The Jets never are short of storylines to watch at training camp, but this year, the rookies — headlined by Sam Darnold — especially will be worth keeping an eye on as the team looks to rebuild and improve on its 5-11 record from last year. Here’s a quick refresher of the Jets’ incoming draft class:
Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Round/pick: First round, No. 3 overall
2017 stats: 63.1 completion percentage, 4,143 yards, 26 touchdowns, 13 interceptions.
Is Darnold finally the answer to all those years of mediocrity under center for the Jets? He certainly displayed all the traits in two seasons at USC: a pro-ready arm, excellent toughness and the poise to lead a team and handle the spotlight. His biggest question will be whether or not he can limit turnovers – he was responsible for 22 in his final season in college. A lot of those were due to Darnold forcing unnecessary throws in an attempt to make a play.
Nathan Shepherd, DL, Fort Hays State
Round/pick: Third round, No. 72 overall
2017 stats: 38 tackles (12 1/2 for loss), four sacks.
Shepherd left Simon Frasier University in Canada after the 2012 season due to financial reasons and worked various jobs in order to pay for college. He ended up having a decorated career at Division II Fort Hays State, earning All-America honors in 2016 and 2017 and winning MIAA Defensive Player of the Year in 2017. He faces a huge jump in the level of competition, but he has the tools to develop into an explosive, disruptive five-technique end and can learn behind established starters Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson.
Chris Herndon, TE, Miami (Fla.)
Round/pick: Fourth round, No. 107 overall
2017 stats: 40 catches, 477 yards, four touchdowns.
Herndon is a traditional in-line tight end with a balanced skillset. He drew praise from Jets tight end coach Jimmie Johnson for his blocking ability, but he showed some nice athleticism as a receiver at Miami before tearing his MCL in his final game. The Jets aren’t exactly stacked at tight end, so a strong camp could put Herndon in position for a starting job. He was charged with DWI in early June, so he could be subject to a suspension from the league.
Parry Nickerson, CB, Tulane
Round/pick: Sixth round, No. 179 overall
2017 stats: 55 tackles (two for loss), six interceptions, eight passes defensed.
Nickerson was a ball-hawk at Tulane with 16 career interceptions in four seasons for the Green Wave. He also has great speed. His 4.32-second 40 at the Combine was tied for the fastest among anyone at any position in Indianapolis. He’s not the biggest cornerback, which could pose problems against more physical receivers, but he has the speed, tackling ability and ball skills to contribute on special teams and as an extra defensive back in obvious passing situations.
Foley Fatukasi, DL, UConn
Round/pick: Sixth round, No. 180 overall
2017 stats: 45 tackles (7 1/2 for loss), four sacks.
A Far Rockaway native, Fatukasi is a powerful run-stopper, though he’s still a bit raw technique-wise. He has experience at both defensive tackle and defensive end. He’ll likely begin as a backup to nose tackle Steve McLendon and with some refinement could eventually become his replacement.
Trenton Cannon, RB, Virginia State
Round/pick: Sixth round, No. 204 overall
2017 stats: 212 carries, 1,638 yards, 17 touchdowns; 21 catches, 225 yards, three touchdowns; 25 kick returns, 821 yards, two touchdowns.
Cannon is a speedy running back who can make people miss in the open field, though he doesn’t have the size to be much more than a change-of-pace back in the NFL. He projects more as a kick returner for the Jets, however, and likely will battle Lucky Whitehead for that spot in training camp.