The New York Jets have a bevy of needs entering the pivotal 2018 offseason. Jet Fuel’s Adam Zielonka chronicled their most glaring weaknesses earlier this month.
My biggest disagreement with Adam’s assessment was where he ranked the wide receiver position on his list of needs. He listed receiver as seventh among his list of the team’s nine weakest spots. Now, I’m not trying to make my colleague and friend look bad by any means. But this sense of security at wide receiver seems to be one held by many Jets fans and it’s one I vehemently disagree with.
I’m not trying to say the Jets have a bad group at receiver. There’s plenty of decent pieces to build a passing game around. But what the Jets truly lack is a bonafide, No. 1 pass catcher who can draw serious attention from opponents.
This is what New York’s wide receiver corps looks like heading into free agency and the draft: Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, ArDarius Stewart, Chad Hansen, Charone Peake and Devin Smith. No, I didn’t forget Quincy Enunwa, but he’s a pending free agent this offseason.
I understand Robby Anderson is coming off a career season, during which he caught 63 passes for 941 yards and seven touchdowns. Kearse was a steady starter and led the team with 65 receptions after being acquired in the Sheldon Richardson trade.
Outside of those two, the Jets’ receiving depth chart is littered with unknowns. Stewart and Hansen combined to catch a whopping 15 passes last season. Smith’s Jets tenure might be over after an injury-plagued start to his career. Plus, Anderson could face discipline from the NFL after being arrested for the second time in seven months over the weekend.
Enunwa is the biggest wild card, however. Not only is he a free agent, but he’s coming off of a neck injury. Obviously, we hope for the best regarding Enunwa’s health, but we can’t ignore the possibility of this becoming a recurring, if not career-ending ailment.
While Enunwa does have potential, how can some be so sure he’s a No. 1 receiver? Let’s keep in mind, he caught only 58 passes for 857 yards and four touchdowns during his breakout 2016 season. Enunwa enters 2018 with plenty of uncertainty.
Now, what exactly can the Jets do to address the position this offseason? Unfortunately, the free agent class isn’t much to brag about. The free agent crop includes Jarvis Landry, Terrelle Pryor, Mike Wallace, Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins, Taylor Gabriel, Josh Gordon, Paul Richardson and Marqise Lee. Among that group, only Robinson, Landry, Wallace and Watkins have played like star wide receivers at some point in their career.
Among that group, Robinson is the most appealing to me. Plenty of players have come back strong from serious knee injuries like the one he suffered in Week 1. Robinson had a 1,400-yard, 14 touchdown season in 2015 with Blake Bortles throwing to him. The fifth-year pro could be in store for a career renaissance similar to the revival season DeAndre Hopkins experienced in Houston.
The 2018 draft class isn’t inspiring either. Calvin Ridley, Courtland Sutton and James Washington are the top three prospects entering the NFL Combine, but there’s no guarantee all three wideouts go in the first round. Ridley, the most heralded prospect, probably isn’t worth the No. 6 overall pick.
It’s also worth nothing that Mike Maccagnan’s record with drafting wide receivers is awful. Smith, Stewart, Hansen and Peake haven’t made any impact on the offense through their young careers.
The Jets would be wise to build up the weaponry for whoever is under center next season. Whether it’s Kirk Cousins or a rookie, they need a better supporting cast than what they currently have. As we’ve learned during the 2017 postseason, there are many paths to contention. The Jets might not need an elite quarterback, but a reputable threat on the outside will make life easier for the entire offense.