Do the Jets need to draft a kickoff returner?

The Jets have multiple players on their roster with kick return experience. However, not many of them are proven in that area. Let's weigh up who they have and whether they should be looking to upgrade.

2020 season

Last season the Jets gave kickoff return opportunities to a number of players who are still with the team, including Josh Malone, Ty Johnson, Ashtyn Davis and Vyncint Smith.

None of these fared particularly well. Malone showed some promise in breaking returns of 40 and 34 yards, but he seemed to lack vision and ran into trouble more often than not. His other five attempts averaged less than 14 yards per return.

Smith, who broke a 78-yarder in 2019 and averaged an impressive 29.9 yards per return on 10 carries, missed the start of the season. Then, once he returned, he didn't last long in this role as his two returns netted just 23 yards, including an embarrassing muffed catch.

Johnson averaged less than 19 yards per return, while Davis - who had some good return numbers in college - injured himself trying to hurdle a defender and almost lost a fumble so they soon moved him out of the role.

A midseason addition proved to be easily their best option, as Corey Ballentine came in and averaged 26.2 yards on 12 returns, including breaking a 66-yarder.

New additions

Of the offseason additions made to the Jets' roster so far, Keelan Cole has the most pro experience and has averaged 27 yards per return in limited action. Corey Davis, Tevin Coleman and Lamarcus Joyner all returned kicks in college or high school but not since.

Running back Pete Guerriero, who signed a futures deal, only returned 10 kickoffs in college, but did run one back for a 95-yard touchdown.

Other roster candidates

Other players from last year's team with limited return experience on kickoffs include Lamical Perine and Jamison Crowder. Javelin Guidry and Saquon Hampton returned kicks in high school, but not in college. Everyone else barely has any experience in this role.


Honestly, Ballentine looked pretty decent in this role last year and with better blocking could have broken a few more big returns. A number of the others have potential too.

However, last year's coaching staff showed no interest whatsoever in Ballentine playing any kind of role on defense. It might therefore be better to give the role to someone who is a more effective use of a roster spot because they can provide cover elsewhere. This could give Cole or Johnson the inside track.

As for who the Jets might look to target if they do draft a kickoff return man? We'll look to address that between now and the draft.