Which Jets UDFAs have best shot to make the team? 10 players to watch


Someone in the New York Jets’ undrafted rookie class will make an impact in 2024.

If we’ve learned anything from Joe Douglas’ up-and-down tenure as Jets general manager, it’s that he has found some success scouring free agency in the days after the draft. His best success story was defensive end Bryce Huff, who developed into a high-end pass rusher and parlayed that into a huge free-agent contract with the Eagles this offseason.

Safety Tony Adams went undrafted two years ago and became a full-time starter in 2023.

Wide receiver Xavier Gipson went undrafted last year and became the Jets’ primary punt returner and a key weapon on offense as a rookie. The Jets won in Week 1 when Gipson scored on a walk-off punt return touchdown.

Who will be the next success story?

The Jets have some intriguing players expected to be part of their UDFA class this year. As of Tuesday, the team hadn’t announced the full class yet, though many of the signings have been reported. The Jets have 73 players rostered — including the seven-person 2024 draft class — which leaves them with 17 spots to fill, though they can always cut others to make room for more.

Rookie minicamp is Friday through Sunday.

These are the 10 prospects (listed in order of their ranking from “The Beast”) who should be considered the early favorites to stick around on the Jets’ 53-man roster or practice squad this season, giving them a shot at making an impact at some point.

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Leonard Taylor III, DT, Miami

Ranking: No. 13 defensive tackle, No. 155 overall
Size: 6-3, 303

Taylor was one of the more surprising players to go undrafted, projected by most — including The Athletic’s Dane Brugler — as an early Day 3 pick. He has good size with long arms and solid athleticism and there aren’t many better landing spots for a developmental defensive lineman than with the Jets. Defensive line coach Aaron Whitecotton has done an admirable job with the unit over the last three seasons and Taylor is entering a situation in which he’ll have a real opportunity to make the 53-man roster.

Quinnen Williams is a star but the Jets’ other defensive tackles — Javon Kinlaw, Solomon Thomas, Leki Fotu — aren’t signed beyond 2024. Taylor should be considered the early favorite to push for a roster spot.

As for who he is as a player: Taylor had a stellar 2022 but fell off a bit last year. In 2022, Pro Football Focus graded him as the 10th-best defensive tackle in FBS to play at least 300 snaps, ranking him seventh as a pass rusher.

He dropped to 55th overall in 2023 and 13th as a pass rusher, with one of the worst missed tackle rates (27.8 percent) of anyone at his position. That would’ve ranked fourth-worst among NFL defensive tackles last year. He wasn’t especially productive, either, amassing only 19 tackles, 3 1/2 tackles for loss and one sack in 10 games.

Per Brugler, Taylor has the “individual traits to be a disruptive presence against the run and rushing the passer” but said he “struggles to use all his gifts in unison” and “is often a step behind as he reacts to plays.” Brugler thinks there’s “untapped potential” and it should help that he can sit and learn from Whitecotton and the Jets’ veterans as a rookie without the pressure of being an early draft pick.

Eric Watts, DL, UConn

Ranking: No. 17 edge, No. 180 overall
Size: 6-5, 274

He’s an intriguing potential option to develop as a John Franklin-Myers-esque versatile defensive end because of his size, especially following Franklin-Myers’ trade to the Broncos. The Jets lack a presence against the run at defensive end now and Pro Football Focus graded Watts as the 19th-best run stopper at the position last year. His pass-rush production dropped from 2022 to 2023 (seven sacks to two, eight QB hits to one) but the talent is there. He didn’t get many snaps on the inside in college, though he could be developed to be more versatile.

Watts was only 225 pounds coming out of high school and bulked up to 274. He’s on the older side (24) but that doesn’t matter all that much if he can contribute.

Brugler projected Watts for the fifth/sixth round. He wrote that he’s a “frenetic pass rusher” and that the “physical traits and competitive mentality are there for him to become a valuable part of a defensive line rotation with additional coaching.”

The Jets have four defensive ends probably locked into roster spots — Jermaine Johnson, Haason Reddick, Will McDonald and Micheal Clemons — but after that there’s room for someone else to win a roster spot. Watts and the next player on this list will push for it. Watts reportedly signed a deal with $245,000 in guarantees, which indicates the Jets’ desire to sign him was high.

Braiden McGregor, edge, Michigan

Ranking: No. 23 edge, No. 231 overall
Size: 6-5, 254

Brugler had McGregor as a sixth-/seventh-round prospect. He wasn’t very productive at Michigan (14 1/2 tackles for loss, 6 1/2 sacks in 38 games) but he had significant experience contributing on special teams on kick return, punt return and punt coverage. He can fight for a roster spot with that special teams experience.

He’s considered a violent pass rusher, which fits the mindset the Jets like their defensive linemen to carry. Brugler compared him to Browns rotational edge rusher Alex Wright, a third-round pick in the 2022 draft.

Brady Latham, G, Arkansas

Ranking: No. 22 guard, No. 258 overall
Size: 6-5, 305

Brugler had Latham projected for the seventh round. It was mildly surprising the Jets didn’t address the interior offensive line at all in the draft, especially since they drafted two running backs. But Latham will have a shot to fight his way onto the roster as a backup unless (or until) the Jets add a veteran backup in free agency. Right now, the only backup on the interior locked into a roster spot is Wes Schweitzer. Tackle Max Mitchell can also play inside and both Xavier Newman and Jake Hanson started a few games last year.

