5 Undrafted New York Jets Players Who Could Prove to Be Gems
Making it in the NFL as an undrafted free agent is an extraordinarily difficult way to make a living.
Doing it as a member of the New York Jets is even more difficult.
The Jets are going to have a hard enough time fitting in their entire 12-man draft class, never mind keeping a few extra players from the post-draft window. As much as teams publicly insist that they will "keep the best 53" players, draft position and politics are unavoidable realities of the NFL.
Here are some of the most impressive undrafted free agents on the Jets who could turn out to be great finds.
Kerry Hyder, DL
After starting off OTAs working with the second team (and looking the part, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post), Hyder has continued to make plays in minicamp sessions.
According to Rich Cimini of ESPN, Hyder was one of the few bright spots of an otherwise sloppy practice, as he notched both a sack and an interception against quarterback Matt Simms.
Given the immense amount of talent the Jets had stacked along the defensive line before they even brought in Hyder, finding a spot on the final 53-man roster is going to be nearly impossible for the rookie, no matter how well he plays. The Jets will be looking to keep extra players at need positions like receiver and cornerback, not strong areas like the defensive line.
At worst, Hyder has emerged as one of the favorites to secure a practice-squad spot. If he plays this well in the preseason, however, he could generate some interest from other teams with more room in their defensive-line rotation.
Terrence Miller, TE
Terrence Miller has not built a reputation on incredible production from his days at the University of Arizona, but the best is yet to come for the receiver/tight end hybrid.
Miller played receiver in college, but the Jets quickly moved him to tight end, and for good reason. His 6'4", 234-pound frame gives him the build of a "joker" tight end who can be moved all over the formation.
When Miller is on the field, defenses have a difficult time deciding how to match up with his size. Deciding whether or not to use a cornerback, linebacker or safety to cover Miller can throw a wrench into the opposing defense's scheme and game plan.
Miller's success will directly depend on whether or not he can get over his issues with drops. While he is capable of making spectacular catches from time to time, lapses in concentration held him back from having the senior season at Arizona that many expected from him.
Perhaps a new environment and a new position with the Jets will help him overcome this inconsistency in focus and maximize his potential as a tight end.
Zach Thompson, OLB
It would be easy to say that Wake Forest product Zach Thompson found his way to the Jets because of his connection with general manager John Idzik's son, who plays at Wake Forest. However, Thompson is an intriguing prospect in his own right.
Thompson is always around the football and has a great natural feel for the game, as evidenced by his 153 tackles in college. He also has underrated athleticism, posting a 4.79-second 40-yard dash at the combine, per CBS Sports.
The biggest issue for Thompson is that he is a classic "tweener." A defensive end in college, Thompson's 6'4", 271-pound frame will force him to make the transition to outside linebacker in the NFL.
Unfortunately for Thompson, he will have to beat out two late-round outside linebacker prospects in Ik Enemkpali and Trevor Reilly for a spot on the team. If he learns his new position quickly, he at least has a realistic chance of making the roster.
Brent Qvale, OT
Brent Qvale was a backup for nearly his entire career at Nebraska until he was forced to start at left tackle for a five-game stretch in his senior season (as a graduate student). He fared better than expected in his new role, and he served as a key part of one of the better rushing attacks in the country.
A player with experience as a part-time swing tackle in addition to his duties at left tackle, Qvale's versatility could be what lands him a roster spot with New York.
Qvale also has a big frame with which to work. At 6'7", 315 pounds, Qvale isn't quite athletic enough for his size to play tackle, but he has chance to be a swing tackle or depth lineman for the Jets, just as he was with the Cornhuskers.
There is a good amount of competition ahead of him for a backup role, including fourth-round pick Dakota Dozier, but his intriguing combination of size and smarts—he was three-time academic All-Big Ten—make him a player to watch in training camp.
Chad Young, FB
Of all of the undrafted free agents on the Jets, San Diego State fullback Chad Young is in the best position to not only make the 53-man roster but to be a regular starter in the Jets offense.
Young stands out with his combination of brute strength and versatility. While he was not invited to the combine, he outperformed all other backs with 34 reps on the bench press at his pro day, reinforcing the elite upside he has as a road-grading blocker.
Young is not just a big, heavy blocker in the mold of John "The Terminator" Conner. His 22 carries for 115 yards and his 15 receptions for 70 yards in 2013 showed that he can contribute in a variety of ways. A former walk-on at San Diego State, Young is no stranger to having to beat incredible odds to earn his living.
There is only one route for Young to make the team: to beat out the incumbent Tommy Bohanon for the one and only fullback job. Bohanon was a serviceable player last year as the team's only fullback, but the Jets would have no problem making a change if they believe Young would provide an upgrade.