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Ranking the Top Ten Jets of 2018

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Michael Nania wraps up the 2018 Jets Power Rankings series.

Green Bay Packers v New York Jets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

After a multi-week hiatus, we’re back to wrap up the 2018 season with a stackup of the top ten best Jets on the year! Which Jets were the most positively impactful on the team’s (fleeting) success this year?

Previous rankings: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, Week 10, Week 11, Bye Week Fan Vote, Week 13, Week 14 (Week 15 & Week 16 rankings are included in the chart at the bottom of the page)

10. Darron Lee, ILB. Peaked at 1st (Week 1). Most commonly at 3rd (5 appearances). 10th last week.

Lee draws a lot of vitirol from the fanbase, much of it deserved. However, I for one am very appreciative of the strides he made in coverage this year. While Lee still made a lot of mistakes in run defense and a few more off of the field, his progress in the pass game was a tremendous boon for the Jets D this year.

Over the course of his twelve games, I tagged Lee for allowing only 311 yards and 14 first downs across 51 targets, for sterling rates of 6.1 yards per target and a 27% first down rate. Allowing just one touchdown and picking off three passes, opposing QBs had a 65.1 passer rating throwing in his direction.

All of those numbers are huge improvements off of 2017. Last season, Lee allowed 549 yards, 29 first downs, 3 touchdowns, and zero interceptions on 59 targets, totaling terrible numbers of 9.3 yards per target, a 49% first down rate, and a 122.4 quarterback rating. It just goes to show how big of a leap he made in this area in 2018.

The Jets ranked 9th in fewest receiving yards allowed to running backs this year. For much of the season, they were top five. Lee is one of the biggest reason for that success.

9. Leonard Williams, DT. Peaked at 3rd (Week 15). Most commonly at 9th (6 appearances). 9th last week.

It was a disappointing season for Williams, as he fell below the high quality standards he had set for himself over his career. However, a lot of the criticism he received was unwarranted. Leo was still a solid player for the Jets this year, even if he hasn’t lived up to his “best player in the draft” billing.

While Williams doesn’t get doubled “every snap,” as many claim, he does draw them at a rate that places him among the leaders in the league - around 15-17% of his pass rushing snaps. The attention he draws does have an impact, and it helped players like Henry Anderson produce a lot this year.

He also continued to live near the top of the leaderboard in pressures among interior defenders.

One criticism I will throw out there is that I think Williams took a step back in run defense this year. He posted 20 tackles in the run game for 2 yards or less and no first down. That marked a new career low for the third straight season, and was exactly half of the career-high number he posted as a rookie, 40, which was third in the league that year. Leo’s 20 tied him for 71st in that category this year.

I understand that fans are angry they have to justify Williams’ impact with “off the stat sheet” impact. It’s warranted criticism - the expectations were very high for him coming in. Leo didn’t earn himself any fan points this season with a nine game sack-less streak, an ejection against Green Bay, and a few noticeable moments of lacking effort.

Regardless, I think for the most part criticisms of Williams are overblown. He may not be what many hoped he would be, but he’s no bum. He’s a good player. Just not a great one.

8. Robby Anderson, WR. Peaked at 6th (Week 16). Most commonly at 8th (2 appearances). 6th last week.

It took Anderson a while to get going consistently, but once Sam Darnold returned following the bye week, he put together a marvelous three-game stretch.

From Weeks 14 to 16, Anderson posted a total of 312 yards, scoring a touchdown in each game and eclipsing at least 4 catches and 75 yards in each one.

He was doing it in a promising way, expanding his game beyond the go routes we’re accustomed to seeing him win. After not catching a pass in the red zone all season, Anderson showed very impressive improvisational route running to catch a red zone score on a Darnold scramble drill in back-to-back weeks. He was feasting outside of the numbers, making quite a few athletic grabs on some sweet Darnold throws.

Anderson finished with 50 catches for 752 yards and 6 touchdowns, all team highs. His production ultimately came very close to where he ended up last year.

2018: 53.7 yards per game, 3.6 catches per game, 0.43 touchdowns per game, 15.0 yards per reception, 8.0 yards per target

2017: 58.8 yards per game, 3.9 catches per game, 0.44 touchdowns per game, 14.9 yards per reception, 8.3 yards per target

We saw the complete Robby Anderson package this year. He had a handful of tremendous games, and long stretches of quietness. Against New England in Week 17, Anderson could not shake the physical coverage of Stephon Gilmore, and lost on a lot of contested balls.

At the same time, Anderson was missed by Sam Darnold quite a bit early on. Early on, the rookie was hesitant to go deep, and when he did, he struggled with his accuracy. Anderson won a lot of routes that weren’t rewarded this season.

