The New York Jets undrafted free agent class has flown under the radar — partly because the roster looks stronger than ever.
Having said that, a few players could surprise fans during training camp, and wide receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. is near the top of the list.
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Jackson Sends a Message
After earning a roster spot during rookie camp, Jackson drew the attention of fans. The JUCO product was actually a teammate of first-round pick Jermaine Johnson II at Independence Community College, which was the subject of the Netflix documentary series “Last Chance U.”
That background alone set the stage for Jackson in August, but his 987 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last year added some fuel to the fire. Speaking of adding fuel, Jackson voiced a message to fans on July 16, a few days before rookies are set to report to Florham Park.
“Crazy thing is no one has really seen what I’m capable of,” he tweeted. “In due time.”
It’s the type of motivated attitude that you want in an undrafted prospect. Most UDFAs go into the NFL hoping to prove the world wrong but few actually do it.
The Jets have a history of undrafted prospects contributing. Most recently, cornerback Isaiah Dunn and tight end Kenny Yeboah appeared in games but edge rusher Bryce Huff and cornerback Javelin Guidry have become reliable pieces under Joe Douglas’ tenure as general manager. Wide receiver Robby Anderson also impressed as a former NYJ UDFA from 2016 through 2019.
Is it possible that Jackson is the next undrafted prospect to make it in New York?
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Road to the Roster
There’s no easy road to the Jets roster in 2022. More than in years past, players will have to earn the honor to don the green and white and Jackson is among the challengers.
At wide receiver, you can pretty much guarantee four roster locks, barring injury. Those playmakers are Garrett Wilson, Elijah Moore, Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios.
Beyond that, most figure that one or two spots will be up for grabs. The current leader is reportedly Jeff Smith, after a dominant OTAs and minicamp. Of course, Denzel Mims is the big name that’s in the mix here as well, just two years removed from his second-round draft status.
You could also throw a couple of pass-catching tight ends like Yeboah and Lawrence Cager into this conversation. As coaches try to determine the final few roster spots, positions tend to overlap and that’s where special teams come into play.
If Jackson can prove that he’s worth keeping around — whether on offense, special teams, or both — the coaching staff may choose to invest in a younger asset with more room to grow.
That type of decision won’t come easy though. It would likely mean that Douglas and the coaching staff officially move on from Mims, who could end up being a trade candidate this summer.