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WR Jalen Saunders: Does the Kerley comparison fit?

I have split this article into three pages. I do so to ensure quicker loading times with the included content. Standing at just 5?9?, Jalen Saunders may not be the most intimidating wide receiver coming out of the 2014 NFL Draft class, however there?s more than meets the eye here. Naturally, the height and a [?]

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Standing at just 5’9″, Jalen Saunders may not be the most intimidating wide receiver coming out of the 2014 NFL Draft class, but there’s more than meets the eye here.

Naturally, the height and a scrawny 165 lbs of mass will cause on-lookers to relate Saunders to another wide receiver on Gang Green, Jeremy Kerley.

We’ll start our feature on Saunders by looking into the Kerely comparison.

Info on Jeremy Kerley is dated prior to his drafting, to keep all things as equal as possible.

Saunders started his post-secondary education at Fresno State, before deciding to transfer in 2012.

Saunders on his decision to transfer:

“I have nothing against the slot or the spread,” said Saunders, whose role changed to a possession slot receiver under new coach Tim DeRuyter this spring. “It was the way I was being used in the slot. The offense wasn’t for me. That’s pretty much why I left.” -ESPN

Looking beyond the appearance comparisons, Saunders and Kerley do share some interesting similarities. Statistically, however, Saunders had the more productive college career of the pair.

Entering OU, Saunders had accumulated 1,527 yards on 80 receptions (~19 yds/rec), and 15 TDs.

In his next two seasons with Oklahoma, Saunders improved, gaining 1,558 yards on 123 receptions (12.7 yes/rec), and 11 TDs. What’s not shown in these numbers is that he earned this production in 22 games, as opposed to 26 games, the two seasons prior with Fresno.

Jeremy Kerley played four seasons of college ball with the TCU Horned Frogs, accumulating 1,299 yards on 120 receptions (10.8 yds/rec) and 10 TDs.

So Saunders arguably joins the team with a better college resume, although Oklahoma’s offense was/is more pass-heavy than TCU’s.

Beyond the numbers

It may initially seem to be a lazy comparison; “Hey, they’re both small!” But the tape confirms what we all imagine.

Saunders, like Kerley, is not afraid to make plays across the middle despite a lack of size. However, they both lack that special afterburner to take good gains and make them game-changing ones.

I’m my own man

If you’re reading this Jalen Saunders, we’re not trying to discount your individuality.

What Saunders brings to the team that we haven’t seen yet remains to be seen, but we can try to speculate by looking at what he did differently in college.

First off, Saunders does need some help with his route-running. Kerley’s deficiencies came due to a limited offence run at TCU (less routes required), while Saunder’s comes from simple mistakes in executing routes.

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On the plus-side, Saunders has excellent ‘fake-out’ moves, when used correctly, and is much more physical than you would predict when you look at him.

Because of this, Saunders found himself often contributing on the outside, providing Oklahoma’s offence with a shifty threat along the sidelines. He can ‘climb-the-ladder’ to catch passes, and often creates space to give QBs a larger throwing window.

I noticed this a lot on tape: Saunders would get open, but the QB would get happy-feet in the pocket and any possibility to hit Saunders open downfield dropped dramatically. He shows the potential to become a much better NFL player than college player, with a NFL QB at the helm.

Finally, and lucky for OC Marty Mornhinweg and the rest of the Jets offense, he does have experience in the ‘trick-play’ department.

I fully expect the Jets to open the playbook much more this season for Geno Smith, with new tool RB Chris Johnson. Jalen Saunders will fit right in, if that’s the case.

Overall, I believe that Jalen Saunders can be a nice fit in the offence that the Jets have already established; he’s truly a ‘BPA for what we do’ selection.

Also – and God-forbid – if the Jets somehow lose Jeremy Kerley to free agency after 2014-15, they may have a great replacement in Saunders.

Published with permission from One Jet at a Time.

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