With the 153rd pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, the New York Jets drafted TCU wide receiver Jeremy Kerley.
Kerley was one of the nation’s most versatile players in 2010, with 10 receiving touchdowns, 2 rushing touchdowns and a touchdown pass. The year before that, he was the Mountain West Conference Special Teams Player of the Year.
He was also second in the nation in punt returns and third in kickoff returns last season, and was a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, which honors the most versatile player in the country.
I’ve written before about how Brad Smith is a unique weapon, and I love what he does for the Jets. But they have other priorities as far as free agency goes and Smith may be too much of a luxury to keep. I think there’s a real chance the Jets and Brad Smith part ways and Kerley takes over his role.
Smith is a Pro Bowl-caliber special teamer, and it might seem crazy that the Jets would let him walk for a rookie 5th-round draft pick. But the NFL’s rule changes on kickoff returns may devalue Smith to the point that the Jets don’t feel they need to invest what Smith could command on the free agent market.
With the new rules in place, teams will kick off from the 35-yard line instead of the 30, which means an increase of touchbacks and likely a decrease in the value of a kick return specialist.
I know guys like Devin Hester and Joshua Cribbs had to be fuming after that rule change got approved, and so were their teams. It just so happens that the Jets’ return specialist is a free agent to be, which gives the Jets flexibility if they choose to go younger with Jeremy Kerley.
I’ll admit, before the draft I didn’t know much about Kerley. But I did find this:
So that pretty much speaks for itself. Teams love rookies who can make the team and play good special teams, and Kerley seems like he can certainly do that.
“I’m definitely a special-teams guy,” Kerley said. “I know what makes me, and my special teams ability is what makes me the player that I am.
Clearly the kid can return kicks and punts, but what about the other duties that Smith is in charge of, such as the Jets version of the Wildcat formation?
Well as it turns out, Kerley played quarterback in high school, leading his team to it’s first state championship in school history as a junior. He was actually a prep baseball star as well, playing center field and pitcher.
Talk about versatile.
At the very least, it seems like Jeremy Kerley is insurance for Brad Smith, who himself was a project pick in the 4th round of 2006 out of Missouri. We don’t know what’s going to happen with Smith in free agency, and whether or not he would take a discount to stay with the Jets.
Until the NFL lockout ends and free agency begins, all we can do is speculate. The Jets are prepared either way. They did not want to go into the 2011 season without assurances that they’d have a