Realistic expectations for ArDarius Stewart's production in 2017

When the Jets drafted ArDarius Stewart with the 79th pick in this year's draft, he was projected as their fourth or fifth receiver in 2017. However, with Quinton Patton out for the season and Eric Decker having been released, he's potentially moved up the depth chart by default.

The Jets will now be expecting for some of their rookies to make big contributions in 2017, with expectations highest for Stewart, since he was the earliest pick.

It remains to be seen whether Stewart will live up to his potential or if one of the other youngsters will step up and overtake him, but the opportunity is definitely there for playing time for anyone who makes an early impression. So, what kind of first year production might you expect for a player of Stewart's type?

Jets rookies historically

The Jets don't actually have a particularly good record of first-year production from players that they've drafted.

Since the turn of the century, the Jets have drafted 16 wide receivers, not including this year's selections. Seven of those didn't have a single catch as a rookie and another four had less than 10 receptions. That leaves five players that were into double figures:

Chansi Stuckey 2008 7th round pick - 32-359-3TD
Jeremy Kerley 2011 5th round pick - 29-314-TD
Laveranues Coles 2000 3rd round pick - 22-370-TD
Stephen Hill 2012 2nd round pick - 21-252-3TD
Charone Peake 2016 7th round pick - 19-186

The undrafted Robby Anderson's rookie year production was actually better than all of these, as he caught 42 passes for 587 yards and two scores.

As you can see, none of these busted out into all-rookie contention or anything like that, but they at least made some contributions. Where they were selected was of little relevance with higher picks like Santana Moss (2-40 as a rookie) or Devin Smith (9-115-TD) failing to produce largely as a result of injuries, but not really breaking out in year two either.

Stewart is the first wide receiver selected in the third round by the Jets since Coles, but as you can see there have been successes and failures from players drafted higher and lower than that.

Rookies generally

Looking at recent years, what contributions do top rookies typically make around the league?

10 rookie receivers played at least 400 snaps in 2016 (an average of 25 per game) and only one of those had less than 30 receptions. Each of the other nine contributed over 400 yards and at least one touchdown.

Stewart was the 9th receiver selected in 2017, so that gives some idea of what contributions you might expect from someone selected at that kind of spot.

Looking back at earlier years, are those numbers representative of what you might expect or just an aberration? Over the last four years, 46 rookies played at least 400 snaps and all of them had at least 20 catches, with 39 having over 30.

So if, as expected, there's plenty of playing time available for someone like Stewart, he's likely to make similar first year contributions to some of those previous Jets rookies.

Alabama receivers

Cornerbacks from Alabama have a reputation for taking some time to develop. How do receivers from Alabama generally fare in recent years?

The answer is, perhaps surprisingly, that we don't really know because the sample size is so small. Of course, Amari Cooper and Julio Jones both went high and have had elite production more or less from that start. However, in terms of non-elite level prospects, there's not much to look at.

Other than Cooper and Jones, there are only four other Alabama wide receivers in the NFL, one of whom is a rookie like Stewart. The undrafted DeAndrew White is entering his third year but has just two career catches and Richard Mullaney has yet to play in an NFL game after going undrafted last year.

The only Alabama receiver currently in the league who was selected in the middle rounds like Stewart is Kevin Norwood of the Giants, who was a 2014 fourth round pick and has just nine career catches.

This perhaps does little to allay concerns that it might take Stewart longer than usual to make the transition from Alabama to the pro level.

Injury setbacks

Unfortunately, Stewart has already missed some time after suffering a thumb injury at rookie mini-camp. The Jets opted to fix a pre-existing groin problem while he would be out following surgery to the thumb, so he will rehab both injuries and should be at 100% by training camp.

This is most reminiscent of Smith, who fell down the depth chart when he dealt with some injury issues as a rookie and never really found his way back into the rotation.

However, Smith missed most of training camp, which is probably considerably more important than the three days of mandatory mini-camp that Stewart missed.

While Todd Bowles says Stewart "has a lot of catching up to do", wide receiver coach Karl Dorrell downplayed the effect of the injury and Stewart himself expressed confidence that he'd be able to get up to speed pretty early.


With the recent moves, it seems almost inevitable that one of the rookies will have to step up into a relatively prominent role, although adding guys like Chris Harper, Devin Street and Marquess Wilson might be a hedge against those rookies not developing as well as hoped.

Recent history seems to tell us that a guy like Stewart could step in and make some modest contributions but that elite level production in year one is unlikely. Nevertheless, he could bring some valuable playmaking ability to the offense and it would be a good sign if he can make some clutch or game-changing plays.

If Stewart gets hurt again or fails to step up, then perhaps Chad Hansen, the next player selected by the Jets in this year's draft, will be the beneficiary. However, Hansen himself missed time with a knee injury at mandatory mini-camp. Who knows, maybe one of the undrafted players will step up, as Anderson - and, to a lesser extent, Jalin Marshall - did last year.

One thing's for sure - if Stewart doesn't step up a take a key role, there are plenty of players lining up behind him to take that role for themselves.

More: ArDarius Stewart in-depth scouting report.