Over the next few weeks, we're going to be looking back at last year's rookies in an effort to assess what their role will be in 2018 and where we can expect them to make improvements on what they brought to the table last year.
What the Jets' coaching staff will hope to see from tight end Jordan Leggett this season hasn't really changed from a year ago, because he didn't get a chance to suit up during the season. He's therefore not had a chance to showcase his blocking, route-running or pass catching skills, other than in preseason.
Preseason Stats: Three games, five catches for 40 yards.
Regular Season Stats: Zero games played.
Projected Role: Reserve tight end.
The Jets drafted Leggett with their fifth round pick last year and it was a popular pick. Leggett was a productive player in college and had a knack for coming up with big games against top-level opposition and key catches in clutch moments. The Tigers likely wouldn't have won the 2016 BCS championship without his contributions.
Entering the league, Leggett was viewed as a pass-catching threat but seen as a work-in-progress as a blocker with questions surrounding his work-ethic. A knee injury sidelined him at the start of the season but then it seemed he had worked his way back to health and was about to make his NFL debut. Unfortunately, he had a setback and was ultimately placed on injured reserve before he had a chance to suit up.
In his limited preseason action, Leggett showed some flashes of the kind of pass-catching abilities it was hoped he'd bring to the Jets offense. He caught five passes, including one where Bryce Petty hit him in stride and he was able to turn upfield for a 28-yard gain. While the rest were short passes, that's how Austin Seferian-Jenkins generated most of his on-field production as the starter with 28 yards being equivalent to his longest play all season.
It's not impossible that Leggett might have been able to replicate much of that production, especially since much of it was volume-based and generated on simple underneath passes. However, it's difficult to say that without him having had any experience so far. It's fair to say that players like Will Tye, Eric Tomlinson and Neal Sterling were able to produce when featured in the passing game too though.
The Jets may therefore have been confident that they could find someone to emulate Seferian-Jenkins' contributions, which would explain why they didn't offer him much money despite having plenty of cap room. Leggett is obviously one contender to step up and take over some of that production, but the team hedged their bets by adding veteran Clive Walford and drafting Chris Herndon in the fourth round. Herndon profiles pretty similarly to Leggett, but that doesn't mean the two won't complement one another well if each makes a good impression.
One area where Leggett was known to need refinement was in terms of his blocking. Hopefully he'll be stronger than he was 12 months ago and will make improvements in camp more readily in his second season, due to being more familiar with the playbook, his surroundings and the coaching staff. As expected, he didn't show much in this area during camp or preseason as a rookie, but hardly looked completely out of his depth either.
If there are still concerns about Leggett's work ethic -- and there may not be, because coaches and teammates assured media sources that he had long since divested himself of the "Lazy Leggett" moniker he began his career with -- then that's going to be tested now because he's got some legit competition for a role.
Outlook: The Jets may still be optimistic about Leggett's future, but were unwilling to head into the season with him earmarked for a major role before having proven himself at the NFL level. As a result, he faces some tough competition for playing time this year and might struggle to make the team if he gets injured again or fails to make an early impact. However, he has the potential to be a dynamic offensive weapon if he can start delivering on his potential.