The offseason doesn’t stop after the seventh round of the draft. The New York Jets added nine UDFAs, hoping to find a diamond in the rough.
It’s easy to forget that the 2020 NFL Draft doesn’t end after the seventh round. Technically, it’s over, but there is always an undrafted free agent feeding frenzy after the draft. This part of the offseason isn’t glorified like the draft. Still, the undrafted free agent process is an important step in rebuilding the New York Jets‘ roster.
Every year players fall through the cracks. Elite players are rare to find in these ranks but it does happen. Adam Thielen, Phillip Lindsay, Kurt Warner, James Harrison, Antonio Gates, Wes Welker, Tony Romo, and Preist Holmes are just a few gems.
The Jets have a storied history with UDFAs themselves. Wayne Chrebet, Robby Anderson, Damon “Snacks” Harrison, Mike DeVito, and Brandon Moore all went undrafted.
Just last year, Kyle Phillips went from undrafted to the team’s top defensive end. His 558 snaps were the most of any defensive lineman on the team in 2019.
Is it likely the Jets find a star player among this group of nine signees? Probably not. That doesn’t mean they won’t find the next Phillips or Chrebet.
Lawrence Cager, WR, Georgia
Cager’s defining characteristic is his size. He stands at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds. He’s not the most athletic player and he’s not a great route runner, but he’s physical. He knows how to use his body to beat corners.
His size makes him a mismatch and he knows that. He’s excellent at walling off defensive backs and winning jump balls. He’s excelled as a red zone threat in college. He had 78 total receptions in college and 14 of them went for touchdowns, that’s nearly 18%.
His hands are also excellent. He can make every catch on the field including the difficult contested 50-50 balls.
Cager likely doesn’t have an immediate future as a starting receiver due to his lack of athleticism and polish as a route runner, but he does have a defined role. The Jets don’t have any red zone threats on the team. Denzel Mims is the team’s biggest receiver.
Cager has a very real shot of breaking camp with the team. The Jets are very weak at wide receiver. Only Mims, Breshad Perriman, and Jamison Crowder are locks to make the roster, leaving an opening for Cager.
George Campbell, WR, West Virginia
Campbell is a shot on rare size and speed. He stands at 6-foot-4 and 184 pounds and ran a 4.36 40-yard dash out of high school, meaning he likely got faster. The last time the Jets took a shot on a size-speed UDFA they hit it big with Robby Anderson.
The difference here is that Campbell doesn’t have any college production. He spent the first four years of his college career with Florida State where he had a combined 13 reception for 206 yards and no touchdowns. Injuries killed his career at Florida State, but he was able to go to West Virginia as a graduate transfer.
He was healthy enough to play in nine games in 2019, and he had the best season of his career. He had 19 receptions for 469 yards and seven touchdowns. His 24.7 yards per receptions would have been the best mark in the NCAA had Campbell qualified.
Campbell is as raw as they come. His route running is a work in progress, to say the least. He isn’t physical, and his injury history is a huge red flag. That said, his potential as a deep threat is tremendous. He’s built exactly like Robby Anderson was coming out of college.
It’s not likely, but it’s possible the injuries were holding Campbell back. If he can stay healthy—a huge if—he could turn into a replacement for Anderson.
In reality, it’s very unlikely Campbell makes the roster. He’ll be competing with Josh Doctson, Vyncint Smith, and Jeff Smith all of whom provide more than just there ability as a deep threat. Campbell would really need to impress to make the cut. It’s more likely he ends up on the practice squad, but even that’s not a guarantee.
Shyheim Carter, S, Alabama
Carter is a tweener. He primarily played slot corner for Alabama, but also spent time at safety. He lacks ideal size at 5-foot-10, 194 pounds, but what really kills him is his lack of athleticism. Carter is slow on tape and will struggle to mark slot receivers one-on-one.
That means Carter is likely to move to free safety full time in the NFL. The issue is that Carter is an inconsistent tackler and lacks the speed needed to play single-high.
Carter is a smart football player. He has a good understanding of routes and he can anticipate breaks. He does a good job of putting himself into a position to make plays, and he looked comfortable at safety when used there at Alabama.
Carter may seem like a wasted signing with this description, but he isn’t. It’s not unheard of for single-high safeties to lack athleticism. Denver Broncos star safety Justin Simmons ran a 4.61 at the combine in 2016.
it’s going to be an uphill battle for Carter. He’s going to need to hone his instincts and rely on his football IQ if he’s going to last in the NFL. Most importantly, Carter is going to need to work to become a better tackler. Everything else will be pointless if he can’t tackle like a safety.
Safety is one of the Jets’ strongest positions. It’s unlikely that Carter will break camp with the team, but stranger things have happened.
Domenique Davis, DT, UNC-Pembroke
Davis is a big run-stuffing nose tackle. He stands at 6-foot-3 and 315 pounds. He’s the only prospect the Jets drafted or signed this season that played Division II football.
It’s tough to see why the Jets targeted Davis. He had just six sacks and 15 tackles for loss in three years at UNC-Pembroke. He’s strong and he eats space in the middle of a defense, but he rarely penetrates into the backfield.
It’s hard to see how Davis makes the team. The Jets already have a number of defensive tackles. Steve McLendon, Foley Fatukasi, and Nathan Shepherd are all strong options to play nose in the Jets’ 3-4.
