Projecting New York Jets' Depth Chart After Peak of Free Agency

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IMarch 31, 2014

Projecting New York Jets' Depth Chart After Peak of Free Agency

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    With the wild frenzy known as NFL free agency winding down, its time to reevaluate how the New York Jets' depth chart will appear in 2014. 

    Despite having one of the largest spaces in the league, the Jets were relatively quiet in the open market. 

    However, New York's roster could see a dramatic makeover in May as the team holds twelve picks in the upcoming draft. 

    With that said, click through to see what I project each positional unit on the Jets roster to look like by the opening week of next season.


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    Starter: Michael Vick

    Backup: Geno Smith

    Third-String: Matt Simms

    Exactly a year ago from today, Mark Sanchez sat at the top of New York's quarterback depth chart, and Greg McElroy claimed the spot below. 

    Now, Sanchez is a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and Greg McElroy is retired from football. 

    The Jets' outlook at quarterback has changed drastically in the last 365 days, and it now appears as if recently-signed Michael Vick and second-year signal-caller Geno Smith will battle it out for the starting job

    Although Smith was the starter last season, Vick has to be the favorite to win the competition. Why else would New York sign a 33-year-old to a one-year contract?

    Vick is also familiar with the Jets' offensive system, as he played under coordinator Marty Mornhinweg in Philadelphia for four seasons. 

    At this point, I see Vick being the starter by the time Week 1 rolls around, barring injury or something major. 

    Matt Simms, who performed admirably in the backup role last season, will be confined to the third-string role due to Vick's presence. 

Running Back

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    Starter: Chris Ivory

    Fullback: Tommy Bohanon

    Backup: Bilal Powell

    Third String: De'Anthony Thomas

    Gang Green's rushing attack really came into its own late last season, so expectations are high entering 2014. 

    Chris Ivory will technically man the top of the depth chart, but Bilal Powell will also receive his share of carries. Expect Ivory and Powell to excel as a duo this season, and be the focus of New York's offense once again. 

    Where Gang Green's backfield could look different, though, is who will man the role of third-down back. Neither Ivory nor Powell are real pass-catching threats, so the Jets could look to upgrade in this area in the draft. 

    De'Anthony Thomas would the perfect man to fill this need. 

    Thomas is a phenomenal receiving back with terrific speed and elusiveness, and he would provide fantastic value, as he is projected as just a sixth or seventh-round pick by CBS Sports

Wide Receiver

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    No. 1 Receiver: Eric Decker

    No. 2 Receiver: Jordan Matthews

    Slot Receiver: Jeremy Kerley

    Depth: David Nelson, Clyde Gates and Cody Hoffman

    New York's receiver corps was abysmal last season, but the unit should improve drastically in 2014.

    Eric Decker may not be a legitimate No. 1 receiver, but he's still a terrific weapon with great size and hands. 

    Jordan Matthews, whom I project the Jets to select with their second-round pick, also possesses phenomenal size and speed.

    Jeremy Kerley, who has been the team's most productive receiver in the last two years, should thrive in the slot receiver role, and depth at the position should also be improved, as David Nelson and Clyde Gates are solid No. 4 and No. 5 weapons. 

    Cody Hoffman, whom I project New York to take late in the draft, is also a big target who could develop into a dangerous red-zone weapon. 

Tight End

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    Starter: Eric Ebron

    Backup: Jeff Cumberland

    Third-String: Konrad Reuland

    Jeff Cumberland is a solid tight end with top-end physical tools, but the Jets are kidding themselves if they believe he can immediately become a go-to option in the passing game. 

    If North Carolina product Eric Ebron falls to New York in the first round of the draft, John Idzik and Co. shouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger. Ebron could make an immediate impact in the Jets' passing game, as he is a physical freak whose scary combination of size and athleticism has drawn comparisons to Vernon Davis

    Konrad Reuland will maintain his position as a blocking tight end on short-yardage plays. 

Offensive Line

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    Starting Offensive Tackles: D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Breno Giacomini 

    Starting Offensive Guards: Willie Colon and Brian Winters

    Center: Nick Mangold

    Backups: Caleb Schlauderaff, Oday Aboushi, Chris Watt, Dalton Freeman and William Campbell

    New York's offensive line was inconsistent throughout last season. 

