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Five Jets players make ESPN’s top 100 list

The defense places three while the offense has two Jets.

NFL: New York Jets at Cleveland Browns Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN released a list of its top 100 players in the NFL this week. The Jets might have had a disappointing 2023 season, but they placed five players on the list.

26. Sauce Gardner, CB, Jets

Gardner excelled at preventing targets — his 13% target rate was third best among outside corners — and he ranked second to Johnson in yards per coverage snap allowed (0.8), per NFL Next Gen Stats.

While we don’t have individual open scores for defensive backs, we have team-level open scores, and the Jets ranked first by far (81) in the category. It’s a reflection of the rest of their secondary, too, but that number is another sign that Gardner is a stellar player.

45. Garrett Wilson, WR, Jets

After sharing my initial list with a few trusted sources and colleagues to get feedback, multiple NFL team staffers independently noted I was severely underrating Wilson and that he had been one of the best wide receivers in the league. It’s just that his play was shrouded by the misery that was the Jets’ offense.

When I looked closer, we had quantitative evidence to back up what they were seeing, too. Wilson ranked sixth in open score (83), the most important of the three receiver tracking metrics. If a receiver does his job and gets open, that’s value — even if Zach Wilson or Tim Boyle don’t throw him the ball.

63. Quinnen Williams, DT, Jets

76. Quincy Williams, LB, Jets

81. Breece Hall, RB, Jets

Despite playing in a nonfunctional offense, Hall managed to finish second among running backs in total yards (rushing plus receiving) with 1,585. He also recorded 146 rush yards over expectation, per NFL Next Gen Stats, more than backs who might have been considered here, such as Raheem Mostert, James Cook, Kyren Williams, Isiah Pacheco or Derrick Henry.

The Jets certainly had a disappointing 2023 season, and things are feeling a bit bleak around the fanbase. Still, this list is a reminder that the Jets do at least have a nice core to build around. These players are all either entering or in their respective primes.