- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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Finally, the top five players on the New York Jets' roster.
As a reminder, the rankings are based on 2013 performance, positional value, potential and contractual/salary-cap status. As you can see, three of the top five are players with less than four years experience, which, of course, bodes well for the team's future.
We'll start at No. 5. Here you go:
5. Damon Harrison, nose tackle, (cap charge: $572,000): The former undrafted free agent has emerged as one of the best run-stuffing interior linemen in the league. Yes, the league. According to Pro Football Focus, a stats-based web site, "Big Snacks" was the fifth-rated 3-4 nose tackle. He's one of the big reasons why the Jets' run defense improved so much. Opponents rushed for only 3.0 yards per carry when he was in the game, as opposed to 3.4 when he was on the sideline. Harrison, grossly underpaid, changed agents, hiring the heavyweight CAA firm -- an indication he could be looking for a new deal.
4. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, left tackle, (cap charge: $11.7 million): Ferguson didn't have a vintage year (eight sacks allowed, according to PFF), but he's still a top-12 left tackle. He's still only 30 years old, plays one of the most important positions on the field and never gets hurt. Incredibly, he has missed only one snap in his entire career. He's one of the highest-paid left tackles, but he's durable and reliable, protecting the all-important blind side.
3. Nick Mangold, center, (cap charge: $7.2 million): Some people feel Mangold slipped a bit last season, especially as a run-blocker, but I didn't see it. The Jets finished sixth in rushing, and they averaged 5.11 per carry on runs up the middle, fourth in the league, according to NFL stats. Mangold allowed no sacks, according to PFF. While it's true he rarely comes up anymore in the "best-center-in-the-league" conversation, Mangold, who made the Pro Bowl as an alternate, still is a top-tier player. His guidance was invaluable for rookie quarterback Geno Smith.
2. Sheldon Richardson, defensive tackle, (cap charge: $2.3 million): Every team longs to have a player like Richardson, the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He's a big, athletic, versatile and relentless defensive lineman. He's already a terrific run defender, demonstrating the ability to play behind the line of scrimmage. His production as a pass-rusher tailed off in the second half of the season (he finished with only 3.5 sacks), an aspect of his game that needs improvement. As long as he stays hungry, Richardson has many Pro Bowls in his future.
1. Muhammad Wilkerson, defensive end, (cap charge: $2.2 million): He completes the "Sons of Anarchy" presence in the top 5. Pound for pound, he's the best player on the team, a holdover from the Mike Tannenbaum regime. Wilkerson has improved each season, and many believe he still hasn't reached his ceiling. He wanted to become a better pass-rusher last season, and he did, leading the team with a career-high 10.5 sacks. Due to make $1.2 million in '14, Wilkerson has outperformed his rookie contract, but his rights belong to the Jets for two more years, assuming they exercise a 2015 option.
6. David Harris, linebacker
7. Geno Smith, quarterback
8. Dee Milliner, cornerback
9. Jeremy Kerley, wide receiver
10. Quinton Coples, outside linebacker
11. Antonio Cromartie, cornerback
12. Austin Howard, right tackle
13. Chris Ivory, running back
14. Demario Davis, linebacker
15. Brian Winters, left guard
16. Dawan Landry, safety
17. Calvin Pace, outside linebacker
18. Bilal Powell, running back
19. Jeff Cumberland, tight end
20. Santonio Holmes, wide receiver
21. Mark Sanchez, quarterback
22. Antonio Allen, safety
23. Nick Folk, placekicker
24. Willie Colon, right guard
25. Stephen Hill, wide receiver