Throw a bunch of darts at the board, and see how many hit.
That's the thinking behind the volume approach in the NFL team-building process, and the draft in particular: Bring in several players at a position of need, with the hopes that one or more of those players will contribute in a meaningful way.
The New York Jets are not the first team to do it. The Seattle Seahawks drafted six defensive backs from Rounds 4-7 from 2010-2012; five of them played significant roles, four of them started multiple games and two of them made the Pro Bowl. The New England Patriots have done it at several positions in previous years, on the offensive line, at running back and wide receiver.
With the selection of four pass-catching threats—three at wide receiver and one tight end—the Jets have all but assured that quarterback Geno Smith will have at least one, and possibly more, new weapons at his disposal.
Let's take a look at each player, and then we'll get a feel for where the Jets depth chart currently stands at the skill positions.
Round 2, Pick No. 44: Jace Amaro (TE, Texas Tech)
Amaro may be the key to this draft for the Jets. The 6'5", 265-pound tight end is truly more of a wide receiver than an in-line tight end. He spent the majority of his time lining up in the slot and sometimes on the boundary. Coaches will like him as a matchup weapon; he is too big to be covered by most defensive backs and too quick and sharp of a route-runner to be covered by most linebackers.
He may not be a skilled blocker yet, but the Jets can get a lot out of Amaro if they use him the right way. He has rare quickness for a man his size, which is why he was often lined up in the slot to give him an opportunity to quickly get into his route and get open over the middle.
When a man that size gets moving across the field at full speed, he can be hard to bring down, even for linebackers.
He knows how to use his size both to get open and to create extra yards after contact, and did both on the above play against Arizona State. He positioned himself with leverage on the defensive back, after breaking toward the sideline. That allowed him to make the catch away from his frame in a tight window.
A good Jets comparison is Dustin Keller, although Amaro is three inches taller and roughly 10 pounds heavier than his predecessor. Keller left the Jets as a free agent last offseason, and their stopgap Kellen Winslow has not yet been (and is not likely to be) re-signed.
The Jets could go with two-tight end sets that feature Amaro in the slot as a move tight end, and Jeff Cumberland as a "Y" (in-line) tight end, but the two could be competing for the same spot in the long term.
Round 4, Pick No. 104: Jalen Saunders (WR, Oklahoma)
The Jets already have two undersized receivers on their roster in Jacoby Ford and Jeremy Kerley, both measuring at 5'9" and around 190 pounds. In that respect, the 5'9", 165-pound Jalen Saunders may seem like a redundant addition to the offense. From this perspective, there are two main takeaways from this selection:
- The Jets may be adding insurance to their depth chart. Not only did Kerley miss four games due to an arm injury in 2013, but he also is entering the final year of his contract.
- Santonio Holmes was unhealthy and unproductive for the Jets over the past couple seasons, so the Jets may simply be trying to get back the production they lost from hims several years ago.
Saunders is not likely to ever develop into a boundary receiver unless he goes to the gym and never leaves, but the Jets can find ways to get him open.
He will be effective on bubble screens, and "laser/now" screens will be a good way to get the ball in his hands and let him put his speed and elusiveness to use (4.44-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine).
With such a slight frame, Saunders' ceiling may be as a utility player who plays in specific situations. If the Jets can find ways to get the ball in his hands, defenses may have to account for him as a threat to make big plays.
Round 4, Pick No. 115: Shaquelle Evans (WR, UCLA)
Where Saunders could be seen as purely a backup and insurance policy to Kerley, Shaq Evans could be seen as an immediate threat to start in the Jets offense. Eric Decker has one starting spot sewn up, and Kerley is the team's primary slot receiver, so Evans will probably compete with David Nelson for the other starting spot on the boundary.
The 6'1", 213-pound receiver does not have ideal traits for an X receiver. He ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, and tied for the fastest 10-yard split (1.47 seconds), but scouting reports from both CBS Sports's Dane Brugler and NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki knock his long speed and acceleration.
What he lacks in ability to create separation, he makes up for with toughness to make catches in traffic and sure hands to pluck the ball away from his frame.
With a number of small receivers in the offense, the Jets realize they need someone who can make catches when there are defenders all around them. Along with Amaro, Evans brings that dynamic to the table.
Round 6, Pick No. 209: Quincy Enunwa (WR, Nebraska)
Aside from the undersized Saunders, the Jets made a theme of drafting big pass-catchers. The Jets made the 6'2", 225-pound Quincy Enunwa one of their sixth-round picks, in a continued effort to add size to their offense.
Not only does Enunwa have size, but his experience in Nebraska's West Coast offense will help him make the transition to Marty Mornhinweg's with the Jets—if nothing else, he'll have a head start on the terminology.
If Enunwa can round out his game by running more precise routes and working on his concentration, he has the traits to develop into a solid pro. His work ethic should be no problem, as he earned the respect of his teammates at Nebraska and was voted a team captain.
Resetting the Pass-Catching Core
Here's my take on the Jets depth charts at tight end and wide receiver.
|Position||X receiver||Z receiver||Y (in-line) tight end||F (move/Joker) tight end|
|1||Eric Decker||Jeremy Kerley||Jeff Cumberland||Jace Amaro|
|2||David Nelson||Jacoby Ford||Chris Pantale||Zach Sudfeld|
|3||Stephen Hill||Jalen Saunders||Colin Anderson|
|4||Shaquelle Evans||Saalim Hakim||Terrence Miller|
|5||Greg Salas||Clyde Gates|
They could probably use one more in-line tight end for depth purposes, but other than that, there are plenty of bodies at each position. That's the meaning of the volume approach—give yourselves as many opportunities as possible to get it right.
We won't truly know whether the Jets have improved until these players take the field for practice, but on paper, both positions are much stronger than last season.
They carry over Kerley, Nelson and Cumberland and add Decker, Ford, Saunders, Evans, Enunwa and Amaro, ensuring that their offense will be loaded with talent for 2014.
Of course, it all ultimately falls on Geno; without significant progress from him, it won't matter whether these new pass-catchers are All-Stars or total busts.
Scouting combine information provided by NFL.com.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots correspondent for Boston.com.