Two years ago, the New York Jets had one of the worst receiving corps in the NFL -- and that's a kind description.
They went into the season with a diminished Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill as their starting wide receivers. Holmes was coming off foot surgery and Hill was useless unless he was facing the Buffalo Bills, the only team he showed up against. The backups were Jeremy Kerley, Clyde Gates, Greg Salas and David Nelson, an in-season "street" free agent who actually jumped to the top of the depth chart by year's end. Of course, it didn't take a Bob Beamon jump to accomplish that; it was more of the hopscotch variety.
Remember the immortal Ben Obomanu? Yeah, it was that bad.
Of the aforementioned seven receivers, only two are currently employed in the NFL -- Kerley (Jets) and Hill (Carolina Panthers). Hill spent last season on the Panthers' practice squad.
The position has undergone a dramatic transformation since 2013. It's hardly recognizable. With three significant moves, capped by last week's draft, the Jets turned a weakness into a potential strength. Unlike the secondary, rebuilt entirely with Woody Johnson's money, the wide-receiver makeover was accomplished through a variety of methods.
Draft: With a second-round pick, the Jets selected Ohio State's Devin Smith, arguably the most accomplished deep-ball threat in the draft. He scored 10 touchdowns last season on passes of at least 20 yards.
Trade market: Before free agency, they traded for former Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall, giving up a fifth-round pick but also receiving a seventh-rounder in return. At 31, his best days probably are behind him, but he's a seven-time, 1,000-yard receiver, still capable of being a No. 1 target. His contract isn't guaranteed beyond 2015, so it was a worthwhile gamble.
Free agency: Former general manager John Idzik took a walk on the wild side last year, signing Eric Decker to a five-year, $36.3 million contract -- a rare splurge. Decker didn't have a great year (74 catches, 962 yards), but he was hampered by a hamstring issue. A healthy Decker should be a nice complement to Marshall.
With Kerley in the slot, the Jets can put four legitimate receivers on the field, something they haven't been able to do in maybe forever. The battle for the No. 5 spot should be interesting because they have veterans DeVier Posey (acquired from the Houston Texans), T.J. Graham, Chris Owusu and a bunch of unproven kids.
No one is saying they're the "Greatest Show on Turf," but gone are the days when desperate fans applauded the return of Braylon Edwards, as if he were some kind of savior. The Jets have graduated to respectability.