As the Jets get closer to training camp, I am examining the roster and giving you my top 25 players. Each weekday, we will reveal another person on the list, leading right into camp. I am not including rookies on this list because I do not feel it is possible to fully evaluate them before they play a game.
No. 12: Folorunso Fatukasi
Last year’s ranking: 16
Age on Opening Day: 26
How acquired: Selected in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft
Years left on contract: 1
2021 Salary Cap figure: $2.2 million
Looking back at 2020
Fatukasi is one of the most underrated players on the Jets. He has developed into a good defensive lineman and should be a player the Jets hold on to for years.
He played in 15 games last year, starting eight. He was on the COVID-19 list for one game. Fatukasi only played 45 percent of the snaps but he had a huge impact when he played. He is one of the team’s best run stoppers.
Fatukasi had 42 tackles, six for a loss, five quarterback hits, two sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. His biggest play of the year was a fourth-and-1 stop on Cam Newton in the first game against the Patriots.
PFF rated Fatukasi 14th out of 126 interior defenders they graded and second in run defense. He was credited with 24 stops, which are plays that are failures for the offense.
Outlook for 2021
I started off by saying Fatukasi is underrated and I may be doing the same thing here. My hesitation in putting him higher on the list is his role. The Jets have a budding star in Quinnen Williams at defensive tackle and they signed Sheldon Rankins in free agency. That leaves Fatukasi as a rotational player. He had a big impact last year for a player who was on the field for less than half the snaps. It is hard to see him having a bigger role this year, though.
Fatukasi is a player coaches love. He is low maintenance and high motor. Fatukasi will be a key piece of Robert Saleh’s defensive line, even if he is not a starter.
This is a contract year for Fatukasi and there is no reason to expect him to take a step backwards. He has steadily improved throughout his career and could be in line for a nice contract in free agency if he has another big season in 2021.