    That trend should continue in 2014. 

    D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold are still strong players, but they're getting up there in age, and Breno Giacomini was an up-and-down player with the Seattle Seahawks who has a knack for drawing flags.

    Willie Colon is coming off a major injury, and Brian Winters struggled in the starting role last season. 

    Depth on the Jets' offensive line is also a question mark, as it'll be full of young, unproven players, including Chris Watt, who I expect New York to draft in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft. 

    Watt is a tough and powerful run blocker who was terrific during his career at Notre Dame, but his technique and quickness both need improve. 

Defensive Line

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    Starting Defensive Ends: Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson

    Starting Nose Tackle: Damon Harrison

    Backups: Leger Douzable, Tevita Finau, and Kenrick Ellis

    The defensive front was the Jets' biggest strength in 2013, and there's no reason why it shouldn't be again next year. Each player on the defensive line is in his early-to-mid-20s and should continue to improve with each passing year. 

    Despite a somewhat slow finish to the season, Muhammad Wilkerson emerged as one of the game's best defensive ends last year, while Sheldon Richardson, who won the Defensive Rookie of the Year, is also perhaps the game's best run-stopping defensive end. 

    Damon Harrison, the former undrafted free agent out of William Penn, also is a dominant run-stuffer. 

    Moreover, New York boasts three reliable backups in Leger Douzable, Tevita Finau, and Kenrick Ellis. 


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    Starting Outside Linebackers: Quinton Coples and Calvin Pace

    Starting Inside Linebackers: David Harris and Demario Davis

    Depth: Garrett McIntyre, Antwan Barnes, Kevin Pierre-Louis and Troy Davis

    The linebacker unit was the underrated section of the Jets' tremendous defensive front seven last season. The corps will return almost intact from last year, so expect the same kind of results in 2014. 

    David Harris rebounded from a rough 2012 to perform up to his usual standards, and Demario Davis was a significant contributor in his first year as a starter. 

    On the outside, 33-year-old Calvin Pace had a career year with 10 sacks. Quinton Coples and Antwan Barnes (before his season-ending injury) were also solid. 

    On another note, I expect the Jets to chase after a Pace's eventual replacement in this year's draft, where they have three picks in the fourth round. Boston College product Kevin Pierre-Louis would be a nice addition, as he possesses tremendous speed and athleticism. 

    However, Pierre-Louis needs to add bulk and develop better technique as a tackler, so don't expect a big contribution from him in his first season. 

Defensive Backs

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    Starters Safeties: Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen

    Starting Cornerbacks: Dee Milliner and Stanley Jean-Baptiste

    Backups: Ahmad Dixon, Josh Bush, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Kyle Wilson, Ras-I Dowling, and Darrin Walls

    The secondary was one of the team's biggest weaknesses last season following the departure of cornerback Darrelle Revis, but the unit is even more of a question mark in 2014. 

    Antonio Cromartie is now with the Arizona Cardinals, and the Jets missed out on every starting-caliber cover man on the market this offseason. 

    While Dee Milliner made strides towards the end of last season, and starting safeties Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen were decent, New York currently has a major hole at the other corner spot. 

    I expect the Jets to address this need in the third-round of the draft, where Nebraska product Stanley Jean-Baptiste could be available. 

    Jean-Baptiste is a tall, lengthy corner with great ball skills and instincts. Although he lacks physicality and struggles as an open-field tackler, he could still contribute as a rookie, perhaps even emerging as a starter opposite Milliner. 

    New York once again will likely keep a boatload of backup defensive backs on the roster, as a strong defensive backfield is critical to Rex Ryan's defensive success. 

    Among the backups, Darrin Walls is the player to look out for, as he's a young and speedy cover man who did a nice job manning the starting job when Milliner struggled early last season. 

Special Teams

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    Kicker: Nick Folk

    Punter: Ryan Quigley

    Long Snapper: Tanner Purdum 

    Barring something major, the Jets' special teams unit next year will look exactly the same as it did in 2013. 

    Nick Folk emerged as one of the game's most accurate and clutch kickers last season, and New York rewarded him with a long-term contract. 

    Ryan Quigley and Tanner Purdum were solid at their respective jobs, as well.