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Even though they didn't pick a wide receiver in the first six rounds, a trio of rookie wideouts made significant contributions for the Jets in 2016. Charone Peake, who was selected in the seventh round, combined with undrafted rookies Robby Anderson and Jalin Marshall to register 75 catches for 935 yards and four touchdowns.
Preseason Stats: Jalin Marshall: 9-94, Charone Peake: 10-103-TD, Robby Anderson: 13-264-3TD.
Regular Season Stats: Marshall: 14-162-2TD, Peake: 19-186, Anderson: 42-587-2TD.
Projected Roles: Anderson is expected to start. Marshall and Peake should compete for reserve roles.
With Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker gone and Quinton Patton, Brisly Estime, and Devin Smith already all out for the season, the Jets will be hoping for more of the same in 2017, if not increased production from all three.
In the long run, Anderson is probably the one considered as having the highest upside. He ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at his pro day and that speed translated to the field as he emerged as a genuine downfield threat in preseason. He also showed a knack for going up to make contested catches.
Anderson made the team, but didn't play much in the first few weeks of the regular season. However, he started seeing regular action once Decker was injured and gradually started to make the same types of plays he had produced in the preseason.
In the eight games from Week 7 to Week 15, Anderson accounted for 506 yards from scrimmage and had only one game where he didn't make at least one 25-yard play. However, he went without a catch in Week 16 and caught just four passes for 43 yards with Brandon Marshall out in the season finale.
It's apparent that Anderson would benefit from adding some weight. He was rail-thin as a rookie and, while he avoided any injuries, it seems unlikely he could last the whole season in a full-time role.
Everything seemed set up for Anderson to start along with Quincy Enunwa, but then Anderson was arrested at a music festival during the offseason, so he may have to deal with the ongoing distraction from pending court dates and the possibility of a suspension.
Peake operated mostly as a possession option, averaging less than 10 yards per catch and failing to score a touchdown, other than an opportunistic 40-yard scamper after recovering a Ryan Fitzpatrick fumble in garbage time against the Seahawks. He made a couple of clutch catches to extend drives and only dropped two passes all year.
The former Clemson standout brings some solid size to the position and has displayed physicality as a blocker. If he can use that physicality more consistently to generate separation when running routes, he might see an increase in playing time and production in 2017.
Marshall, who only just turned 22, showed some promise as a slot receiver and his per-snap production was actually the best on the team in limited action. His late touchdown in Miami in Week 9 almost gave the Jets a third consecutive win until the coverage unit gave away the lead on the ensuing kickoff. Ball security has been an issue, though, as he fumbled four times during the regular season after fumbling twice in the preseason.
Marshall adds extra value as a kick returner and, with no obvious candidate to replace him on punts in particular, there's a good chance he will retain that role. However, he's suspended for the first four games due to a substance abuse violation. which somewhat muddies the waters.
It seems unlikely that the Jets would give up on Marshall at this point, though. He clearly made an impression on his teammates. For example, last August, Brandon Marshall described his namesake as "special" and said that he was "in love with him."
The trio seems to complement one another quite well and could theoretically all be a part of the receiving corps going forward, but the team may lack the patience to deal with any further off-field concerns as they embark upon a longer-term rebuilding effort.
Anderson emerged as a potential star last season and the team seems to be banking on him being a full-time starter and racking up some serious production. However, his offseason arrest could potentially throw a wrench into those plans. With Marshall already suspended for the first month, Peake is the only one from this trio without any off-field concerns and there should be plenty of early season reps available for him if he can continue to be reliable. However, with four other rookie receivers in camp, there are plenty of youngsters who could potentially bump one or more of these players off the roster if they falter.