Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

New York Jets’ Wide Receivers: Projected Depth Chart

After acquiring three wide receivers in the NFL Draft, the New York Jets’ receiving core is now loaded with potential and mediocre talent. However, with so many receivers on the roster determining the depth chart is a huge challenge for the coaches.

After releasing Santonio Holmes, the only incumbent wide outs from last season are Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, David Nelson, Clyde Gates, Greg Salas, Michael Campbell, and Hakim Saalim. The Jets have also acquired Eric Decker and Jacoby Ford in free agency, along with Jalen Saunders, Shaquelle Evans, and Quincy Enunwa through the NFL Draft.

This leaves the Jets’ with 12 wide receivers on the roster, although it is highly unlikely that all of them will make the roster. For the ones that do make the roster, they will compete for several positions on the depth chart that are up for grabs. Although in the end it will be Rex Ryan’s decision, here are EWB’s predictions for the wide receiver depth chart in 2014.

Wide Receiver #1: Eric Decker

After splurging in free agency to sign the best available receiver, it is impossible to imagine anyone on the roster passing Decker on the depth chart. Eric Decker has proven that he is extremely talented in his time at Denver, racking up 216 receptions for 2,964 yards and 32 touchdowns in the past three seasons (one of which he had Kyle Orton/Tim Tebow as his quarterback). If Decker can make Tim Tebow look like a playoff-caliber quarterback, he can definitely help Geno Smith.

Wide Receiver #2: Shaquelle Evans

This may raise a lot of questions, but it certainly makes sense. Shaq Evans, a 4th round draft pick this year, has all the attributes required to be a successful wide receiver. Evans has phenomenal route running, allowing him to get open fairly easily. Also, Shaq can manage to make exceptional catches in traffic, fighting for the ball and beating out defenders.

His main opponent will be Stephen Hill, who has struggled on the field in his short career with the Jets. Despite his blazing speed, Hill has trouble catching the football and the drop-prone receiver has caused frustration for the Jets. Rex Ryan is very high on Shaquelle Evans, so it is very possible that Evans surpasses Hill on the depth chart.

Slot Receiver: Jeremy Kerley

Kerley has led the New York Jets in both receptions and receiving yards for the past two years, and he has established himself as an integral part of the Jets offense. Kerley’s size makes it difficult for him to play wide receiver on the outside, so playing from the slot is perfect for him.

The only real competition to his job is rookie Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma wide receiver drafted in the 4th round. However, Kerley has better hands, route running, and more experience than Saunders, and Kerley is also the overall better receiver. Fans should still expect Kerley to be highly productive in 2014 despite the acquisitions of new receivers.

Backup Wide Receiver #1: Stephen Hill

Since drafting Stephen Hill in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft instead of Alston Jeffrey, the Jets have had to suffer the repercussions of their decision. In 2013, Hill was unable to play in 4 games due to injury, and in those games he was only able to catch 40% of passes thrown his way.

However, Stephen Hill is still young, and his athleticism and potential is enough to ensure him decent playing time. Although Shaq Evans may have beat out Hill for the starting job, it may change throughout the season. Despite Stephen Hill being listed as a backup, he should still have the opportunity to make plays and prove himself.

Backup Wide Receiver #2: David Nelson

In 2013, David Nelson made his first appearance for the Jets 4 games into the season. From that point on, he accumulated 36 receptions for 423 yards and 2 touchdowns, an exceptional season for being just the 4th receiver on the depth chart.

Nelson should maintain his roster spot, and his experience and recent success should earn him a place as a backup wide receiver. Although newly signed Jacoby Ford will compete with Nelson for this spot, David Nelson’s experience and familiarity with the system along with his talent will be enough to beat out Ford.

Backup Slot Receiver: Jalen Saunders

After drafting Saunders in the 4th Round, the Jets have had big plans for Saunders. However, the majority of these plans revolve around him as a returned instead of a wide receiver. Saunders is fast, agile, and a great run blocker, although his lack of consistency catching the football and his extremely small frame (5’9″, 164 pounds) may prevent him from being beneficial as a receiver.

However, Saunders talent and potential combined with his speed will be enough to ensure him a spot on the depth chart as a backup slot receiver. The only competitors to his job are Greg Salas and Saalim Hakim, although Saunders sound have no problem beating out both of these incumbent wide receivers.

Other Wide Receivers that will make roster: Jacoby Ford

Although Ford may not have a set role on the depth chart, he will still be a presence on the field for the Jets. Whether Ford comes in as a returned or a receiver when needed, Ford’s speed and experience will be enough to secure him a roster spot.