We know who Anderson is - a solid complimentary piece who isn’t a number one. The Jets should tender the restricted free agent and look to build on the chemistry he started to build with Sam Darnold, while also looking to add more weapons for their franchise face.

7. Sam Darnold, QB. Peaked at 3rd (Week 3). Most commonly at 5th (3 appearances). 7th last week.

Ultimately, Darnold finished at 31st out of 33 qualifiers in passer rating, with a 77.6.

We have very high hopes for the USC product, but that’s all projection. How can we say he was a top ten contributor on the team if he was a bottom-3 player at the game’s most important position?

I really do think that Darnold’s spot here is justified in spite of his lackluster overall production. The stretch he missed mid-year was great to help show his value on this 2018 team. The Jets were completely lost without him - they were 31st in scoring over the three games he missed. Over Darnold’s first three games back, the Jets elevated to 2nd in scoring.

I’m stoked to see what Darnold can become for this team. The Jets are shrouded in question marks, from the talent level of the roster, to the empty coaching staff, to the struggling front office, to the questionable decision-making of the ownership. In spite of it all, the team’s future doesn’t feel as gloomy as it should given all these questions. That’s because the Jets have a quarterback.

That hot streak that Darnold went on following his return really sold me. It was tough to watch him sit on the sidelines for four weeks coming off of a brutal outing in Miami and a string of middling performances.

Darnold returned triumphantly, though, and gave us what we all needed going into the offseason - hope.

And don’t forget this throughout the offseason whenever you discuss all of the great things Darnold did this year - he was the youngest Week 1 starter in the history of the league!

6. Chris Herndon, TE. Peaked at 5th (Week 16). Most commonly at 7th/8th (3x each). 5th last week.

Herndon’s rookie season already has him very close to becoming Mike Maccagnan’s best value pick.

The Miami product finished his first year with 39 catches, 502 yards, and 4 touchdowns, all good enough for second on the team. He also compiled a very efficient 8.96 yards per target average, and Sam Darnold had a 127.1 passer rating when targeting him.

Only one other rookie tight end this century has matched Herndon’s rookie marks in total receiving yards, touchdowns, and yards per target - that was Rob Gronkowski.

I also loved what Herndon did as a blocker. He pass protected well all year, as I credited him for allowing only three pressures (zero sacks) on 43 protection snaps.

His run blocking was shaky early on, but he really progressed following the bye week.

I’m very excited to watch Herndon grow with Darnold into the future. He’s a high quality blocker and a solid all-around receiver. His hands improved over the course of the year and he flashed some impressive intermediate route running in the red zone. My favorite trait of his, however, is his improvisational ability. We all know that’s Darnold’s calling card. With every amazing scramble play by a QB, there is an accompanying receiver who also has to react on the fly to make something happen.

Herndon is that kind of guy. He and Darnold hooked up on scramble drills a bunch of times this year. The fourth-rounder usually knew exactly where to be to make himself a target for Darnold when he went on the move, and it resulted in a lot of big plays.

The former Hurricane is one of the biggest reasons to be excited about the future of the Jets.

5. Brandon Shell, RT. Peaked at 2nd (Week 9). Most commonly at 5th (4 times). Was 4th last week.

Great news surfaced recently, as it appears Shell will be healthy enough for all offseason activities following the knee injury he suffered against the Texans.

Anyone who reads this site regularly knows I am perhaps the biggest Brandon Shell fan. I love what he did this year. He had two disastrous pass protection outings in Jacksonville and Miami, but both times he responded with long stretches of cleanliness.

On the year, I tagged Shell with a 6.5% pressure rate allowed, tied with Kelvin Beachum for the best on the team relative to position.

While he, like every other player on the Jets front this year, still has a long way to go with his run blocking, I do think he improved. His 29 to 15 ratio of assists to stuffs in the run game, while still less than ideal (I estimated that average is likely a little bit better than 2 to 1), was the best on the offensive line.

I’m confident Shell can be a cornerstone on this line for a long time.

4. Kelvin Beachum, LT. Peaked at 4th (Week 17). Most commonly at 6th (2 times). Was 8th last week.

It’s quite ironic that two of the top five players on this list are offensive linemen in spite of that unit’s overall struggles, but since both are tackles, I think it just goes to show how brutal the interior group was this year.

Anyway, Beachum did a respectable job on the left side this year. As previously mentioned, he tied Brandon Shell for the best pressure rate allowed on the team at 6.5%.

The Jets’ Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee came over to New Jersey only a year removed from a serious ACL injury. He’s started 32 consecutive games for them, and has only missed one offensive snap.

