UDFA Hidden Gems of 2020 Blazed a Clear Path for Several Young Jets in 2021

Isaiah Dunn Oregon State

Getty Oregon State defensive back Isaiah Dunn making a huge play on the ball.

The 2020 NFL season will end up being looked at as one of the most absurd in the history of football.

Back in March, the world came to a crashing halt due to the COVID world pandemic. This one-in-a-lifetime disease forced everyone, including the football world, to adapt to an ever-changing situation.

This forced the NFL to completely change its’ normal offseason to something, unlike anything we’ve ever seen. No voluntary OTAs, no mandatory minicamp, and the training camp that teams ended up hosting was simply a shell of what they normally do.

Although the biggest missing piece of the puzzle was the complete disappearance of the annual preseason. These drastic changes didn’t affect everyone the same.

Some of the games’ brightest stars simply got to spend more time with family while others like late-round draft picks and undrafted free agents saw their chances of making an NFL roster significantly diminish.

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2020 Class Deserves All the Credit in the World

Making an NFL roster as a late-day-three pick (rounds four through seven) or as an undrafted free agent in a normal year is incredibly difficult. During a COVID pandemic? Nearly impossible.

Without any of the normal amenities and limited practice time to impress, players had fewer opportunities than normal to show their talent and skills.

Yet despite those trials and tribulations several undrafted free agents broke through the crappy circumstances and made the impossible — possible with the New York Jets in 2020.

If each of these players were able to carve out a roster spot on the Jets during unfavorable circumstances, just imagine what the 2021 batch of UDFAs will be able to do with even more opportunities.

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

We can’t say it enough, the 2020 undrafted free agency class deserves a huge round of applause for what they were able to accomplish.

So as we head into the heart of the 2021 offseason with training camp and the preseason on the horizon, the path should be even easier for this upcoming batch of UDFAs.

Here are the 12 players on the Jets 90-man roster that are vying to make history:

  • Isaiah Dunn, defensive back, Oregon State
  • Michael Dwumfour, defensive line, Rutgers
  • Camilo Eifler, linebacker, Illinois
  • Grant Hermanns, offensive lineman, Purdue
  • Tristen Hoge, offensive lineman, BYU
  • Chris Naggar, kicker, SMU
  • Jordyn Peters, defensive back, Auburn
  • Hamilcar Rashed Jr, EDGE rusher, Orgeon State
  • Teton Saltes, offensive lineman, New Mexico
  • Brendon White, linebacker, Rutgers
  • Kenny Yeboah, tight end, Ole Miss
  • Parker Ferguson, offensive lineman, Air Force (currently on the reserve/injured list)

What each of these players will have is something none of the 2020 class had:

  • Multiple padded practices to show their chutzpah to the coaching staff throughout training camp.
  • Three preseason games (a recent change with the NFL’s expansion to a 17 game schedule). There’s nothing that can recreate live bullets on the gridiron. This is as close to a real game as you can get and it’s normally a turning point for these players. When the lights shine brightest, some players crumple into the fetal position while others rise to the occasion and become stars.

There are several players in this group that have a very good chance to break through and make the final 53.

Dunn has been one of the stars of the offseason and was recently called “one of the better corners on the roster, regardless of status” in a text to me. Not only could he get a roster spot, but he could be the surprise of the offseason and steal a starting gig.

You can never count out a kicker. Sam Ficken has been ‘ficken’ terrible since joining the team. That opens the door for Naggar to potentially break through. He hasn’t lit up camp to this point, but his level of competition opens the door.

One more player that is worth highlighting is Yeboah at tight end. He’s dealing with a similar situation that Naggar is in, a lack of proven stars at the position. On top of the circumstances, the former Ole Miss product is super talented.

The Jets need to hit on their early picks, but these late-round or undrafted free agent gems is what truly separates a good team from a great team. Gang Green found some intriguing pieces last year and the expectation is they’ve found a few more in 2021.

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