The weekly New York Jets roster power rankings series is back!
Throughout the 2017 season, I ran a weekly series laying out the top ten contributors to the success of the team in order based on my own perception. The series laid the groundwork for some tremendous debate and discussion every week. I’m excited to do it again this season!
The weekly rankings will be based on season performance to that point over player reputation/talent level, but as there has obviously not been any football played yet, I’ll kick things off this week with my top ten rankings based on how I believe each Jet will perform in 2018.
Here we go - who will be the top ten most positively impactful Jets?
10. Morris Claiborne, CB
I’m excited to see what Claiborne does playing opposite of Trumaine Johnson. Claiborne for the most part had a surprisingly solid season as the Jets’ number one corner last season. He closed the season on a cold stretch after suffering a mid-season injury, but prior to that he was posting some very respectable numbers.
With Johnson pushing Claiborne into some more favorable matchups against number two and three wide receiver options, I think he can be a plus contributor if he stays healthy.
9. Sam Darnold, QB
Don’t look at this as a knock on Sam. He is behind some pretty solid players on this list. I think Darnold is going to give fans plenty of hope for the future throughout the season, but on the whole, I just can’t see him producing at a very high level as a rookie. Over the past 20 seasons (since 1998), only 7 rookie quarterbacks have started at least 12 games and posted an above average passer rating.
Only 6 rookie quarterbacks in that span were the age Darnold will be throughout this season - 21. Those guys posted a combined 14-45 record in their rookie seasons. The most successful of that bunch as a rookie was Jameis Winston, who went 6-10 with 22 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, and a below-average 84 passer rating.
I think Darnold is going to play around an average level this season. I expect him to be a surgeon in the red zone and move the chains on third down with his legs and quick short to intermediate passing ability. However, I do expect him to struggle with turnovers and pushing the ball downfield. Not that he will not or cannot eventually hone those phases of his game, as he certainly has the mental capacity and work ethic to do so, but history suggests to temper your expectations for a rookie. I think Darnold will be an average starting NFL quarterback this year - which is an absolutely phenomenal way for a 21-year old to jump-start his career.
8. Isaiah Crowell, RB
It’s tough to project how the backfield touches will be distributed, but for now my money would be on Crowell to lead the team in touches. He has been very durable throughout his career, taken good care of the football, and produced very efficiently when given a high volume of touches - all qualities you want in an early-down workhorse. His big play ability has consistently been among the league’s best.
Crowell has inconsistent vision and can run high at times, leading to his low conversion rates in power situations. He will probably never be a fantasy superstar. However, he has been a consistently above-average rusher with a respectable collection of tools. In the preseason, the Jets even spread him out wide on a few occasions, of which Crowell was surprisingly very productive. I think he is in line for an impressive year.
7. Marcus Maye, S
Maye might have been a bit overrated last year, as he began to struggle mightily late in the year when the expectations were dropping as the team fell out of contention. He also lucked out to not be exposed on a few losses in coverage.
Despite that, Maye had a respectable rookie year. He was fundamentally sound in deep zone coverage and limited the amount of targets his way. Coming downhill, he tackled well in the run and pass game.
Maye doesn’t have the upside of his comrade in the back end, but he is a tough and smart player who compliments his partner well and should continue to be a player the Jets are comfortable to have protecting the deep parts of the field.
6. Robby Anderson, WR
What Robby Anderson does best, few do better. His go route is a thing of beauty - he scored 5 touchdowns alone with simple vertical routes down the sideline.
Before Josh McCown went out last year (12 games), Anderson had 49 receptions for 821 yards and 7 TDs.
Among wide receivers, he was 5th (tied) in receiving touchdowns and 11th in yards through that point. Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, and A.J. Green were the only other wide receivers to equal Anderson in each of receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Anderson was producing like a legit top-ten receiver for three quarters of last season when he was catching passes from a legitimate quarterback.
Anderson can still round out the other parts of his game to become a consistent force. His blocking is not at the level of Jermaine Kearse and Quincy Enunwa. He also can become more productive in the short to intermediate ranges of the field. When Anderson was dominating down the field, there were stretches (like the Kansas City game) where teams would give him free underneath yardage on curls and slants to take away his speed over the top. It’s great when that happens, but if he is going to elevate into a true top-15 or better caliber wide receiver, Anderson needs to find himself another consistent weapon to open himself up in addition to his vertical wizardry.
Even if he is unable to elevate beyond what he is, Anderson is already an elite deep threat, an essential piece of any high-octane passing attack.
5. Avery Williamson, ILB
Essentially, in letting Demario Davis go and signing Avery Williamson, the Jets were likely convinced that Williamson was more likely to replicate Davis’ 2017 than Davis himself was. Davis had a phenomenal, Pro Bowl-caliber 2017. He was dominant against the run and reliable in a diminished coverage role in which he mostly handled shallow zones and covered running backs into the flat, a role he thrived in.
However, Davis is 29 and that was the first truly strong season of his career. Williamson, three years younger at 26, possesses a very similar skillset. He has been a strong run stopper for a while - but has had his coverage ability questioned. In a mostly two-down role last season, Williamson improved in coverage as he saw less targets come his way, and thrived enough against the run to have one of the best seasons among inside linebackers last year.
Williamson is possibly more athletic than Davis (he posted a 94th-percentile 20-yard shuttle time and 84th-percentile 10-yard split time) and has much less mileage on his tires. If Williamson can make the same strides Davis made in coverage upon his return to the Jets last year, then he can match the production level Davis brought in 2017 on a consistent basis, and find himself among the league’s best inside linebackers throughout the length of his deal.
