Today we look at the second half of our rundown of the Jets 2023 class of undrafted free agents. We have already seen some quality, and our second group has some eye-opening players as well. These are not going to be world beating stars, but you need depth and you never know when a player will surprise you and develop into a star. There are 22 NFL UDFAs who are in the the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Of course with 26,682 players who have played in the NFL they make up only 0.0008% of the players. but you never know who will surprise. So let’s jump right in to see who else the Jets have brought in.
Xavier Gipson, WR, Stephen F. Austin 5’ 9 1/2” 189 lbs
Gipson is a four year starter for the Lumberjacks, playing in 44 games during his time in Nacogdoches, Texas. He is short, but he is not little, he has some size and strength. He is a very athletic player with quickness, agility and 4.42/40 speed. He played all over the offensive formation in Texas but he will likely be relegated to the slot with the Jets.
Here Gipson is on the outside. He executes an out and up move that gets him behind the defender. Gipson put together a tremendous 2022 season with 65 receptions for 1,163 yards with 7 TDs. He added 12 punt returns for 300 yards (25.0 yards per return) with 2 TDs. This helped him win the WAC offensive player of the year and become a 1st team All-American.
Gipson has a good shot to be on the opening day roster as he fills a few needs for the Jets. Gipson is likely going to be a slot receiver in the NFL. The Jets who lack a true slot receiver on the roster. Mecole Hardman played in the slot mostly for the Chiefs in 2022 but had only 25 total receptions for the year. Gipson is used to handling the ball. In 44 games he had 243 receptions for 4,305 yards (17.7 ave) with 37 TDs. He also returned 35 punts for 541 yards (15.5 ave) and 4 TDs. Gipson could be a highly targeted receiver out of the slot.
Gipson has near elite 1st step quickness with cat-like agility. He does his best work after he catches the ball. Gipson has superior vision combined with excellent acceleration which is the reason he had 4 career punt return TDs. His worst ability is route running, which is mitigated by his move to the slot. There he can use his physical talents to run drag, whip, quick slant routes which stress agility and speed rather than technical acuity.
With his ability with the ball out of the slot and his special teams ability Gipson has a better chance to make the opening day roster than most other UDFAs. It will all depend on how well he adjusts to the Jets offense, but I would think he has a 60% chance of being on the roster come opening day since another receiver is needed.
E.J. Jenkins, TE, Georgia Tech 6’ 6” 245 lbs
E.J. Jenkins was a wide receiver at Georgia Tech, but he will move over to play tight end with the Jets. Jenkins began his college career at St. Francis of Pennsylvania, redshirting in 2017. He played in 9 games in 2018 catching 5 passes, then started 12 games in 2019 with 39 receptions. The conference didn’t play in 2020 due to the Covid 19 pandemic. He transferred to South Carolina in 2021 catching 8 passes for 117 yards and a TD. He then transferred to Georgia Tech in 2022 catching 17 passes for 316 yards and 3 TDs.
Jenkins will be a project type prospect because of his height and his 81 7/8” wingspan. He has great length (34 1/8” arms) and surprising upper body strength to be more than an adequate blocker. You can see in this clip the huge size advantage he has over the cornerback. I’m sure the Jets envision Jenkins in some special sets of plays near the goal line where he would be a tough cover.
Jenkins isn’t exceptionally fast (4.62/40) and he labors in and out of cuts, so he gets little or no separation in his routes. He doesn’t have any first step quickness and his physical capabilities are average for his size. He will also turn 25 during the 2023 season, so he isn’t a young pup. I don’t see how Jenkins makes the roster with a crowded tight end room and his mediocre abilities. If he shows the Jets enough in training camp Jenkins may be a practice squad player who hangs on by a fingernail. I give Jenkins less than a 1% chance of making the Jets initial roster on opening day.
Maalik Hall OLB SE Oklahoma State 6’ 0 1/2” 235 lbs
Maalik Hall has been at SE Oklahoma State since 2017, playing in 5 seasons. The school also sat out the Covid Pandemic in 2020. Hall saw limited duty in his first three years but became a starter in 2021. In his last two years as an OLB he had 131 tackles, 24 TFL, 14 sacks, 2 PBU and 3 forced fumbles. In this clip here he is #22 and does a nice job of not over committing on the play. He holds the edge when the DE runs upfield, then moves in for the tackle when the RB jump cuts back his way.
Hall has a nice physical makeup with very good upper body strength, 4.50/40 speed and explosiveness with a 38 1⁄2 vertical and 127” broad jump. He is an active defender who doesn’t take a play off. He has good length (32 1/4” arms) with large hands that help in tackling. Hall was voted an AFCA All-American after the 2022 season as he was eighth in the conference in tackles but first in sacks with eight on the season.
Hall played his entire career in Division II football which is much lower than even the FCS teams in terms of talent. Hall was a big fish in a little pond and will get a newfound sense of respect for athletic talent when he lines up for the Jets in minicamp. Hall is a project now more than a possible player even though he is already 24 years old.
