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Breaking Down The New York Jets' 2018 Draft Picks Not Named Sam Darnold: Trenton Cannon, RB, Virginia State (Round 6, Pick 30)

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We’re officially close enough to the NFL season to start talking about it. You can taste it in the air when you wake up in the morning (if you’re homeless or sleep outside a lot), and you can feel it in your bones when you lay down to rest at night.

For us Jets fans, the feeling in our bones is a little more painful than most, because we’re stuck rooting for a usually-incompetent franchise that always seems to do just well enough to get our hopes up before they rip our hearts out. It is what it is. This is a new year and we’ve got a whole new crop of players around camp to get excited about.

All we’ve heard about since the draft has been about Sam Darnold out of USC, who fell into our lap after the teams ahead of us in the draft made some questionable decisions, and how much potential he has and what that could mean for the future of our franchise. Don’t get me wrong, having someone with his pedigree is exciting as hell and I really want to see him succeed, but I’ve seen this movie before. I know how it usually goes for us when we’re gifted someone as talented as Sam Darnold could be. I guess what I’m saying is I’ll believe it when I see it. As for the other guys we drafted? It’s completely safe and rational to get fired up over what type of potential they have in the greatest league on Earth. That’s what this is about.

I present to you a breakdown of all the guys the New York Jets drafted who aren’t named Sam Darnold, because it’s time to start getting excited about watching backups play in the NFL Preseason.

Nathan Shepherd Breakdown (Round 3, Pick 8)

Chris Herndon Breakdown (Round 4, Pick 7)

Parry Nickerson Breakdown (Round 6, Pick 5)

Folorunso Fatukasi Breakdown (Round 6, Pick 6)

Trenton Cannon: Running Back, Virginia State, Round 6, Pick 30 (No. 204 overall)

Here we go. I’ve been giddy like a little school girl in anticipation of getting to write this breakdown. Trenton Cannon is the #1 guy people have been buzzing about since camp started. There were a few days when Parry Nickerson got a lot of attention but then he tweaked his hammy and things settled down, allowing Cannon to pull away from the pack as the most talked about rookie so far.

Here’s a link to today’s New York Post article about the emergence of Cannon with quotes from Antonio Cromartie, Darron Lee, and Jermaine Kearse

Drafted at the end of the 6th round out of Virginia State, a small D-II school located in (you guessed it) Virginia, Cannon made a name for himself over his career as a major home run threat anytime he got the ball in his hands, rushing for 1,638 yards and 17 TDs his senior year and 35 rushing TDs over his final 2 years at Virginia State. At 5’11” and 185 lbs, he also impressed as a return man and receiver out of the backfield, adding 2 TDs and another 3 TDs, respectively, as a senior.

Prior to the draft, he ran a 4.40 40-yard dash with a 10-yard split of 1.49 seconds, showcasing his insane acceleration with what would’ve given him the 2nd fastest 40 at the NFL Combine had he participated, tying him with Saquon Barkley. The 10-yard split speaks on how quickly he’s able to accelerate and get to full speed, something that allows him to attack holes and get to the second level before anyone can get a hand on him.

As with any RB out of a small, non-D1 program, his numbers are incredibly impressive but should be taken with a handful of salt due to the quality of his competition. Howevah, you can look at someone like Danny Woodhead, a guy who came from a small school with ridiculous numbers and managed to make a name for himself in the NFL despite his small stature, and see a blueprint for how Trenton Cannon can stick around in Jets’ camp and eventually carve out a niche for himself on the practice field and on game day.

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When the Jets initially selected him in the 2018 NFL Draft, the immediate reaction was that he’d have a hard time cracking the depth chart anywhere other than special teams, where he could excel as a return man. There’s a ton of highlights on the internet machine showcasing his elite speed and change of direction, but his lack of strength enabled college defenders to slow him or bring him down with arm tackles and ultimately that’s why he wasn’t taken until the end of the 6th round on draft weekend.

That’s gonna be the conversation surrounding Trenton Cannon for the duration of his career; can he become more than a one-trick pony? Only time will tell, but we can absolutely take this time now to drool over some of the shit he did in college and dream of a day when it starts to translate to production at football’s highest level.


I could’ve gone through and cut up clips of Trenton Cannon exploding through wide open holes only to be slowed and ultimately brought down by weak arm tackles at the 2nd level, but I don’t think you guys wanna see that, especially since I’m expecting to see a lot of it come Friday when the preseason starts. That is 1000% Cannon’s fatal flaw.

His explosiveness jumps off the screen in the open field, but for as much as he produced throughout his college career, he left a ton of yards on the field being brought down by guys who simply got a hand on his jersey as he almost danced by. His best plays always came when he could make 1 quick cut and then rely on his game-changing explosiveness to separate from the defense.

Luckily for the Jets, that exact skill set immediately slates him in as a guy who should start getting looks in the return game this preseason. We haven’t had anyone with this type of game-changing speed returning kicks in the green and white since the days of Leon Washington and Brad Smith, and trust me when I say it won’t take long once the games start to see why the front office seemingly fell in love with this kid’s potential.

Take a look at this long return for a TD from Cannon last season.

What I liked about this play is it really only took one block to help him find a seam down the right sideline; everything else after that is just Cannon being significantly faster than everyone else on the field and having the vision to cut back and finish the return for 6 points.

Without comparing him to some of the greatest return men in the history of football (because it’s WAY too early for any of that noise), it’s undeniable that Cannon has the type of vision to be an effective return man at the next level. There are just some guys you watch and can immediately tell they have a feel for the flow of a game in moments when everyone else on the field is moving their fastest.

