The Professor’s 2021 NFL Preview: AFC East – New York Jets

TheProfessor_NFL preview-Jets

New York Jets

Team Projection

TeamPoints ForPoints AgainstGames FavoredPythagorean Expected Wins

The New York Jets have been as dysfunctional at the owner-GM-coach level as any team in the NFL over the past few years, which has been evident in their constant turnover at the non-owner roles in that chain. However, since he was hired, GM Joe Douglas has employed a consistent vision in rebuilding one of the league’s weaker rosters, and while there are new faces in critical roles as head coach Robert Saleh takes charge with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson at the helm, Douglas’s work thus far provides reason to hope that he will have built a strong roster by the time he’s used all of the draft capital he’s acquired.

Though the Jets did add edge defender Carl Lawson on a big free-agent contract, Douglas’s focus is clearly on rebuilding the offense first. After drafting left tackle Mekhi Becton and wide receiver Denzel Mims in the first two rounds last year, Douglas took Wilson with the 2nd pick, guard/tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker with the 14th pick, wide receiver Elijah Moore with the 34th pick, and to top it off, added running back Michael Carter with a pick at the top of the 4th round.

Douglas also added guard Dan Feeney from the Chargers last season. Like Alex Lewis and Greg Van Roten, two other Douglas signees, Feeney doesn’t move the needle for an offense, but he was solid enough for the offense to function in his most recent action. Vera-Tucker offers considerably more upside than the rest of that trio, but if he’s injured or slow to acclimate, the Jets will still be able to field a competent group. Center Connor McGovern, a free agent addition in 2020, is similarly steady. One question I have, given the report I hear that Vera-Tucker will play guard rather than tackle, is whether the plan is to let George Fant and Chuma Edoga compete for the right tackle spot. Regardless of who wins that competition, the Jets will be getting backup-level production, at least based on their past results.

Wilson won’t have any elite weapons to open up his career, but the group of Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, Elijah Moore, and Keelan Cole gives offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur a variety of body types with good overlap for inside/outside roles. There’s not a number one here, and tight ends Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin are only short-area targets in the passing game, but there’s enough talent to get Wilson started.

At running back, they’ll look for a breakout from the rookie Carter or second-year player La’Michal Perine, as the assumption should be that Tevin Coleman’s availability will be limited. There is less hope on defense. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley will look to return after a two-year absence, but there’s not much around him, and the fact that defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who progressed significantly in his second season, broke his foot during the offseason doesn’t bode well. New head coach Robert Saleh has come upon the defensive side, but while he’ll have some players to work with on the line with Carl Lawson, Williams (post-recovery), Sheldon Rankins, Folorunso Fatukasi, and John Franklin-Myers, there is little to nothing in terms of proven commodities behind them.

Marcus Maye is an exception, as he’s been a solid, if not spectacular player, but the Jets appear to be open for competition everywhere else. There’s no established starter at the corner or the second safety position, and given the focus, he put on other areas, Douglas only used a handful of late-round picks on secondary players. One or two of the five players he added may pop, but it’s unlikely that this Jets secondary has all the holes filled by the time the season starts. At linebacker, they added Jarrad Davis, a base-down inside linebacker who never lived up to his first-round status in Detroit, to play next to Mosley, but it’s hard to imagine Davis making a big impact, even if his style makes him fun to watch in his role.

While Douglas seems to be executing a solid plan, this roster still has a long way to go. Fortunately, that’s in line with the vision, as the Jets have extra draft capital in next year’s draft. As long as Douglas continues to stick to his plan, the roster should be ready for Wilson to win big in the latter years of his rookie deal, assuming the young quarterback pans out.

QB Passing Projections

Zach Wilson2017342543.60.636.93750.224.912.616.38

QB Rushing Projections

Zach Wilson201763.55.04320.13.714.829.816.38

Skill Projections, Rushing

Michael CarterRB8417183.03.42626.34.942.539.38.94
Ty JohnsonRB18717110.44.97548.62.125.716.83.96
La’Mical PerineRB2401755.03.83210.41.312.810.52.43
Tevin ColemanRB2831718.33.4863.

Skill Projections, Receiving

Corey DavisWR781757.071.211.85844.
Michael CarterRB841775.238.57.99308.
Jamison CrowderWR991766.661.511.70719.
Denzel MimsWR1281750.749.114.33703.73.517.814.06.80
Elijah MooreWR1591770.544.810.62475.62.311.79.24.92
Chris HerndonTE2351767.417.611.36199.
La’Mical PerineRB2401769.611.75.6165.
Ryan GriffinTE2451767.121.28.23174.
Tevin ColemanRB2831773.013.56.9092.
Keelan Cole Sr.WR2861759.012.812.94166.
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Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.