We have reached the month of June, which means this is the final leg of organized NFL activity before training camp.
The New York Jets will finish their OTAs this week and mandatory minicamp June 14-16 before saying sayonara for a month-and-a-half break. Although we take no such break here at Heavy, our two experts: Paul “Boy Green” Esden Jr. and Michael Obermuller are ready to answer the hottest questions on Gang Green.
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Projecting Future Starters, Who Won’t Make the Cut
1. Project a surprise starter who isn’t currently pegged as one who could shock everybody come Week 1?
The Week 1 part makes this question tough because I do think some current starters will be overtaken midseason. Does Bryce Hall count? Joking. But he’s currently starting over receiver Sauce Gardner, and that will likely change before the preseason, based on early reports.
A more legitimate answer could be tight end Tyler Conklin. Tight end C.J. Uzomah is dealing with a minor injury and Conklin appears to have more of the early chemistry with quarterback Zach Wilson on the field. Conklin, who will be 27 when the season starts, is also two and a half years younger than Uzomah.
Don’t get me wrong: They project as a 1A and 1B type of depth chart either way, but Conklin could surprise some people and overtake Uzomah.
It happens every year, when we think we know what is going on, and then – boom – a player we had written off surprises. A good example from last year was tackle George Fant. Most of us marked him for dead after the team signed Morgan Moses and had Mekhi Becton. Yet, lo and behold, he was the one starting from Day 1, not Moses.
You could go with one of those 1A versus 1B battles, there are a few of them on the roster, like at running back with Breece Hall and Michael Carter, but I’ll go a bit obtuse.
I’ll say Becton shocks everyone and is the opening day starter at left tackle. He has been everyone’s punching bag this offseason, and most have written him off as either the starting right tackle or someone destined to get injured again.
I’ll just have blind faith that with his talent and a chip on the shoulder, everything is going to work out.
2. On the other side of the coin, who is someone currently a projected starter who’ll actually be on the bench?
I’m not sure who the Jets consider their current starters on the defensive line at this very moment, but if tackle Sheldon Rankins is included in the front four, that’s my answer.
The former first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints looked washed up in 2021, and he was a liability in the run game. If you want to sub him in to rush the quarterback on clear passing sets, that’s fine by me, but I can’t have him in there on first down.
Whether that means general manager Joe Douglas signs a run-stuffing defensive tackle or John Franklin-Myers starts on the inside with Jermaine Johnson or Vinny Curry on the outside makes no difference, it just cannot be Rankins.
Wow, Michael is bringing the spice this morning. Good lord!
It has to be safety Lamarcus Joyner right? I know I’ve felt like the poster boy for Joyner hate this offseason. It isn’t a position I craved, but someone had to step up to the plate.
When the Jets re-signed him in March, I was fine with the move. I thought Joyner would be a cog in the machine, not the cog in the machine. It seems he is the penciled-in starter at the other safety spot next to Jordan Whitehead.
I feel like Mugatu (played by Will Ferrell) in “Zoolander”: “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”
This is a 31-year-old who will turn 32 during the 2022 season, a veteran who played all of six snaps last season. On top of his injury, he literally hasn’t played safety since his days with the Los Angeles Rams, back in 2018.
Joyner seems like quite a reach for a team with big-time safety issues. Maybe he surprises and ends up being uber-solid, but I certainly have my reservations, and I expect someone – anyone else – to step up and steal his job ahead of Week 1.
Time to Dive Head Deep Into Fantasy
3. Is there anyone on the New York Jets’ roster whom you’re so confident in that you’d draft them for your fantasy football team?
Can’t say I was expecting a fantasy football question, but I like it. Call me crazy, but I think Wilson could be a buy-low sleeper at quarterback. He has a ton of playmakers at his disposal with a strong offensive line and run game, so why not?
A safer pick might be either of the Jets’ running backs. Rookie Breece Hall will cost a higher draft pick and most likely outscore Michael Carter long-term, but the latter could provide sneaky value in point-per-reception (PPR) leagues.
I’ll even give you one individual defensive player for the road: linebacker Quincy Williams. That man eats up tackles and is used more commonly than C.J. Mosley as a blitzer. He’s also younger (26 when the season starts, compared with Mosley, who will be 30 when the season starts) and on the rise. Williams will likely cost you no more than a late-round pick, and he could be a steal on the defensive side.
I’m a massive fantasy football fan and, obviously, the Jets have not been very good over the last 11 years. That has made drafting any Jets players in fantasy quite difficult, but this is our year!
There are several players I have circled, but it is all about risk versus reward. Receiver Corey Davis is a really good bet to be the weapon defenses don’t plan for and then can’t get you.
I think everyone will be distracted by other things, and he’ll have a nice season. Also just for the sake of it, I’d love to randomly take any one of their tight ends because I haven’t been able to do that with any lick of confidence in far too long.
Hall at running back is a juicy candidate to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, so, as Michael said, it’ll cost a pretty penny. But there is a reason the Jets drafted him 36th overall. There is no doubt he’ll be very high on my board.
4. What is the No. 1 offseason storyline you’ll be paying attention to?
Generally speaking, I always love camp battles and the jostling that occurs over roster spots, so I’ll be on the lookout for any bigger names that could be on the hot seat.
I think the question begs for a more in-depth answer, though, so I’ll say Mekhi Becton’s return to action. Considering Douglas decided not to draft another offensive tackle in the early rounds, the former first-round pick is so important in 2022.
He’ll have nowhere to hide in training camp, going up against a group of explosive pass rushers led by Carl Lawson and John Franklin-Myers. It’s time to see which Becton we are getting in year three, the immovable stud or the lazy project.
Yeah, I’ll take the bait. Of course, it’s Wilson, the second-year quarterback.
He had a rough rookie season that ended with some inspired play. Although now we need to see a legitimate step forward, what does that mean? Like Chris Farley in “Tommy Boy”: “No idea!”
Wilson could put up good stats or he might pass the eye test. Regardless, it’s time to find out whether he is the guy or not, which became a lot easier with all the new toys on offense.
5. Who is an unproven player on this team whom you’re willing to bet your career on that they’ll be a success (whether with the Jets or another team)?
It’s only right that I say defensive end Jermaine Johnson because I’ve been touting him as a top-three edge rusher in the loaded 2022 draft class. He can do it all, and he got better and better every year, first at Georgia then at Florida State.
Run defender, check. Technical pass rusher, check. Explosive pass rusher, check. Solid teammate, check. Work ethic, double-check.
I want to highlight that last part. Johnson comes from “Last Chance U” and has been a self-improving ace since junior college. Long-term, I see the pass rusher becoming an every-down talent in the Jets’ rotational system. It may not show in Week 1, but I’m confident the Jets have finally found a solution at defensive end.
Going with a rookie, Michael? That’s bold.
I’m going to say, Quincy Williams. I know the analytical nerds are grabbing their torches and pitchforks to find out where I live, but I don’t care.
He may not be a perfect player, but I love his demeanor, and I think the flaws in his game are fixable. Obviously, the Jets believe in him with the lack of doing anything so far this offseason in terms of adding competition to the linebacker room, which is highly encouraging for his future.
He is such a hard hitter and he seemed to say all the right things this offseason in an interview with team reporter Ethan Greenberg. I highly recommend you check it out:
This is an easy player to root for. And being a brother in a big family, I understand what Williams has gone through. His younger brother Quinnen was more highly touted (going No. 3 overall in the 2019 draft) and the story throughout his young career is being recognized as the brother of someone versus being his own man.
All of that is going to change in 2022, and I’m pushing all of the chips into the middle of the table on him!