Who knows where this Jets season will go from here. But one thing is clear: The future is very bright.
Case in point: ESPN has ranked the NFL’s top 25 players under 25. The Jets have two young stars on the list — defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and cornerback Sauce Gardner. And a third, offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, made the honorable mention.
Even better: The Bills and Patriots, the Jets’ AFC East rivals, had no players make either the ranking or honorable mention. The Dolphins did join the Jets with two players ranked (Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle) and one honorable mention nod (Jevon Holland).
Williams was ESPN’s No. 6-ranked player:
Williams’ game has exploded in coach Robert Saleh’s defensive scheme, as he’s living up to the billing as one of the top draft prospects at defensive tackle in recent years. His quickness and instincts are top-tier and allow him to make plays in the backfield consistently. The 24-year-old has a career-best eight sacks this season in 11 games, pushing his career total to 23.5. Williams will graduate from his list at the end of December when he turns 25, but for now, he’s one of the top 10 players under 25 in the league
And Gardner came in at No. 20:
Competitive and confident in coverage, the Jets’ rookie corner is tied for the NFL lead with 14 pass breakups. There’s ball-hawking ability here (two interceptions) for a defender with transition speed and loose hips at 6-foot-3, which allow him to close quickly on the throw. He’s a high-ceiling talent who can match in man or disrupt opponent passing games in the Jets’ defined zone coverages.
As for Vera-Tucker:
Vera-Tucker is on season-ending injured reserve (triceps), but the extremely versatile second-year pro was still close to making the cut here. With positional flexibility to play multiple spots along the offensive front, Vera-Tucker is an ascending talent with All-Pro ability. He had a 94.5% pass block win rate this season before his October injury.
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James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]