Practice Squad: Quincy Enunwa

Despite Enunwa’s unique combination of size and speed, he still lacks the necessary tools needed to succeed as a wide receiver at the professional level. In his 4-year career at Nebraska, Enunwa would constantly drop easy passes, and when being heavily contested he would rarely be able to bring in the catch. Also, at Nebraska Enunwa learned a limited route tree, and even with that he still struggled in making crisp routes.

On the other hand, the Jets would not have drafted Enunwa if they did not see potential in him. By placing him on the practice squad, he will have a chance to develop as a wide receiver without having to occupy a roster spot.

Wide Receivers who will be cut: Greg Salas, Clyde Gates, Hakim Saalim

The biggest surprise here is Gates, although when one compares his production on the field to everyone else on the roster, it is understandable. Gates’ career has declined in recent years, and after drafting three wide receivers it is very unlikely that any of these players make the 53-man roster.




Tags: New York Jets

  • Raymond Harris jr

    Thank u someone who agrees with me Evans reminds me of Boldin I would love him to start. The only thing that hurts him now is he has classes to finish at UCLA. But I don’t c any problem beating out Hill.

  • Post Corner

    Go look at the drop ratings of Decker and DT in 2011 (Tebow) and 2012 (Peyton). Both years, Decker and DT had a massive amount of drops. Decker took an easy TD and stepped out of bounds for Tebow. Decker couldn’t get separation when locked up with a true corner. Why do you think Tebow started throwing to DT so much towards the end of the season? Because Decker couldn’t get open, even in scramble drill. Decker didn’t make anyone look good, especially Tebow. In 22 personnel (1&2 WR sets), which was the grouping Den threw out of in quarters 1-3, Decker was piss poor. The Jets will find this out soon.

    • Isidor Babejic

      oh man how come rex and his whole squad did not notice that before signing him, are they blind? :(

      • Isidor Babejic

        Decker wil go for 750-800 yards in his first year for the New York Jets together with another guy reaching the 600 mark which will put us in a good position for that 9-7 record … because of the tight schedule the team might end up at 7-9 but bottom line new york jeta going to make the world reframe them cause times have changed and this team is finally well-conducted

  • AC

    I won’t even comment on the ridiculous Decker bashing below, but anyway, I would be surprised if Hill is the #2 wideout. Even if he is, he won’t get many balls thrown his way. Nelson will probably fill that role unless one of the rookies is obviously better, which I don’t know. I think the 3 guys you said will be cut are definitely off the roster, and probably at least one more. Most likely one of the rookies. Possibly Stephen Hill if he manages to hurt his hammy or something in camp. Honestly he isn’t worth much to the Jets now, he is a product of the end of the Tannenbaum era they want to forget. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hill gets cut at all to tell you the truth. He pretty much single handedly lost a game to the Pats in 2012. All he had to do was catch a ball that was right in his hands, perfectly thrown. Well, we all know how that turned out.

    • RONBO19

      AC, While i agree with you about Decker’s ability there is some truth to what post corner is saying. Yes there were times Decker struggled to get free but that can be said about most taller WR’s. The other issue is what type of coverage and pressure the opponent was applying. In the super bowl Decker struggled early because Seattle was rushing Payton so hard he had no time to scan the field. I actually had this same conversation with a guy on the Jets team blog. The reason people were screaming for the jets to bring in a quote unquote #1 receiver is to clear the safety’s out of the box to free up the other receivers and of course to prevent defenses from stacking the box. The jets will need to find some body to take the top off the defense to maximize Decker’s abilities but he will have a very good season no matter what.Decker is a legit NFL WR!

      • AC

        I don’t doubt that there is some truth to it, but compared to anybody we had last year, he is a big upgrade. And I don’t think he drops a lot of balls either. In fact I think he has dropped very few. I like our chances with a big physical receiver as long as Geno has the instinct to throw it up there when he knows Decker can make a play at the ball. No Jet receivers “fought” for the ball so to speak last year except for Kerley and and David Nelson to some extent. Oh and projects Vick will be the Jets starter anyway so I guess we have nothing to worry about since he will just run for 35 TDs whenever a team goes into man coverage Madden 2005 on PS2 style :).

        • RONBO19

          Like I said, he will be fine.Probably wont put up the numbers he put up in Denver but he will be a major upgrade over anybody we have had here probably since Al Toone.