By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
As we are all well aware, the New York Jets could use a true game-breaker in the backfield regardless of whether or not Ivory and Powell walk. It would also be beneficial to find another contributor for their receiving corps who can help stretch the field and free up Marshall and Decker to do their thing. It is certainly possible that they could look to fill both of those needs in the 2016 NFL Draft if they do not feel the answer is currently on the team.
Being that they spent a 2nd round draft pick on Ohio State’s Devin Smith last year and recently signed Steelers’ 2014 3rd round pick Dri Archer to a reserve/future contract, it would appear that there is no shortage of speedy offensive playmakers on the roster for 2016. They also brought in WR/KR Chandler Worthy, an undrafted free agent from Troy University who ran a 4.38 40-yard dash in his pro day and spent the 2015 season with the Houston Texans.
The problem is that Smith, who posted a 4.42 time in the 40 at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, hardly inspired confidence with his inconsistent and sloppy play in the 10 games he saw the field. He had 9 catches for 115 yards and a TD in limited action, with a few horrible drops and a devastating fumble on a kick return. Then he went down with a torn right anterior cruciate ligament in a game against the Tennessee Titans on December 13th, landing him on season-ending injured reserve.
With a year of learning under his belt, the Jets are hoping for Smith to break out in 2016. There is no question about his talent, but what impact he can have on the offense remains to be seen.
Archer, who ran the 40 in 4.29 seconds at the 2014 combine, has been underwhelming during his two seasons with Pittsburgh, with only 10 carries for 40 yards and 7 receptions for 23 yards to his NFL resume. He was not even used in Pittsburgh’s offense in 2015 and still has a lot to prove that he can get the job done at the professional level.
Worthy only appeared in three games for the Texans last year, grabbing 3 catches for 14 yards. Neither of these two diminutive speed demons is guaranteed to be on the roster at the start of the 2016 season.
So what if there was a player who is a game-breaker as both a running back and as a receiver that could possibly be available towards the back end of the upcoming draft? San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin could very well be that guy.
The 5’10 192-pound halfback consistently blew the top off of defenses during his college career. In his 2015 campaign alone, Ervin had 294 carries for 1,601 yards and 13 TD’s as well as 45 catches for 334 yards and 2 TD’s.
Over his entire time with the Spartans, Tyler totaled 528 rushes for 2,803 yards and 19TD’s along with 87 receptions for 783 and 4 TD’s. He also had three touchdowns on kickoff returns between his freshman and sophomore years, averaging 23.5 yards over his four years with the team.
Although his production was steady throughout his time at San Jose State, there were a couple of games that unquestionably stood out in 2015.
In a game against the Fresno State Bulldogs last September, Ervin singlehandedly destroyed his opponent with an astronomical 300 yards on 42 carries with 3 TD’s as well as 4 catches for 45 yards.
Then there was a game in October against New Mexico, during which Ervin exploded for 263 yards on 36 carries with a TD, including a long run of 71 yards. He also added in 2 receptions for 11 yards in that contest.
Despite his smallish frame, Ervin runs with authority, effectively utilizing his remarkable balance and agility to push his way through trouble. His superior vision and awareness of where his blockers are at all times has enabled Ervin to emerge unscathed on several of his runs, allowing him to avoid a lot of punishing hits. Once he makes it to the second level at full throttle, there are not many defenders that can catch him on his way to the promised land.
When you factor in his good hands and awareness as a receiver, as well as his kick return abilities, it all adds up to quite an interesting prospect.
As with any player of his size, there is plenty of debate among the experts as to his durability on the next level, but with 452 carries in the last two seasons Tyler has proven that he can take a shot.
He can definitely use some work on hitting the hole faster, as he sometimes has a tendency to dance behind the line of scrimmage, waiting for the perfect opening. Ervin will also surely struggle in pass protection at his size, but teams can find ways to scheme around that to get a player of his talent on the field.
While he may project to be a HB/WR/KR hybrid type of player in the NFL, he would not be the first smaller running back to prove everyone wrong if he can get the job done as a halfback on the professional stage.
Even if he can’t shoulder the load as an every-down back, hybrid players with superior speed, acceleration and agility like him, that are chosen later in the draft, can still have a significant impact on a team’s offense, easily justifying their late round selection.
With one of their stated goals for the offseason being to add speed on both sides of the ball, the Jets would be crazy to not at least give Ervin some consideration on Day 3 of the draft. He could end up being the complementary piece to their offensive puzzle that helps them to ascend to new heights as a group.
If the Jets do end up choosing him in the draft, Ervin could end up being the most explosive player the Jets have had in the backfield since the days of Leon Washington.
You can read my Jets Pre-Combine Mock Draft article from 2/24/16 by clicking below:
You can read my article from 2/19/16 on NYJetsNews.Com about a few options for the Jets in the 1st Round of NFL Draft by clicking the following link: