With seven rounds and seven picks in the books, the Jets have rounded out what was, by all accounts, a home run draft class for Joe Douglas. With four starters plugging the gaps that existed in this roster pre-draft, the Jets now turn their attention to a luxury they haven’t had in a while: depth. That’s where the undrafted free agents come into play.
As soon as the seventh round ended, the Jets front office took to the phones to acquire their favorite undrafted free agents to don the green and white and compete for a depth spot on the roster in training camp.
From last year’s undrafted free agent rookie class, Kenny Yeboah and Isaiah Dunn saw time with the 53-man roster after both received guaranteed money upon signing.
So who will make the cut this year? Here are the rookies that make up this year’s UDFA class, ranked from most likely to make the roster to least:
1. DQ Thomas, LB, Middle Tennessee State
Thomas joins the Jets after setting the program record for tackles for loss at Middle Tennessee State. An undersized linebacker at 226 pounds, he profiles as a guy who will play off-ball in a similar role to Hamsah Nasirildeen and Jamien Sherwood, both converted safeties drafted into Saleh’s defense a year ago. Thomas was also a team captain for the Blue Raiders and ranked third all-time in sacks, showing the versatility to rush the passer, particularly in third down situations.
There are two major hurdles for Thomas to make the roster. First, he has to show he has the functional strength to not be sealed up by blocks at the line of scrimmage at his size. Second, he needs to prove his chops in coverage. If he can do those, he should earn a roster spot in a really thin linebacker room. After all, Joe Douglas loves college captains, enough to give Thomas $130,000 in guaranteed money.
2. Irvin Charles, WR, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
After last year’s draft, there was legitimate hype about Georgia wide receiver Lawrence Cager making the Jets roster as a UDFA. Cager ended up on the practice squad and battled injuries, but it was his athletic profile that excited fans and hinted at a possible role moving forward. Charles didn’t play at a program with the same pedigree, but his physical tools really stand out. The IUP graduate ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at 6-foot-4 weighing 228 pounds, using that size and speed combination to catch 12 touchdowns in his final college season.
Charles is an older prospect, starting his college football career with Penn State in 2015 before being dismissed from the program in 2017 due to a violation of team rules. His off-field issues, age and low-profile at IUP likely prevented him from being drafted, but he still has an outside shot at making the roster. Four spots are locked in, with Denzel Mims and Jeff Smith as the frontrunners for the fifth and sixth slots, but with a stellar camp, Charles could possibly usurp one of them.
3. Tony Adams, S, Illinois
Another team captain in college, Adams comes to New York after a strong career at Illinois, where he played cornerback and safety for Bret Bielema’s defense. He profiles more as a safety in the NFL, though. Adams is a great athlete and scrappy defensive back with solid range, ball skills, and ability to make plays at the catch point thanks to a 41.5-inch vertical leap.
His deficiencies in deep man-coverage were somewhat masked by Illinois having a ball-hawking safety in Kerby Joseph (third-round pick by the Lions), who erased everything over the top. Still, if he takes to the position-switch nicely, he can compete for a roster spot in a crowded safety room that doesn’t really have a standout beyond Jordan Whitehead.
4. Zonovan Knight, RB, North Carolina State
A projected Day Three pick, Knight was probably the best prospect of the lot here, but he’s a bit further down on this list because of the running back room he’s walking into. Breece Hall and Michael Carter are really promising young backs, and Tevin Coleman is the veteran in the room who should have his roster spot locked up after his performance in limited time a season ago. Knight is likely competing for the RB4 spot — if the Jets choose to roster four running backs — alongside Ty Johnson and La’Mical Perine.
From a talent perspective, Knight has the chops to find his way onto an NFL roster. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound back out of NC State has great body control in and out of his cuts, and his ability to slip out of tackles staying on two feet shadows the kind of balance Jets fans saw from Michael Carter a season ago. He was also the picture of consistency, as evident by his college numbers:
2019: 136 rushes, 745 yards, 5.5 YPC
2020: 143 rushes, 788 yards, 5.5 YPC
2021: 140 rushes, 753 yards, 5.4 YPC
5. Keshunn Abram, WR, Kent State
Abram joins the Jets after catching for 680 yards and three touchdowns a year ago for the Golden Flashes. While the college production is modest, much like Charles, he’s a training camp addition because of his athletic potential. Abram posted a 37.5-inch vertical with a more than 10-foot broad jump at his Pro Day, giving the Jets a receiver who can go up and get the ball in traffic amidst a group of smaller guys.
There isn’t much tape on Abram, who played a season at Northwest Mississippi Community College before transferring to Kent State, where he only saw significant time as a senior, but given the uncertainty at wide receiver outside the top four guys, never say never.
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