Davis will need to blow the Jets away for him to make the team. Expect Davis to be one of the first cuts of training camp.
Javelin Guidry, CB, Utah
Guidry is a superior athlete. He stands at 5-foot-8 and 191 pounds, but don’t let the size fool you. Guidry ran a 4.29 40-yard dash at the combine and followed that up with 21 bench reps. those were first and third at the combine respectively among corners.
That strength and speed will come in handy as he tries to make the team on special teams. He has exceptional potential as a gunner and on kickoffs. That gives him an edge in the race for a roster spot. Special teams contributions are the quickest way to grabbing a roster spot when you’re at the bottom of the pecking order.
Guidry is going to need that advantage. He needs to work on the technical side of the game. His excellent speed and strength make him an asset in the run game and help make up for his mistakes in coverage. At the NFL level, that speed isn’t going to be enough.
He’ll need some time to work on the mental and technical side of the game in his rookie year. Classroom work helping him understand zones and work on his press and backpedal will make him a much better player.
Guidry has the potential to be a starting slot corner in the future. For now, his best shot at making the roster is as a special teams ace.
Jared Hilbers, OT, Washington
Hilbers is a hulking tackle prospect. He stands 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds. He’s as unathletic as they come, but he does have the technical side of parts of the game down.
Hilbers is a strong run blocker who excels when asked to use his strength to open up holes. He struggles mightily in open space when asked to pull, which could mean the Jets are looking at moving him inside to guard.
Hilbers is worse in pass protection where he had huge issues against speed rushers. He also struggled against players with strong technique. Utah’s Bradlee Anae gave him fits in 2019.
Hilbers’ saving grace is his versatility. He has spent a ton of time at both left and right tackle. He took over for Trey Adams as left tackle in 2018 and played right tackle for all of 2019. Versatility is the No. 1 tool any backup lineman can have.
If Wilbers can also add guard to his repertoire, it’s possible he breaks camp with the team. However, it’s much more likely Hilbers ends up on the practice squad after the Jets spent all offseason adding to the offensive line.
Bryce Huff, Edge, Memphis
Huff is an athletic edge rusher. His first step quickness and his speed are NFL ready. His speed rush is phenomenal and should translate to the NFL, but it’s all he has.
Huff has great pursuit, but he struggles to shed blocks in the run game. In the pass game, he gets walled if he doesn’t win with his speed and bend. That’s why his sacks dropped from 9.5 as a linebacker in 2018 to 6.5 as a defensive end in 2019.
He needs to stand up and use his speed otherwise he’s useless. His technique need works. He lacks counters and he’s slow to react when offensive linemen initiate with him. He also lacks the power to beat tackles and interior offensive lineman.
Most importantly, Huff is too predictable. Offensive linemen had an easy time figuring out where he was attacking and neutralizing him. He got away with it often in college because his first step was strong and his bend is phenomenal. That won’t work in the NFL.
Huff has a real chance to not only make the roster but earn a prominent role in 2020. The Jets have a serious lack of edge rush talent. If Huff can prove his speed rush can translate day one, then he could carve out a role as a situational pass rusher.
Lamar Jackson, CB, Nebraska
Jackson is a Gregg Williams corner. He’s big, physical, and he is a fit for a press-zone scheme. He’ll have his shot to make the team at cornerback where the competition isn’t stiff. He’ll be competing with day-three picks and low-level veterans.
Jackson’s size is his greatest strength. He stands 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds with long arms. That makes him a great fit in press coverage, but his 4.58 speed doesn’t fit well in man-to-man.
He’s shown an understanding in zone coverage from his time in college, and he has a nose for the ball. He had five interceptions and 19 passes defended in the last two years. He’s also not afraid to make a play in the run game with 4.5 tackles for loss in 2019.
Jackson’s biggest issue is that he panics in coverage. He grabs onto receivers when he loses a route, he reacts to the receiver, not the ball, and he struggles to recognize changes in routes. All of this leads to penalties.
Joe Douglas has put a premium on getting disciplined players. If penalties start piling up on Jackson in practice and preseason, he likely won’t make the team. The good news is that more zone coverage could negate a lot of his weaknesses that are based around his speed and instincts.
Jackson has a long way to go before he’s contributing on an NFL field, but he has the makeup of an NFL zone corner. It’s tough to see Jackson making the roster as he currently is, but it’s not impossible he beats the uninspiring competition. Even if he doesn’t make the roster out of camp, expect Jackson to hang around on the practice squad.
Sterling Johnson, DT, Coastal Carolina
Johnson is the new breed of undersized defensive tackles at 6-foot-4 and 285. He plays with all the athleticism that role comes with. He just hasn’t been able to put it to use.
Johnson played at Clemson the first three years of his college career before transferring to Coastal Carolina. He played two years there and didn’t impress the way many hoped.
He put up just 6.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss in his two years. Those numbers aren’t impressive, but his raw talent is. Johnson has high upside due to his athleticism, but he needs to put it all together.
There were moments at Coastal Carolina where Johnson showed off an impressive quick first step and strength. The kind of talent that makes scouts drool, but those moments were few and far between.
The Jets are so deep along the defensive line that it seems impossible that Johnson will break camp with the team. He’ll need to show something special if he’s going to make the roster.