NFL Network’s annual summer countdown featured no New York Jets representation, but there’s potential for some to make the leap.
Sports are slowly returning to the American consciousness. The asphalt and the links have respectively played host to NASCAR and Golf, while bubbles have been inflated to stage the NHL, NBA, and WNBA season. MLB continues to play in empty stadiums for the time being, though to say that situation is in flux would be the understatement of this chaotic year.
Yet, despite not having played a single down since Patrick Mahomes’ victorious throwaway at the end of Super Bowl LIV (which, by the way, did indeed occur in 2020) and training camp still going through medical testing, we’re still talking about NFL football.
The catalyst this time around is the full release of the Top 100 Players of 2020, the annual countdown of names determined by the votes of the players themselves. Results have annually been posted on NFL Network, with the full list unveiled in the span of a week this time by. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson went from unranked to taking the top spot. Fellow thrower Russell Wilson was the runner-up while Mahomes came in fourth behind previous winner Aaron Donald. New Orleans receiver Michael Thomas rounded out the top five.
Alas, the metropolitan area possesses more teams than it does players in the current Top 100.
While the Giants were blessed with Saquon Barkley’s inclusion (No. 31, down 15 spots from the prior edition), the New York Jets have no current members on the prestigious list. Jamal Adams came in a No. 27 for his exploits from last season, but he, of course, has been dealt to Seattle, one of seven Seahawk representatives (tied for the most with Baltimore and New Orleans). The Jets were one of six teams without a current nominee, joining Cincinnati, Detroit, Jacksonville, Miami, and Washington in infamy.
Who are the Jets’ best hopes to ensure we’re not talking about another blank slate this time next year? ESM has five nominees…
T Mekhi Becton
Reaching the 100 after one’s rookie season isn’t impossible, evidenced by the appearances of Kyler Murray, DK Metcalf, Josh Jacobs, and Nick Bosa on this year’s edition. But doing so as an offensive lineman is particularly difficult. Candidates are unaided by flashy “fantasy football” stats, making inclusion a tough hill to climb.
If Becton is able to deliver the kick that the Jets’ offensive line needs, spark the protection revolution that a hopeful backfield requires to fulfill its potential, then he should definitely be among the top 100 this time next year.
The offensive lineman is one of the most underrated positions in football, and perhaps in all of sports entirely, with no opportunity to reach the box score except in the case of the tackle-eligible play or fumble recovery in the end zone. But they’re perhaps the most valuable member on the team, especially in this day and age of fantasy football heroics. Big plays are exciting, but they’re rendered meaningless when the thrower has no time or the runner can’t make it to the hole. It’s very telling that no Jets blocker has appeared on the list since Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson showed up in the inaugural edition in 2011. If Becton’s prescience finally starts to change the Jets’ offensive narrative, he should earn this special recognition.
RB Le’veon Bell
Bell went from the top five to unranked after his lost final season in Pittsburgh. Last season wasn’t enough to put him back on the list, rushing for a full-season career-low 789 yards. Since his year-long opt-out, Bell has gone on to serve as a soothing voice of reason during his time with the Jets. He reiterated his dedication to the franchise during an uncertain trade deadline last season and has since vowed to right the wrongs of his first year in green. The Jets’ offensive line renovation was an endeavor to help Bell return to form. Further fuel was added to his 2020 fire when Bell gave Jamal Adams one last parting gift in the form of a Twitter get-together that leaves the Jets potential December visit to Seattle looming larger than ever on the 2020 ledger.
The combination of new, and potentially more powerful, blockers and a quest for vengeance could make for fireworks in the Jets’ backfield. Bell has been a mainstay on the Top 100 list throughout his career. If he’s able to capture even a portion of his Pittsburgh firepower, he can definitely work his way back.
QB Sam Darnold
Darnold has become one of the most polarizing figures in both New York sports and the NFL entirely. While it’s completely fair to say that Darnold hasn’t fully reached his NFL potential, one has to analyze the hand he’s been dealt. With so much turnover in his blocking and receiving corps…Chris Herndon, Brian Winters, and Jonotthan Harrison are the rare leftovers from his rookie season…Darnold has still managed to post respectable numbers. Each of his first two seasons has ended with a hot streak, and now he might finally consistent blocking help and a long-term deep play target (Denzel Mims).
If and when we get a 2020 season, it will serve as the proverbial crucial third year of Darnold’s term as franchise quarterback, one that either extends the thrower’s stay in his locale (Jared Goff, Derek Carr, Matthew Stafford) or ends it entirely (Trent Edwards, Christian Ponder, Daunte Culpepper). Darnold probably has a little more time on his hands, considering he’s working with an all-new offense. But if he can make a leap in the third year, inclusion on the Top 100 should be no problem. It more than likely won’t be like Jackson’s dramatic ascension (going from unranked to No. 1 in the span of a year), but if he’s able to move past No. 87 Josh Allen, that’d likely be satisfying enough for a good portion of the Jets’ fanbase.
S Marcus Maye
It’ll be a big year for a 2017 Jets draftee, a member of the secondary, an SEC alum, and someone who will likely be looking for a long-term contract.
But Jamal Adams is gone. The New York secondary now belongs to Marcus Maye.
Maye is now one of the leaders of the Jets’ defense, especially a safety group that will be relying more on former Seattle reserve Bradley McDougald and third-round pick Ashtyn Davis. Maye had a solid season coming back from injury, and now has a big opportunity in a contract year to make something happen in New York. Entering his fourth season, Maye is surprisingly one of the Jets with East Rutherford/Florham Park tenure now. If he can impress in an expanded role…well, let’s just say an appearance in the Top 100 would come in very handy when it comes to contract talks in New York or elsewhere. Maye’s rise could similar to Top 100 newcomer Budda Baker (No. 97) who has taken on a larger role in Arizona over the past two seasons since the departure of Tyrann Mathieu.
LB C.J. Mosley
If the program was called the “Top 100 Players of Last Week 1’s First Three Quarters”, Mosley might’ve topped the list. Through 45 minutes of action against the Buffalo Bills, Mosley had tallied six tackles, two pass breakups, a fumble recovery, and an interception returned for a touchdown. He served as the main catalyst behind the Jets’ 16-3 lead. Alas, Mosley’s injury the first domino to fall in the chain of events that was the Jets’ disastrous fall. With the exception of a one-game cameo in October, Mosley missed the remainder of the 2019 season, thus unable to move up the rankings after exploits in Baltimore placed him at No. 71.
As a leader in the defense, Mosley has high hopes for the upcoming campaign, which should be scary for AFC East newcomers like Cam Newton and Tua Tagovailoa. He expressed a desire to “(put) the pedal on the gas as quick as possible” during an offseason episode of the Locked on Jets Podcast.
“Last year was kind of building the foundation while we was moving,” Mosley said. “Now the foundation’s been set. We ended the season on a great note, so we’ve got to start the season fast like we ended the season, and I think if we can start early this year, through our offseason going into camp, and hit the ground running those first four games, that first month of football, we can set the pace for ourselves.”
A full season from Mosley should not only help the Jets’ defense, but resume his personal quest to climb up the Topp 100’s rankings.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags