Author: David Wyatt-Hupton
Ask any Jets fan who the best undrafted free agent is in franchise history, and the response will be pretty unanimous: Wayne Chrebet. The Hofstra wide receiver started his rookie training camp in 1995 at the bottom of the depth chart with 10 receivers ahead of him.
19 years later, in 2014, he was inducted into the Jets’ Ring of Honor after completing a career that spanned 152 games and resulted in 580 passes caught for 7,365 yards and 41 touchdowns. If the current crop of Jets’ undrafted free agents (UDFAs) need to look for inspiration, they don’t have to go too far.
The Jets have had a number of standout UDFAs over the years: offensive guard Brandon Moore is one, and Damon “Snacks” Harrison is another. Will we uncover another hidden gem in 2023?
Here are my top 5 UDFAs to watch at training camp:
1. Jason Brownlee - Wide Receiver - Southern Miss
Brownlee has already made some notable plays during OTA’s and I expect to hear his name a lot over the rest of the summer.
Cracking the Jets’ wide receiver depth chart won’t be easy considering the talent and depth on the roster, but the 6’2, 200lb Brownlee has all the tools to make a statement.
After dominating at East Mississippi Community College in 2019 to the tune of 75 receptions for 1,055 yards and 12 touchdowns, Brownlee landed in Hattiesburg with Southern Miss where he led the Golden Eagles in receiving for three straight years.
Brownlee is a big, physical, and competitive perimeter wide receiver with a large wing span and the ability to go up and make contested catches: he had 15 in 2022.
2. Trey Dean III - Safety - Florida
It’s not often a player of Dean’s calibre slips into the realms of the UDFA pool, but Joe Douglas wasted no time in snapping up the former Gator, and for good reason.
Dean started 9 of 13 games as a true freshman in the SEC and was one of the standout performers on Todd Grantham’s defence.
Dean spent five years in Gainesville and racked up 255 tackles, 13.5 for a loss, 4.5 sacks, and 4 interceptions while showing his versatility in being lined up all over the defence.
At 6’2 and 200lbs, Dean brings an incredible size to the Jets which will allow him to cover tight ends. With his size, strength, and physicality, Dean is certainly one to watch this summer.
3. Deslin Alexandre - Defensive End - Pittsburgh
Whatever Pat Narduzzi is doing at Pitt, Joe Douglas seems to like it. After the Jets selected Panthers teammates Carter Warren and Israel Abanikanda in the 4th and 5th rounds respectively, they dipped back into the Panthers program for defensive end Deslin Alexandre.
As with the wide receiver position, the Jets defensive end room is stacked, but listen to Robert Saleh talk and he’ll tell you that you can never have too many pass-rushers.
Deslin is a physical presence on the outside with a near 82” wingspan and a bull rush that is nasty enough to keep offensive tackles awake at night.
A two-time captain with the Panthers, Alexandre was a leader on the Pitt defence and with his heavy hands and non-stop motor, he leads by example.
4. Claudin Cherelus - Linebacker - Alcorn State
If you’re looking for production, you don’t need to look any further than Claudin Cherelus. The 6’2, 230lb linebacker put up 6 sacks, 1 interception, 17 pressures, 73 tackles, and 2 forced fumbles.
The Jets were tracking Cherelus throughout the 2023 NFL Draft and called mere minutes after the Rams took Desjuan Johnson with the 259th and final selection.
A former safety in high school, Cherelus has the speed and explosion to make plays in both the run and pass game and can be moved around the linebacker rotation.
Cherelus relayed the defensive plays while at Alcorn State, and his ability to recognise, diagnose and react to offensive plays will likely make him a firm favourite of the coaching staff.
5. Travis Dye - Running Back - USC
666 carries, 3,984 yards (6.0 average per carry), and 30 touchdowns in five years was the college stat line for Travis Dye. He also transferred from Oregon to USC for his final year of eligibility, showing a versatility to work in different systems.
Dye is an instinctive rusher who has the patience to wait for the hole to open and the explosion to burst through it. His 16-touchdown season in 2021 ranked inside the top 10 in college football.
The USC man showed a terrific ability to work through contact in college with 2,196 of his 3,984 yards coming after contact: that’s 55% of all his yards.
Dye also caught 105 passes out of the backfield in college, which opens up the option of securing a third-down role with the team.