The New York Jets might have the widest range of outcomes for the 2020 NFL season of any team in the league. An optimistic outlook could paint them as playoff contenders, while a pessimistic view could see real cause to make them one of the favorites for the No. 1 overall pick in a few months and the victors in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes.
The answer will likely lie somewhere in between, but nobody wants to read about the sensible middle ground. Instead, let’s paint the picture for both extremes and lay out how the Jets could either make the playoffs in 2020 or implode into another rebuilding phase with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
[Editor's Note: PFF's advanced statistics and player grades are powered by AWS machine learning capabilities.]
The most important component of any team, let alone offense, is the quarterback, and Sam Darnold enters a make-or-break Year 3 in the NFL. Darnold is still just 23 years old, six months younger than this year’s No. 1 pick Joe Burrow, but his two NFL seasons thus far have not been great.
Nevertheless, he maintains a fierce group of supporters because there have been flashes in each season and significant mitigating factors to the bad play. Over the past two seasons, his overall PFF grade (64.9) ranks 33rd out of 43 qualifiers, but he jumps into the top 10 when limiting the time frame to just the last month of each season.
He has three single-game grades of 85.0 or better since entering the league, which is only two fewer than Patrick Mahomes over the regular season. Darnold’s problems thus far have come not from his high-end play, but from the low-end performances, which have been heavily impacted by circumstances beyond his control — both on and off the field.
If Darnold takes a significant leap forward in his third season, the Jets are immeasurably better off, but did the team do enough to support that leap this offseason?