To be a successful return man, it doesn’t just take top-notch speed or shiftiness; guys like Devin Hester and Reggie Bush or Josh Cribbs always saw the seams before they opened up and used their change of direction to manipulate defenders and set up blockers. I saw a lot of those same traits from Trenton Cannon throughout his film, whether he was returning a kick or turning the corner on an outside run. All good things.


The fun thing about cutting up film from a guy who produced as much as Trenton Cannon did at Virginia State is there were a ton of plays like the one below. It doesn’t really show us much about Cannon as a ball carrier that we don’t already know, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive.

Look at that fucking speed. Goodness gracious.

That’s a 94-yard touchdown set up by a poor read from the outside linebacker and two cut blocks on the edge. Everything else you see is ALL Trenton Cannon. He gets outside and then out runs 4 defensive backs for 90 yards, even running through an arm tackle without being slowed down enough to get caught.

That’s the speed Cannon has been showcasing at Jets’ camp so far this summer, and based on him being coined “The Ferrari” by Antonio Cromartie, currently working alongside defensive coaches as a coaching intern and noted former-NFL speedster, he’s looked just as impressive going against professionals as he did going against D-II defenses at Virginia State.

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More raw speed from Cannon here. It doesn’t take much at all to get this kid free and from there most defenders are better off dropping to a knee and praying to baby Jesus than they are pursuing.

Again, we’re not seeing anything here we didn’t know already; Trenton Cannon can fucking FLY. But you can’t sit here watching that and tell me you don’t think he’s capable of busting a few long runs like this next season if he gets a couple touches a game.

He’s not gonna run through anyone. But if Jeremy Bates and the Jets offensive coaching staff can find the right situations to get him the ball, it’s only a matter of time before he makes NFL defenders look as silly as these idiots chasing him for the last 40 yards of that TD run.


I just tried to time Cannon from one 30-yard line to the other here because it looks like everyone else is running in slow motion as he explodes through the hole and I wanted to make sure I’m not crazy. I’m no assistant coach with stopwatch experience by any means, but that’s awfully close to sub-4.0 seconds. Even considering the fact that he’s got a running start, that’s awfully fast.

I know this play is more of the same, but holy shit! There just aren’t that many guys in the league today who can make his peers look like they’re running with a stinky dump in their pants the way Trenton Cannon did game after game last season.

Say what you want about the size of the hole he gets to attack there, Trenton Cannon knew he was scoring on that play before he hit the LOS.


Here’s a play that stood out to me amongst all the other long TDs Cannon had last year where he often would go 30+ yards before even being touched, if he was ever touched at all.

Nothing goes well for the offensive line from the snap. It looks like either the offense was not all on the same page or it’s simply one of the weirdest designed run plays of all time, because the right side pulls across the line as if they’re expecting Trenton Cannon to cut back (and there was a HUGE hole), but Cannon gets the ball and runs right at 4 defenders who are essentially being down blocked into the ball carrier.

NOTHING MAKES SENSE HERE, and he still turns it into a 40-yard gain.

What I love most about this play is Cannon’s vision and elusiveness. 5 different defenders had a chance at bringing him down at the LOS and it barely even looks like he gets touched. The jump cuts to get loose and turn up field are gorgeous, and once he hits the 2nd level of the defense, he sees green to his left and proceeds to make another 2 defenders look completely inadequate with another jump cut followed by a spin move reminiscent of Eddie Lacy before he got too fat to play football.

I know he doesn’t score, but if Trenton Cannon wants to be successful as a running back in the NFL, separate from his potential as a return man, he’s gonna need to be able to turn broken plays into chunk plays by using his elusiveness and vision like the play above. It’s not always gonna be 1 cut and then a dead sprint to pay dirt; the Jets’ O-line is by no means elite and capable of opening up huge holes for ball carriers with any consistency.


Between all the buzz coming out of Jets’ training camp and what Trenton Cannon was able to do throughout his college career, it’s obvious why there’s as much excitement as there’s been.

I don’t want to piss in anyone’s Cheerios here, but a 6th round RB impressing beat reporters and teammates with his speed in practice for 2 weeks doesn’t guarantee he’s gonna be able to produce at a high level when the lights come on Week 1 of the regular season. Despite all of the good things we’re hearing and seeing, he’s just not big enough to warrant touches in any situations other than being used to give Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell a breather when necessary.

That being said, Trenton Cannon is ABSOLUTELY coming for Thomas Rawls and Eli McQuire in the competition for the 3rd RB on the depth chart heading into Week 1 of the preseason vs. Atlanta and moving forward from there. Both Rawls and McQuire are banged up, and that’s opened the door for Cannon to get a ton of burn Friday night. If he can continue to impress on the practice field, learn the playbook, and flash his game-changing speed and elusiveness, Trenton Cannon is someone with more than a chance to grab that 3rd RB spot and turn it into flashes of playing time early on this season.

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Regardless of how successful he can be out of the backfield, I think he’ll end up winning the job as our top return option and should serve as an immediate upgrade from the guys we’ve had back there the past few seasons.

Looking a few years into the future, if Cannon can put on some weight and muscle to withstand the beatings he’s gonna receive from his peers, it’s not farfetched to think he could develop into an incredibly effective change of pace back, similar to guys like Darren Sproles or even a guy like New York Jets’ legend Leon Washington back in the day.

For the 30th pick of the 6th round, that’s some legitimate value.

This concludes the New York Jets 2018 Draft Picks Not Named Sam Darnold Breakdowns. Stay tuned for more New York Jets content leading up to Week 1 of the NFL preseason, as the Jets prepare to face off against the Atlanta Falcons on Friday, August 10th.