5 Dark-Horse Candidates to Make New York Jets' Final 53-Man Roster
There is no doubt that a player's pedigree and former draft status play into the politics of crafting a 53-man roster, but any team's ultimate goal is to field the roster with the best possible group of players. After all, such menial details like a player's former draft status will be long forgotten when the results come in on Sunday afternoons.
If the New York Jets are truly in the business of winning this year, they should not rule out a single player from having a chance to make the roster, regardless of if or when he was drafted. Many of these players will be easy to overlook, but if they play up to their potential in training camp, they could make a strong case to beat the odds and earn an NFL paycheck this year.
Here are some dark-horse candidates to make the Jets' final 53-man roster this year.
Of all of the undrafted free agents on the Jets this year, none is in a better position to not only make the team but also earn a starting role than fullback Chad Young.
Young will compete directly with the incumbent Tommy Bohanon for the one and only starting fullback job. Bohanon did a solid, yet unspectacular job as the team's fullback last season. While the Jets may not be actively looking to upgrade at fullback, they wouldn't turn down a chance to if it came along.
Meanwhile, what Young lacks in NFL experience he makes up for with his strength and versatility. He was not invited to the combine, but he out-benched all of the running backs who attended the event at his pro day.
He is also much more than a road-grading blocker. Young totaled 115 yards on 22 carries on top of his 15 receptions for 70 yards for the San Diego State Aztecs last season.
Young's path to the Jets roster is not easy, but it is well-defined. The former walk-on-turned-captain knows a thing or two about beating long odds to earn his role on a team.
Based on his performance in spring practices alone, Kerry Hyder would be an early favorite to steal one of the final roster spots.
However, the fact that he is trying to be a member of one of the deepest and most talented defensive lines in football puts him at great odds of making the team. If the Jets are going to carry extra players at a position, the defensive line is the last spot where they would look to bolster depth.
Assuming he can keep up his practice quality through training camp, Hyder will be at the mercy of the Jets' overall philosophy in how they will round out their roster. Hyder may be one of the best undrafted players, but the Jets will certainly like to keep as many of their 12 drafted players as possible, especially those who can help at needy positions such as wide receiver.
However, since getting a second chance in New York, Cunningham has been back on the rise. He impressed coaches enough last year to slowly climb the depth chart to earn playing time in the final two games.
Cunningham's momentum has carried over into the spring, where he was one of the more impressive players in OTAs, earning a spot with the second-team defense, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post.
Also working in Cunningham's favor is the questionable availability of veteran linebacker Antwan Barnes, who is recovering from an ACL injury. With the possibility of Barnes being unavailable for training camp, per Dom Cosentino of NJ.com, the Jets may have no choice but to keep Cunningham on the roster.
It may seem odd that a young safety would have a chance to make the final roster after the team used a first-round pick on safety prospect Calvin Pryor in May, but the Jets' actions indicate that they have a high interest in keeping Rontez Miles around as long as possible.
Miles landed a spot on the practice squad last year but was immediately promoted to the active roster in the wake of Kellen Winslow's four-game suspension.
The fact that the Jets chose to promote a defensive player to replace an offensive player (especially given the state of the Jets offense) goes to show how eager they were to give Miles a spot on the team.
The addition of Pryor does complicate the path for Miles to make the roster full time this year, but he does offer a bit more value than veteran Dawan Landry as a special teamer. If the Jets deem Landry expendable, replacing him with the younger Miles could be a viable option.
The Jets rescued Greg Salas from the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad last year to simply add depth to a thinning receiving corps, but he turned out to be a surprisingly effective player when he was involved in the offense.
Salas only had eight receptions on the season, but he averaged a whopping 17.9 yards per catch that included a long 44-yard dash. Salas was especially effective on screens and shorter passes, where his speed and elusive ability generated a ton of extra yards after the catch.
Salas does find himself in a tough position this offseason after the Jets drafted three receivers to compete for roster spots, but he has at least proved himself to be an effective player in select roles.
If Salas can take one more step in his development in his fourth season, he can make it very difficult for the Jets to part ways with him in favor of an unproven rookie to secure one of the final receiver spots.