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As the Jets get closer to training camp, I am examining the roster and giving you my top 25 players. Each weekday, we will reveal another person on the list, leading right into camp. I am not including rookies on this list because I do not feel it is possible to fully evaluate them before they play a game.
No. 15: Chris Herndon
Last year’s ranking: 6
Age on Opening Day: 25
How acquired: Selected in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft
Years left on contract: 1
2021 Salary Cap figure: $2.4 million
Looking back at 2020
There were so many disappointing aspects of the 2020 season for the Jets, but few bigger than Herndon.
There were lofty expectations for Herndon last season after missing almost all of 2019. He looked great in training camp … and then the regular season started. Herndon had a fumble in Week 1 against Buffalo and dropped a touchdown in Week 2 against the 49ers, and his confidence seemed to plummet from there. Herndon finished the year with five drops and two fumbles. He had five games in which he did not catch a pass. The numbers are stunning for a player that showed so much potential as a rookie in 2018.
Herndon ended up starting 13 games and playing in all 16 for the Jets. He had 31 catches for 287 yards and three touchdowns. Herndon did show some signs of life at the end of the season; in his final three games, he had 14 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
PFF graded Herndon 60th out of 71 tight ends overall and 46th out of 50 in receiving.
Outlook for 2021
Outside of Zach Wilson, there may not be a more fascinating Jet to watch during training camp and preseason than Herndon. He is entering the final year of his rookie contract with a lot to prove. He has flashed skills at times, but was a maddening player to watch last year. He seemed to regain his confidence toward the end of the season, so we’ll see if the new coaching staff can rebuild him.
Herndon has competition at the tight end spot. Tyler Kroft had a very strong spring and was ahead of Herndon in the rotation with the starting offense during some practices open to the media. The new Jets offense can be great for tight ends (see Kittle, George), so Herndon could benefit from the new scheme.
With Herndon, it never seems like talent is the issue. It is about him playing with confidence and showing the focus to stop drops and fumbles. It is now or never for Herndon with the Jets. He can become a free agent after this season and if he has any hopes of cashing in, he needs to show great improvement this year.
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