4. Quincy Enunwa, WR
I’m convinced that Enunwa’s 2016 season was one of the very best put forth by a Jets wide receiver this century. In a year in which Ryan Fitzpatrick was playing absolutely atrocious football, and he was supplanted by a young quarterback who managed to play even worse, Enunwa still found himself producing at high levels.
Enunwa posted 857 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2016 - decent numbers on paper. The reason I admire what he did that year so much is the fact that most of his production was self-created. He was a YAC machine (he was the only WR to place top ten in yards per reception and YAC per reception) who also found ways to open himself up deep, producing down the field when he had no business doing so with such an awful quarterback situation.
Enunwa’s post route might be the second-best weapon owned by a Jets receiver, after Robby Anderson’s go route. By my charting, Enunwa caught 11 of 21 post routes in 2016 for 279 yards and 11 first downs. In addition, Enunwa feasted on his small sample size of go routes, catching 4 of 7 for 147 yards and a 141 passer rating.
Don’t forget about his blocking ability, either. Enunwa is an amazing blocker in the open field.
I love the skillset Enunwa has. He also compliments the strengths of Sam Darnold very well - an advantage that I think will have him producing more than Robby Anderson. This preseason, Enunwa seemed fully healthy. I’m stoked to watch him get out there again this year.
3. Jamal Adams, S
Adams has unlimited upside. He is extremely athletic and couples that with a high football IQ, unteachable instincts, and the uncanny ability to maximize athleticism with efficient routes to the spots he needs to hit to win plays.
Last season, Adams was a force against the run. He is an incredibly smart tracker of the ball and finished with great consistency.
In coverage is where things became spotty. Adams yielded a team high 5 touchdowns in coverage, all coming to tight ends. There were moments of brilliance, but Adams needs to find ways to play the football better against bigger matchups, especially with his back to the end zone. Adams was right there for the majority of the big plays he allowed, but allowed far too much receiving production relative to his own plays on the ball. He’s fully capable of making the necessary strides - and I am confident he will.
2. Leonard Williams, DL
I personally think Williams is underrated by this fanbase much too often. He is a very good player and has consistently been a top 10 interior defensive linemen over the past few seasons.
Since he entered the league, Williams has racked up 104 tackles in the run game for 2 yards or less and no first down - 2nd most in the entire league behind former teammate Damon Harrison and 12 more than the next closest defensive linemen (Ndamukong Suh).
In 2017, Williams collected 24 quarterback hits - tied for 10th in the league. He’s collected a total of 63 hits since he was drafted.
I think Williams is elite. His sack totals are pedestrian mostly due to the lack of a competent edge rush opening up sack opportunities by forcing quarterbacks to step up in the pocket. Williams is an elite run defender and high-level pass rusher in spite of his sack totals. It doesn’t seem that Williams in line to see a big jump in that category this season as the team is devoid of an outside pass rush once again, but Williams should continue to be the team’s most reliable producer.
1. Trumaine Johnson, CB
I will admit I was skeptical when the Jets signed Trumaine Johnson and still am. They threw top-2 money at a player who has never been in the conversation of ranking that highly at his position. He is also already 28 years old.
However, I don’t think there is anybody else more deserving of this spot right now. There are plenty of players who can end up here by the end of the year. Sam Darnold obviously could light it up and take the throne. Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson both have a shot. Jamal Adams and Leonard Williams could easily contend for the top spot.
None of those players are as accomplished as Johnson is, though. While arguably not a top-5 or maybe even top-10 corner, Johnson is still a top flight outside man-cover corner. He perfectly fits the profile of what Todd Bowles has been dying for in his corners since he arrived in Florham Park. Long (95th percentile height and arm length), physical, and tough, Johnson digs into his matchups every snap and makes life tough for opposing top receivers. He is stout in the red zone and is very good at taking away deep routes down the sideline (Johnson yielded only 1 touchdown over 90+ targets last season). His tackling ability is strong. In addition, Johnson is not just a man corner. He has a lot of experience playing in different zone coverages and rotated between both sides of the field routinely for the Rams last year.
He is a proven playmaker, with 18 career interceptions and 3 touchdowns - 1 each in 3 of the last 4 seasons. Since 2012, Johnson is one of only four cornerbacks with 65+ passes defended, 15+ interceptions, 3+ fumble recoveries, and 3+ touchdowns, joining Richard Sherman, Chris Harris, and Casey Hayward. Over the past three seasons, he is one of three cornerbacks with 40+ passes defended and 2+ touchdowns, along with Marcus Peters and Robert Alford.
We shall see how deep into his contract Johnson can maintain his peak level of play - and if he can improve off of a slightly inconsistent 2017 in which he had a handful of games where he allowed quite a bit of production. Nevertheless, Bowles got the premier long press corner he wanted. Will Bowles build a successful defense around him, and will Johnson play well enough to allow that to happen?
That’ll do it for my inaugural top 10! Obviously, when we return next week, the list will likely look drastically different. Who will stand out in Detroit before slipping out for the rest of the year? On my debut list in 2017, Mike Pennel, James Carpenter, Josh Martin, and Brandon Shell held spots after their performance in Weeks 1-2. None sniffed the list in the second half of the year.
How would you rank the top 10 players on the Jets roster based on how they’ll perform in 2018?