Who Will Win New York Jets' 2nd Wide Receiver Battle?

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IJuly 5, 2014

New York Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill reaches for a pass during NFL football practice in Florham Park, N.J., Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Mel Evans/Associated Press

With training camp right around the corner, the New York Jets are in an enviable position of having most starting jobs locked down by players. 

That means we probably won't be seeing many positional battles in New York's training camp that involve a starting role. 

Nonetheless, the No. 2 wide receiver position is one of the few jobs that is far from being sealed. After signing a couple receivers in free agency and drafting multiple wideouts in the draft, the team has several players, both veterans and youngsters, that have the potential to win the competition and emerge as the starter. 

So who will start opposite Eric Decker when Week 1 rolls around in a couple months? Let's take a look at each of the potential contenders and pick the most likely winner. 

Stephen Hill

Hill began the 2013 season as New York's No. 2 wideout, and he actually performed decently in the first quarter of the season. 

However, Hill's production fell off a cliff in the latter half of the year, and he eventually lost his job to veteran David Nelson. 

The 23-year-old has been a momentous disappointment for the Jets since the team drafted him in the second round of the 2012 draft. Despite possessing a rare combination of blazing speed and great size, Hill hasn't been able to have any kind of success at the NFL level.

Hill's problems mainly lie with his struggles with drops and route-running. If he can improve in these two areas, he has the potential to be an extremely dangerous weapon on the deep ball and in the red zone. 

Despite his immense physical talent, Hill's struggles have the Jets seriously considering letting him walk. According to ESPN New York's Rich Cimini, New York's patience with the Georgia Tech product is "wearing thin." 

Fortunately for both Hill and the Jets, though, the young wideout has seemingly improved himself physically and mentally this offseason, via Metro's Kristian Dyer (h/t CBS Sports). More importantly, he impressed the coaching staff with his performance during OTAs, per the New York Daily News' Seth Walder

Hill's age and great physical traits make him one of the favorites to win the No. 2 job. If he can put together an impressive training camp, he may win the job by a country mile.

However, it's just as likely that Hill disappoints once again and finds himself on the cutting block when the final roster is being chosen.   

David Nelson

Nelson is the opposite of Hill in nearly every way. While Hill has been a disappointment despite his terrific physical characteristics, Nelson has managed to mainly overachieve in spit of limited physical talent. 

Nelson possesses good size at 6'5", but his athleticism and speed are nothing to write home about. Nonetheless, Nelson still manages to get open and move the chains. 

In 12 games last year, the 27-year-old put up very respectable numbers, as he finished with 36 catches, 423 yards and two touchdowns. 

NFL Production for Each Jets' WR
Stephen Hill2 years455943
David Nelson4 years1301,46510
Jacoby Ford4 years578483
Jalen Saunders0 years000
Shaq Evans0 years000

Despite solid production a season ago and good knowledge of the playbook, Nelson still needs a very impressive training camp to warrant the No. 2 job, as he simply lacks the explosiveness of the young wideouts also competing for the starting spot. 

The Florida product has to hope the rookies, and Hill, fail to develop considerably in training camp, or else he could see himself on the outside looking in by the time the season commences.   

Jacoby Ford

Offseason signee Ford offers one thing that few others can match—truly blazing speed. 

Ford is one of the fastest players in the NFL, as he ran an amazing 4.28 official 40 time at the combine a few years ago. 

However, Ford has been unable to translate his quickness into production so far in his career. He has less than 850 receiving yards combined in his first four years in the league. 

Granted, injuries have cost the former fourth-round pick a lot of playing time over the course of his professional career, so a breakout season isn't completely out of the picture if he can manage to stay healthy for 16 games. 

The 26-year-old probably lacks the size and route-running ability to emerge as the team's No. 2 receiver in training camp, though. He can't really be considered anything other than a sleeper to win the prized job. 

Nonetheless, Ford should contribute heavily in the team's return game, as his lightning speed and elusiveness make him a dangerous returner. 

Jalen Saunders

Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

Saunders was the first of two receivers taken by the Jets in the fourth round of this offseason's draft, but he's the least likely of the pair of rookies to win the No. 2 job in training camp. 

Saunders boasts terrific speed and elusiveness, and his work ethic and toughness cannot be questioned. However, at just 5'9", he lacks the size to deal with cornerbacks on the outside. 

Therefore, the Oklahoma product is probably best reserved for the slot. With Jeremy Kerley due to hit free agency after this season, he might be the team's future at that position. 

For this season, though, Saunders will likely see limited playing time. 

Shaq Evans

Evans, the second of the two aforementioned rookie wideouts taken in the fourth round, is a serious dark horse to claim the No. 2 job opposite free-agent signing Eric Decker. 

Evans boasts great size and strength, and his hands are nothing to scoff at. However, the UCLA product lack explosiveness and speed, limiting him to more of a possession receiver role as opposed to a dangerous deep threat. 

If the 23-year-old can learn the playbook quickly and impress the coaching staff in training camp, he could see serious consideration for the job when Week 1 rolls around. 

Nonetheless, Evans is an inexperienced rookie, so it's still difficult to see New York entrusting him with such a major role so early on in his young career. 

And the Winner Is...

Probably Stephen Hill. His combination of size and explosiveness set him apart from the rest of the competition, as each of the other competitors lacks one of those traits. Nelson and Evans don't have the speed, and Ford and Saunders the size.

Unless Hill shows no signs of improvement in training camp, he should be able to lock up the job. He has all the talent in the world, with only himself preventing it from turning into production.

If Hill does indeed falter, though, veteran David Nelson should get a chance at the starting role for the second straight season, as his toughness and experience are unquestionable.  


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