The 2019 New York Jets rookie draft class had one massive failure, but the rest of the bunch showed serious upside throughout the season.
The 2019 campaign wasn’t a horrific season for the New York Jets, but not a great one, either. The team finished 7-9 and missed out on the playoffs for the ninth consecutive year. They haven’t been back to the postseason since losing in the AFC Championship Game in January of 2011. That drought will live on for at least one more year.
What fans could (and should) show excitement over is the performance from some of the team’s rookies. Former general manager Mike Maccagnan selected the following six individuals, with the majority of them showing promise throughout their inaugural seasons in the NFL.
Do these individuals still have work to do? Absolutely. But overall, most showed unique traits on the football field Let’s recap each Jets rookie and provide them their overall grade for the season.
DT Quinnen Williams, Alabama (1st round, No. 3 overall): B-
Heralded as the best player in the draft by some, there were some lofty expectations for the baby-faced Quinnen Williams out of the University of Alabama. Nonetheless, he didn’t exactly shoot out of a cannon in his first few games.
It’s difficult to truly judge a defensive tackle solely off of stats because their main job is to eat up blocks and open up space for pass rushers.
Williams did miss three straight weeks at the beginning of the season due to an ankle injury.
In 13 games, Williams tallied 28 combined tackles, four tackles-for-loss, six quarterback hits, 2.5 sacks, and one fumble recovery. He should have two recoveries, but the officials made a head-scratching decision to overturn Tarrell Basham’s strip-sack in Week 17 against the Bills.
As stated before, the stat sheet doesn’t tell the whole story. There were times where he looked overmatched by opposing offensive linemen and there were times where he could be seen pushing linemen back behind the line of scrimmage. With no legitimate edge rusher currently on the team, it allows teams to focus more attention on stopping Williams.
After receiving more experience in the league, there’s no question he can live up to his draft selection.
LB Jachai Polite, Florida (3rd round, No. 68 overall): F
Arguably one of the worst draft picks in recent memory, Jachai Polite was a high-risk, high-reward selection. Well, the reward was certainly not worth the risk. Polite had first-round talent but dropped in the draft due to character issues. He didn’t even make it on the 53-man roster, having been cut before the regular season.
Polite amassed over $100K in fines for tardiness and other team infractions. That, coupled with poor play during the preseason, led to his ultimate demise.
OT Chuma Edoga, USC (3rd round, No. 92 overall): C+
The offensive line this season was an adventure, and not in a good way. Five offensive linemen landed on injured reserve, including Chuma Edoga. In total, the Jets had nine different combinations on the offensive line through 16 games.
Edoga made his first start in his first game against the Eagles in Week 3. He would go on to start all eight games he appeared in before being placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. Of those eight games, Chuma started five at right tackle and three at left tackle.
Edoga showed some positive signs but struggled at times, which is expected of a rookie. Of the 421 snaps he plated, Edoga only committed one holding penalty, which is pretty impressive.
There were a few times where Edoga was beaten badly by edge rushers though. His history protecting Sam Darnold while the two were at USC should also bode well, especially if he’s tasked with protecting Darnold’s blindside in the future.
TE Trevon Wesco, West Virginia (4th round, No. 121 overall): B
Drafted as primarily a blocking tight end, Trevon Wesco did just that in the limited amount of snaps he played in each game. The revitalization of Ryan Griffin most likely took some snaps and targets away from Wesco as well.
Although he played in all 16 games, the rookie only totaled 214 offensive snaps. He also tallied two receptions for 47 yards. With Griffin and Chris Herndon healthy next season, Wesco will likely be used in heavy-run sets and goal-line formations.
LB Blake Cashman, Minnesota (5th round, No. 157 overall): B+
With all the injuries and suspensions that plagued the Jets all season, the linebacker corps was hit hardest. Players were asked to step up, and one of these individuals was Blake Cashman.
Cashman started in five of the seven games he played in following the injury to C.J. Mosley, providing a spark and energy on defense. Unfortunately, like many of his teammates, he couldn’t escape the injury bug. His season was cut short by a torn labrum and fractured shoulder. Cashman was placed on season-ending injured reserve after the team’s Week 8 loss to Jacksonville.
In those seven games, Cashman totaled 40 combined tackles, three tackles-for-loss, 0.5 sacks, and one fumble recovery. He also played in over 90% of all defensive snaps in four of his seven games. While healthy, Cashman gave the Jets the type of production they probably expected out of Polite, albeit at a different position.
Cashman combined for eight tackles in a game twice this season, but it could’ve easily been more. He has a nose for the football and, more often than not, was in the vicinity of the ball at the conclusion of a play.
It’s too early to call Cashman a steal. Nevertheless, he showed he has the potential to be a solid contributor on defense. Once healthy, the Jets might enter next season with the best depth at linebacker in the league.
CB Blessuan Austin, Rutgers (6th round, No. 196 overall): A-
As solid as the Jets linebacker corps was in a replacement role, the secondary left a lot to be desired. Given the opportunity, Blessuan Austin made the most of it. He played in seven games with six starts.
The local Rutgers University product totaled 25 combined tackles, four passes defended, and even racked up a forced fumble. Through Weeks 10-13, Austin was the second-highest graded cornerback in the NFL with an 84.8 Pro Football Focus mark. During the Jets’ win against the Giants (his first game of the season), Austin forced a clutch fumble late in the game to help seal the win.
The one thing that can be said about the 6-foot-1 Austin is that he doesn’t back down from any challenge and isn’t afraid to lay the wood on an opposing receiver. That being said, Austin’s hot play did slow down in the final weeks of the season.
During the Jets’ Week 16 win over the Steelers, he was beaten for a touchdown right before halftime and rode the bench late in the game. Austin saw no action in the team’s final game of the season, witnessing his snaps go to Arthur Maulet and Maurice Canady.
The final two weeks for Austin shouldn’t define his rookie campaign though. While the Jets look to figure out what holes to plug in the secondary, Austin has shown he has the potential to be a solid piece for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.