Latham didn’t have a great 2023, allowing three sacks and getting penalized eight times, but Brugler wrote that his “grit and processing give him a chance to stick in the league and are why some NFL scouts grade him best as a developmental center.”

Schweitzer currently is the primary backup center, though his snaps at the position last year were a bit sloppy.

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Cal linebacker Jackson Sirmon projects as an NFL backup and special teams contributor. (Darren Yamashita / USA Today)

Jackson Sirmon, LB, Cal

Ranking: No. 37 linebacker
Size: 6-2, 232

NFL.com ranked Sirmon as the second-best linebacker available in undrafted free agency. It projected him as a seventh-round pick, though Brugler had him going undrafted. PFF graded Sirmon 32nd overall among linebackers to play at least 300 snaps last year, 10th in tackling and 51st (of 347) in coverage. He also had a low missed tackle percentage (4.2 percent). Sirmon played only six games last season because of a biceps injury, which might have contributed to his slide out of the draft. In 2022, he had 104 tackles, six tackles for loss and 3 1/2 sacks.

Per NFL.com’s scouting report: “Inside linebacker who plays with consistency and technique that position coaches will appreciate” and “he has the size and positional savvy to become an NFL backup and special teams performer.”

The Jets have three linebackers locked into roster spots — C.J. Mosley, Quincy Williams, Jamien Sherwood — while Sirmon will have to beat out Zaire Barnes, Chazz Surratt and/or Marcelino McCrary-Ball.

Marshel Martin, TE, Sacramento State

Ranking: No. 39 TE
Size: 6-1, 222

He’s probably more of an H-back/fullback than a tight end in the NFL so it’s a difficult path to make the team on a roster that already has a fullback (Nick Bawden) trusted by the coaching staff. Martin was productive in 2022 — 879 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns — but fell off last year to 315 yards and two touchdowns.

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Jarius Monroe, CB/S, Tulane

Ranking: No. 48 cornerback
Size: 6-foot, 201

NFL.com ranked Monroe as the No. 2 cornerback available in undrafted free agency, though Brugler thinks long-term it might be worth developing him into a safety. Per Brugler, Monroe — who had six interceptions and 22 pass deflections combined the last two years — has above-average ball skills, a “rugged play demeanor” but might be a “flag-magnet” in the NFL for how “grab-happy” he can be with wide receivers. He’s not especially fast (4.64 40-yard dash) but was a playmaker in college.

His coaches and teammates loved him at Tulane.

“He’s a great player, awesome to be around,” former Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt said. “He’s a guy that I could be in a different country and hear his voice across the ocean. I know his voice. I hear him all practice long from the opposite side of the field. He loves to talk, a big competitor who is very passionate about the game. Definitely a fun guy to go up against.”

Tulane coach Willie Fritz said “he’s a very different corner in college football. Really big guy. … Most of the corners in our league are about 6 foot, 180. His size allows him to play well and be really aggressive because when he gets to you, he’s going to move you a little bit.”

Monroe could battle with Jarrick Bernard-Converse and Jaylen Key (Mr. Irrelevant) for the fourth and/or fifth safety spot, depending on how many the Jets keep. There is less room to stick at corner.

Tyler Harrell, WR, Miami

Ranking: No. 52 wide receiver
Size: 6-foot, 193

NFL.com graded Harrell as the 10th-best wide receiver available in undrafted free agency. He’s a speed demon — he reportedly ran a 4.25-second 40-yard dash at his pro day — but he wasn’t especially productive at Miami. He had only four catches for 45 yards last year despite playing in eight games. The Jets don’t have a lot of roster room at receiver right now but he can push for the practice squad.

Myles Jones, CB, Duke

Ranking: No. 67 cornerback
Size: 6-3, 190

He spent seven years in college between Texas A&M and Duke and he turns 26 in October, so he’s certainly on the older side. He hasn’t played much in the last few years, either, just 189 defensive snaps last year at Duke and 36 combined in 2021-22 at Texas A&M as he dealt with various injuries. But he brings intriguing size and NFL.com rated him as the 18th-best cornerback available as a UDFA.

Marcus Riley, WR, Florida A&M

Ranking: No. 81 wide receiver
Size: 5-10, 174

The Jets reportedly signed Riley to a three-year, $2.84 million deal, though it’s unclear how much of that is guaranteed. He tested well — 4.44 40-yard dash, 6.95 three-cone — though he’s small and the Jets don’t have a major need for someone with his profile. He clearly has a shot at making the practice squad, though. He returned a kick for a touchdown at Florida A&M last year and also had 33 catches for 635 yards and five touchdowns.

Others: OT Willie Tyler (Louisville), LB Jett Johnson (Mississippi State), TE Lincoln Sefcik (South Alabama), LB Jimmy Ciarlo (Army), S Tre Jenkins (San Jose State), LB Jeremy Lewis (East Carolina), CB Shemar Bartholomew (Georgia State), DL Tyreek Johnson (South Carolina), CB Al Blades Jr. (Duke), QB Peewee Jarrett (West Florida).

(Top photo of Leonard Taylor III: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)





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