Hall has a less than 5% chance of making the opening day roster if the Jets don’t sign another linebacker and they have some injuries. He is a camp body now with a slight chance of making it to a practice squad if he impresses in camp.
Caleb Johnson, LB, Miami 5’ 11 3/8” 228 lbs
Johnson is undersized as a LB but he has great speed (4.44/40) with tremendous upper body strength. He is not a superior athlete, he has average agility and lateral quickness. Here he does a nice job of flowing to the play, squaring up then making a sure tackle. He doesn’t wrap tackle well as ball carriers slip from his grasp too often. He can resort to “ankle grabbing” in order to make the play.
Johnson is a transfer from UCLA where he played in 18 games over two years with 11 starts at ILB in 2021. He was a 6th year redshirt senior in 2022 at Miami as a 2 down inside linebacker, where he made a career high 48 tackles in 12 games with the Hurricanes.
Johnson’s size is a real detriment, as he will be overwhelmed by the behemoths on NFL offensive lines. He is not great at getting off blocks and with 31 5/8” arms he will not be able to stack and shed much larger blockers who will engulf him. He has decent speed but he is not sudden, he has poor first step quickness.
Johnson’s best shot at a roster spot would be on special teams, but he didn’t play on any of those teams last year. I think Johnson is another camp body who will be given a look but will have to really impress to make even the practice squad. I give him a less than 5% chance of making the Jets opening day roster.
Derrick Langford, CB, Washington State 6’ 1 5/8” 205 lbs
Langford is a big cornerback who was a starter the last two years, making 78 tackles, 9 PBU, 3 forced fumbles and 4 INTs. He has good length (not great at 31 1/2” arms) with mediocre 4.53 speed. He played and started all 26 games Washington State played in the last two years.
On the play below Arizona QB Will Plummer basically throws the ball right to Langford who is in zone coverage. There had to be a mix up as the ball is well behind the receiver Stanley Berryhill. Langford does his best as he returns the ball for a gift TD.
Langford is a cover-3 type cornerback in the Seattle Seahawks mold. Remember Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell were big/smart corners who both lacked speed. Sherman ran 4.56/40 at the combine and is considered a Hall of Fame lock.
It’s interesting that Robert Saleh spent time with Sherman in Seattle. Salegh raves about Sherman. When asked about him Saleh said “I can’t say enough things about him, he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer in my opinion.” Now Langford has a long way to go to be spoken of in the same breath as Richard Sherman. Yet they have similarities in that they both are better when facing their opponent and work best in a cover 3 scheme. They both are larger than average for a cornerback, don’t run well and are good tacklers. One of the abilities that set Richard Sherman apart was his intelligence. I have no insight on Langford in that regard.
I doubt that Langford makes the Jets roster. I give him a 15-20% chance that would increase if the Jets have a rash of camp injuries. He has some special teams acumen to him so he would be an asset there. I could see him stashed on the practice squad to fine tune his technique in the cover 3 system. He would be some sort of insurance (the type you never want to count on) in case of injuries.
Marquis Waters, S, Texas Tech 5’ 11 3/4” 209 lbs
Waters is the type of player you are seeing more and more of in the NFL. He is a hybrid type player who rotates from coverage, to a box safety to a dime linebacker. Waters has played six college seasons (four at Duke and tw2 at Texas Tech) but is still only 24 years old. Waters was set to enter the NFL in 2022 but a torn pectoral muscle in his 1st conference game changed that as he took a medical redshirt in 2021. He is not fast (4.61/40) but he is athletic with good strength and an attacking, aggressive style of play.
This play below is a nice game that Texas Tech plays in that they are blitzing with the defensive end going wide left and the defensive tackle going wide right. This leaves a huge opening for Waters to work against a running back in protection. This is a mismatch as Waters makes the sack.
This was Waters’ only sack on the year, but he also had 13 TFL which is great for a player who was used all over the field. Texas Tech devised the “star” position for Waters, which deployed him in or near the box. They used him to support the run, rush the passer and cover shallow zones.
Waters has always been productive. As a defensive back at Duke he ranked in the top three in tackles for three seasons in a row. He is a do it all player who was nicknamed “mud” because he does the dirty work. Still he would have to impress the Jets coaching staff amazingly for him to make the team out of camp. The Jets would need a package of plays for him because he is not going to be used as a deep safety due to his lack of speed. Special teams and a nickel/dime LB may be his best shot at playing time. I’d say Waters has a 10% chance to make the team, but a better than 50% chance of being on the practice squad.
So there you have it, the other 6 undrafted free agents who will vie for a place on the Jets roster. The thirteen players the Jets brought in almost look better than the Idzik 12 back in 2014 where Jalen Saunders (4th round), Shaq Evans (5th round) and Taj Boyd the Rex Ryan gift (6th round) never played a down for the Jets.
Let’s here what you think of these players’ chances.