Undrafted free agents (UDFAs) tend to make up between 20-30% of active NFL teams every year. Hitting on a first-round pick will justify the investment, but nothing is more satisfying than striking gold with a UDFA.

The Jets have a number of promising players from this year’s UDFA pool with Jason Brownlee turning heads at camp, Xavier Gipson’s speed being noticeable, and Trey Dean  hitting anything and everything that moved during the Browns game.

But the biggest and best surprise of Training Camp so far may come in the form of Tony Adams, a UDFA out of Illinois that joined the Jets last offseason, made the team, and then went from strength to strength when given the opportunity to get on the field.

This summer he’s continued to build on last season’s momentum, making a number of impressive plays. When asked about Adams in a press conference, Coach Saleh said that the cat was out of the bag when it comes to Adams, meaning his secret success is secret no more.

In the run-up to the draft, Adams put on a show at every stop. His Relative Athletic Score, a metric which tests speed, agility, explosion and size, came in at 9.76 out of 10. That number would have ranked him #3 at CB, #3 at FS, and #1 at SS in his draft class.

He was also coming off a college career where he posted 206 tackles, 11.5 for a loss, 3 sacks, 6 interceptions and 1 forced fumble.

So how did a guy who’s incredibly athletic and incredibly productive go undrafted?

The answer to that question is based on his versatility as Coach Saleh relayed in his press conference:

“In Tony’s case, he’s so smart and so versatile, that he played a lot of different positions at Illinois and while that’s great for Illinois, it kind of hides the player a little bit.”

Adams was a Swiss army knife in the defence of Lovie Smith for the majority of his time in Champaign, Illinois.

When he first arrived at Illinois he became the first true Freshman to start at outside corner in over a decade, and considering he’d recently suffered a torn ACL while playing at St. Louis University High School, that’s impressive.

His freshman year he suffered another season-ending injury, this time to his shoulder, another setback, and another hurdle that Adams cleared with the kind of perseverance that turns a UDFA into a starting NFL defender.

According to PFF statistics, Adams spent over 250 snaps in the box, over 450 snaps as a free safety, over 350 snaps as a slot corner and over 1000 snaps as an outside corner.

There’s versatility, and then there is Tony Adams. He was asked to wear so many hats, teams didn’t know which hat fit him best, and sometimes when you move around a lot, it’s difficult to get a consensus.

That worked to the Jets advantage, as they were able to snag him once the draft was done. His performance in last year’s camp ensured he made the roster, and now he’s in competition with Ashtyn Davis and veteran Adrian Amos for the starting free safety position, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say he’s leading the way.

Coach Saleh was asked about Adams last week, following an impressive performance running with the first-team defence:

His mental makeup. He checks all the boxes physically, he’s got red line, the red line speed, he’s physical in the box. He’s got great instincts in the run game. He’s got great fuel in the passing, he checks all that stuff.

There’s a lot of people in this League who check those boxes, but there’s only a few that check his mental makeup and everything about him. He’s excited about everything. You see him in a special teams drill, he’s talking crap, you see him in individual, he’s talking, he just loves being out there.

He loves ball. He loves the process. He loves everything, so as long as he keeps that drive and that love for football and that childlike love and enthusiasm, I think he will be alright.

A few days later he grabbed the social media headlines again as he picked off Aaron Rodgers on a deep pass over the middle.

That’s where he’ll make his money for the Jets. Using his explosion and speed to close windows and make plays on the ball.

When asked in college to name his favourite athlete, he said Kobe Bryant, not because of his skill but because “of his mindset and his work ethic.” Which says everything you need to know about Adams.

We didn’t get the chance to see Adams last week against the Browns, as he did not dress, along with the starters, this week he should receive some playing time against Carolina, and if training camp is anything to go by, Bryce Young better keep his eyes peeled for #22 lurking in centre field.