NFL Draft grades continue to come in, and they continue to be positive for the Jets.
Before diving into the latest batch just remember the golden rule. Draft grades are stupid...unless they praise the Jets.
This year there aren’t many stupid Draft grades.
Day 1: A lot of the talk in the pre-draft process was that the Jets would target an edge defender or offensive tackle in this spot. Instead, they opted for the cornerback who didn’t allow a single touchdown in his college career. Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner is a strong fit in Robert Saleh’s defense, and it’s hard to poke holes in his profile from size to athleticism to college production. Gardner allowed just 43% of the passes thrown into his coverage to be completed across his three seasons with the Bearcats.
The Jets continue to add talent around second-year quarterback Zach Wilson with a 6-foot, 184-pound wide receiver who wins in space before and after the catch. Garrett Wilson averaged over 3.0 yards per route run in each of the last two seasons at Ohio State. He rounds out a receiving corps that has added Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin in the last two offseasons.
There were murmurs that the Jets were thinking of selecting Jermaine Johnson with their No. 4 overall pick, yet they managed to land him at No. 26 after moving up in a trade with Tennessee. The Florida State product, who also played at Georgia and the JUCO level, was one of the biggest winners at the Senior Bowl, impressing scouts so much that he opted out of the final day of practice and the game itself. The 6-foot-4, 259-pounder has over 34-inch arms and the tools to put them into action. He produced multiple pressures in every game he played for Florida State last season and ended the campaign with an 81.0 PFF grade.
Day 2: The Jets were clearly worried that Houston had its sights set on a running back at Pick No. 37, jumping the Texans to land their RB1. Breece Hall has outstanding contact balance, can produce as a receiver and tested extremely well athletically at the combine. This is a bit early to take a running back, particularly following a trade-up, but there’s not much to dislike about Hall’s profile as a prospect. The Jets now have a 1-2 punch at running back with Hall and Michael Carter.
Jeremy Ruckert is arguably the best blocking tight end in the draft class and has uber-reliable ball skills. He dropped only two passes on 56 catchable targets in his college career. He complements what the Jets already have in C.J.Uzomah and Tyler Conklin really well.
Day 3: After drafting several skill players earlier this draft, the Jets finally decided to help out quarterback Zach Wilson from a protection standpoint. Max Mitchell entered the draft as the 88th overall player on PFF’s big board and the 13th best tackle. Last season, he earned a very impressive 94.8 PFF grade.
Draft Grade: A-
Best Pick: Loved the move to back into the first round to land pass rusher Jermaine Johnson. He was their third pick in the first round, but he will pay off big time for Robert Saleh.
Worst Pick: They waited a long time to take a tackle, and when they did take Max Mitchell in the fourth round, he’s a project. Maybe they are thinking more down the line with him.
The Skinny: Joe Douglas had two picks in the top 7 and nailed them, getting corner Sauce Gardner and receiver Garrett Wilson. Then adding Johnson and Breece Hall, the best back in this class, makes it a heck of a group.
They started the draft with nine picks, and after a couple trade-ups ended up selecting seven players, including three in the first round. Jets fans should be excited about this haul. Gardner’s college stats are ridiculous: nine interceptions, 27 passes defended and no touchdowns allowed. He allowed 0.1 yards per coverage snap last season, according to SIS. That was by far the best mark in the country. Wilson has drawn Stefon Diggs comparisons and could end up being the best wide receiver from this class. And Johnson was an incredibly disruptive pass rusher last season. We can quibble over whether the Jets should have traded up for a running back in the second round, but they gave up just a fifth-rounder, and Hall is an excellent prospect.
GM Joe Douglas inherited a mess when he took over in 2019, but now he’s entering his fourth year on the job, and it’s time for results. The Jets have gone 13-36 in the past three seasons.
There are two nightmare scenarios for the Jets. One is that Mekhi Becton doesn’t bounce back, and their offensive line is an issue. Two is that Zach Wilson doesn’t improve, despite the upgraded supporting cast. But looking at this draft in a vacuum, the Jets added high-upside prospects at premium positions.
The New York Jets needed a transformational draft class, and that’s exactly what this has the potential to be.
Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner has rare length for a cornerback and was dominant while being asked to play plenty of press coverage in college. He never allowed a touchdown reception during his time at Cincinnati, according to Pro Football Focus.
Garrett Wilson was the fifth receiver on the final B/R big board, but he was 19th overall, so it wasn’t an egregious reach. Trading back into the first round to select Jermaine Johnson II gives the Jets three immediate starters at impact positions.
The Jets then turned their attention to helping second-year quarterback Zach Wilson on Day 2. Breece Hall has the makings of a superstar tailback, while Jeremy Ruckert was the top tight end in B/R’s rankings.
The Jets had to nail this draft, and general manager Joe Douglas did just that.
I liked every one of the players the Jets took this weekend. Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner was my top-ranked corner and brings shutdown talent to the outside for New York. Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson was my top-ranked receiver and should be a dynamic three-level threat for Zach Wilson. Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson was my fourth-ranked edge rusher and should be a day-one impact starter. Iowa State running back Breece Hall was my top-ranked running back and should be a heavy volume difference maker on the ground. Add in another quality future starter in Ohio State tight end Jeremy Ruckert and Jets GM Joe Douglas has an absolute stew going.