New York Jets: Full Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Wide Receiver
The 2014 season is just a few months away, so it's time to analyze how the New York Jets stack up across the board.
I've already looked at the depth charts at quarterback and running back. Now, it's time to take a glance at the receiving corps.
Wide receiver has been one of the team's weak points for years now, and even with the additions of Eric Decker and several promising rookies, the position is still loaded with question marks.
New York currently possesses 13 wideouts on its roster, but judging from previous seasons, it is only likely to keep six.
That means that more than half of the receivers on the current depth chart won't be on the team in September.
Players such as Vidal Hazelton, Clyde Gates and Greg Salas have little to no chance of making the final roster, as they've managed to stick around the last couple years simply because the Jets lacked any talent or depth at the position.
Youngsters Quincy Enunwa, Michael Campbell and Saalim Hakim will also likely be cut, as there's simply not room for them on the 53-man squad. However, one or two of them could find themselves on the practice squad.
That leaves seven remaining wideouts competing for six jobs, so let's look at how I see the depth chart at receiver shaping up in 2014.
Honorable Mention: Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill has been a monumental disappointment since being selected in the second round of the 2012 draft.
Hill has battled both injuries and drops, and his production has suffered as a result. He's managed just 45 catches and 594 yards in his first two years in the league.
That means unless Hill can manage to put together an impressive minicamp and training camp, he could see himself be cut this offseason.
Hill may possess all the physical talent in the world, but there's no reason to believe that he can string together a solid offseason and manage to make the team.
The Jets finally have a decent crop of receivers. I don't consider Hill among them. I expect him to be a late cut before the season commences.
6. Jacoby Ford
New York added Jacoby Ford in free agency as a way to upgrade the skill position players on the roster.
However, Ford isn't likely to contribute much in the passing game.
Ford has just 57 catches for 848 yards and three touchdowns over the course of his three-year career. The former Raider didn't even eclipse 100 receiving yards last season.
The 26-year-old is worthy of a roster spot simply because of his immense return ability.
Ford's blistering speed and top-notch elusiveness make him one of the game's most dangerous returners. In fact, he's managed to bring four kickoffs back for scores in the last three seasons.
If the former fourth-round pick plays an important role on offense, I'd be shocked. Nonetheless, I expect him to make a huge impact on special teams.
5. Jalen Saunders
New York surprised many by selecting projected late-round pick Jalen Saunders in the fourth round of this offseason's draft.
Saunders lacks size and strength, likely meaning he's incapable of playing on the outside.
However, Saunders' terrific speed, agility and elusiveness could make him a solid weapon in the slot.
The presence of Jeremy Kerley, though, along with Saunders' struggles with route-running and blocking make him just a depth provider in his rookie year.
With that said, the Oklahoma product is a phenomenal returner. He brought back three kickoffs for touchdowns during his collegiate career.
Saunders shouldn't make much of an impact in his first NFL season, but he should still be able to make a few big plays here and there.
4. Shaq Evans
Shaq Evans may have been taken after Jalen Saunders in this year's draft, but he's the player more likely to make an impact in his rookie season.
Evans is coming off a productive collegiate career at UCLA, where he managed to eclipse 700 yards in each of the last two years.
The 23-year-old possesses nice size and blazing straight-line speed. His blocking and route-running abilities are also above average.
Evans may struggle with drops and mental toughness at times, but he's the most NFL-ready young wideout on the current roster.
Don't expect him to light the world on fire in his freshman season, but Evans should still put together a decently productive season as the team's No. 4 wideout.
3. David Nelson
David Nelson lacks top-notch speed, elite strength and above-average elusiveness.
However, he's my pick to start opposite Eric Decker on the outside in 2014, at least in Week 1.
Nelson is a smart, energetic player who has a knack for getting open and moving the chains. His route-running ability is on point, and his blocking ability is solid.
The former Bill put together a solid first campaign in Green and White, and I expect him to build off this in 2014.
Nelson won't put up stats that jump off the page, but he should still give Geno Smith a reliable target between the 20s.
2. Jeremy Kerley
Jeremy Kerley has quietly proved himself to be an integral part of New York's offense in recent seasons.
The 25-year-old has led the team in receiving yards in each of the last two years, as he's established himself as one of the game's top slot receivers.
The TCU product won't score a lot of touchdowns or make any highlight-reel plays, but he manages to pick up tough yardage when it's needed.
Kerley's now entering his contract year. That means he's likely to put together his best campaign yet in 2014 to prove his worth to New York, as well as other teams.
If he can avoid injury, Kerley should be the team's No. 2 leading receiver behind Eric Decker.
1. Eric Decker
The Jets finally signed a legitimate top target in Eric Decker this offseason.
Expectations are sky high for Decker, as he's coming off two consecutive 1,000-yard, double-digit touchdown seasons with the Broncos.
While the former third-round selection is unlikely to put up the same kind of numbers that he did with Peyton Manning, he'll still undoubtedly be the team's top target.
Decker has underrated speed, great size and route-running ability and solid toughness. If he can build a chemistry with Geno Smith, he should pass 1,000 yards once again.
The 27-year-old is in his prime and under the bright lights. I think he passes the test in his first year with Gang Green.