season. If he can maintain this improvement he will have executed quite the turnaround, but he did have a midseason slump during the season, grading poorly in six straight games.
It is worth noting that PFF hasn’t exactly hit it out of the park with the Jets in their “secret superstar” history. Players like Aaron Maybin, Kenrick Ellis, and Demario Davis have been named a “secret superstar” at varying points in the past.
I do think Carpenter is the best choice at the moment, though. In this decade the Jets haven’t made many good value moves. Part of successfully running a team means projecting players with skillsets you think can help your team, even if they haven’t performed in other places. The Jets have thrown a lot of money around importing players in recent seasons. Carpenter stands as one of the few success stories.