3. Henry Anderson, DT. Peaked at 3rd (Weeks 15-17). Most commonly at 3rd or 6th (3x each). Was 3rd last week.

Perhaps the best value non-draft acquisition by the Jets this offseason. Anderson made splash plays at a terrific rate as a rotational player early on, and worked his way into a more regular role. He played 668 defensive snaps (59.6%), second on the defensive line to Williams.

Anderson finished tied for the team lead in sacks (7.0) with Jordan Jenkins, second in quarterback hits (16), deflected four passes, and blocked two kicks. He was everywhere with the splash plays, even having a 3.0 sack game against the Texans late in the year.

Anderson, who is 6’6 and 294 pounds with 90+ percentile cone and shuttle times, was a good fit in the Jets’ 3-4. He was able to use his quickness to effectively shoot gaps on the interior and produce a quality level of pressure. His motor really stood out, as many of his sacks were less the result of an effective pass rush and more because of his relentless pursuit. Anderson also drew eyes for some feisty moments late in the year, getting involved in some extra-curricular stuff that fans of other teams may or may not have liked very much.

Jamal Adams said after the Jets’ final game that the team needs more “dogs.” Anderson is one. The Jets need to make sure the impending free agent is brought back.

2. Avery Williamson, ILB . Peaked at 2nd (Weeks 10-17). Most commonly at 2nd (7 times). Was 2nd last week.

A nice season for the young inside backer the Jets signed to replace now-Saints Pro Bowler Demario Davis.

Williamson has a very similar skillset to Davis - a downhill, physical, run-stopping Mike linebacker who will plug holes in the run game and do an effective job covering the flats even if they aren’t build for tough coverage assignments.

Williamson did those things well. He was one of the few Jets providing quality run defense throughout the year. He is a very smart run defender who finishes his tackles extremely well in the trenches.

It was up and down for Williamson in coverage, but I thought for the most part he held his own decently enough for the role he is asked to play. Just about every defense has a player like Williamson on the field for most of the game, and that guy is almost always going to be pinpointed by the opposing offense a couple of times a game. Williamson’s coverage numbers weren’t great (by my charting, 8.0 yards per target, 49% first down rate, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions), but there are players in a similar role who are toasted much more often. Williamson kept quiet in most games.

Williamson played 99.5% of the defensive snaps and was by all accounts one of the highest quality leaders and people on the team both on and off the field.

1. Jamal Adams, S. Peaked at 1st (Weeks 5-17). Most commonly at 1st (12 times). Was 1st last week.

What even needs to be written about Adams? If you’ve watched the Jets this year, you know how great he’s become.

Adams patched up just about every hole in his game that he carried with him out of his rookie year, and became unquestionably one of the two or three very best safeties in the game.

He topped the charts at the safety position in run stops, pass deflections, coverage yield, pressures - you name it, his name was near the top.

Even when Adams isn’t making a play on the ball, he made his presence felt. Week after week, he laid skull-shattering hits on pass protectors that were to be felt the next morning. He did it to running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends all year - even centers weren’t safe.

I honestly am not even sure what else to write about Adams at this point. I’ve waxed poetic about him in every power rankings edition this season. He is a phenomenal all-around football player, and the Jets are very lucky to have him as the face of their defense both on and off the field.

He’ll say what needs to be said to try and make change happen, without saying it in a way that hurts the internal culture of the team or causes unnecessary controversy. The man is a master of talk.

Most importantly, Adams can be the thunderous voice that he was born to be because he backs it up on the field.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Jason Myers, K: A Pro Bowl season for Myers as he connects on 33 of 36 field goals on the year (91.7%). He did miss three extra points, but two were in the Texans game late in the year. Myers’ average field goal distance was a very high 40.5. Of the six qualified kickers with an average distance that high, he was the only one to hit 90% of his field goals.

Andre Roberts, PR/KR: Roberts was a Pro Bowler, but should also be an All-Pro. What he did this season was historic. He averaged 14.1 yards per punt return (led league) and 29.4 yards per kick return (2nd best). That made him one of only three players over the past forty years to hit both of those marks, along with Jakeem Grant (who also did it in 2018) and Devin Hester (2010). Roberts did it with 63 total kick/punt returns - 18 more than Hester and 31 more than Grant.

Pats on the back for: Bilal Powell, Isaiah Crowell, Marcus Maye, Quincy Enunwa, Steve McLendon Brandon Copeland, Jordan Jenkins.

Here is a look at the flow of my rankings throughout the year.

Thanks a lot to everyone who read the power rankings throughout the season - here’s to 2019 featuring a final top ten ranking with ten Pro Bowlers on it!