New York Jets 2021 NFL Draft Review

Zach Wilson Jets Draft

The 2021 NFL Draft may wind up going down as one of the most important in New York Jets franchise history. General manager Joe Douglas has been strategically rebuilding this team for three years since taking over for Mike Maccagnan, and in his second draft, he was ready to start from scratch. He tore down the team last off-season, and during free agency finally began building it up his way. Now, following the draft, one thing is clear – this is the team the Jets hired Douglas to build back in 2019. Here are the final results of Douglas’ second draft with the New York Jets…

Overall Jets 2021 NFL Draft Class Grade: A

New York Jets 2021 NFL Draft Review

The Best Player: Zach Wilson

To be completely honest, this was always Zach Wilson’s award to win. However, one must mention the one player who could compete for the best player in the class, and that is guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. Not only were the Jets able to trade up for him without sacrificing too much draft capital, but he is one of the draft’s best overall players. He is going to slide in right next to left tackle Mekhi Becton at left guard and can be a difference-maker right out of the gate.

At the same time, if Vera-Tucker plays well, Zach Wilson will be the one making the plays necessary to be regarded as the best player in the class. It was no surprise when Wilson was selected second overall by the Jets, as the quarterback takes on the Big Apple. He has a great arm, can make plays outside of the pocket, and is ready for the bright lights he will be under. After all, Wilson’s talent is the reason why Douglas was comfortable dealing Sam Darnold in the first place.

The Head-Scratcher: Michael Carter II

Now, there is no doubt that Michael Carter II can make an impact on this football team. He is an instinctive football player who plays a physical game, although, at just about 5’10” and 186 pounds, he is likely suited for the slot. Especially when considering his speed and athleticism stem from his lanky frame. Chances are as a rookie Carter will see the majority of his playtime on special teams. At the end of the day, Carter’s selection at 154th overall mainly comes as a head-scratcher given some of the other players available. Some other players selected in the fifth round that would have been more likely to make a bigger impact out of the gate are receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette, defensive lineman Daviyon Nixon, linebacker Cameron McGrone, or fullback Ben Mason.

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The Surprise: Elijah Moore

Is it a surprise that the New York Jets wanted Elijah Moore? No, not at all. The Ole Miss product is an elusive and versatile weapon that fits the Deebo Samuel role that offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur wants in his Shanahan-type offense. What is surprising though is that he was available at 34th overall to begin with. Moore is a yard after catch magician with elite speed and athleticism. He can line up in the slot or outside and has reliable hands. The fact that Moore was not taken towards the end of round one was shocking. And Moore is going to make other teams look silly for passing on him.

The Steal: Hamsah Nasirildeen

Last year, fifth-round pick cornerback Bryce Hall was “The Steal” of the 2020 draft class. This year it is another member of the secondary taken on day three in Hamsah Nasirildeen. The Florida State product was a member of a loaded safety class this year and his slide may come to benefit New York. Nasirildeen appeared bound to be an early-round pick before his late-2019 ACL tear caused him to miss most of the 2020 season. He returned and proved he can play, and the Jets will need him.

In free agency, the Jets lost out on safety/linebacker hybrid Keanu Neal, who head coach Robert Saleh wanted to sign. Now, with Nasirildeen on the roster, he gets a big safety/linebacker hybrid. At 6’3” and 210 pounds, Nasirildeen offers versatility, strength to get off blocks, and still holds his own in coverage. Do not be surprised if he cracks the starting lineup this season.

Most Likely to Turn Heads During Training Camp: Michael Carter

Their athleticism alone makes Jamien Sherwood or Jonathan Marshall potential picks for this slot. Then again, Michael Carter could be the one making the plays that get fans on their feet during the season. The North Carolina back was among the top available players entering day three, and the Jets pounced at 107th overall. Carter has a tough rushing style despite his 5’8” and 201-pound frame, and the elusiveness to bring speed to a committee backfield.

His agility is what will turn heads, as Carter could establish himself as a starter during training camp. LaFleur is expected to utilize a committee backfield, with Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson, La’Mical Perine, Josh Adams, and Pete Guerriero as Carter’s competition. In other words, expect Carter to have an important role early on.

The Rest

Overall, Joe Douglas had yet another fantastic draft on paper. With the 146th overall pick, Douglas turned his focus to the defensive side of the ball with Jamien Sherwood. The 6’2” and 220-pound Auburn product is similar to Nasirildeen in that he too can be a safety/linebacker. Sherwood is a strong tackler with great instincts before the snap. With his athleticism, expect him to make plenty of plays in the box and around the line of scrimmage.

Douglas also snagged two more defensive backs in Jason Pinnock and Brandin Echols. Unlike Echols, Pinnock has the build of an NFL outside cornerback. At 6’0” and 205 pounds, Pinnock has the size and aggressiveness to work his way up the depth chart. Given his struggles with play recognition, it will take time before Pinnock gets regular playtime apart from special teams. Meanwhile, Echols is a smart football player with smooth hips who plays the run well. This may suit him for the slot job, as his 5’11” and 178-pound frame could prevent him from playing on the boundary.

Lastly, Douglas closed out the draft by giving Saleh another athletic freak along the defensive line in Jonathan Marshall. Saleh loves having a depth filled with versatility, and Marshall offers just that. He is a powerful rusher who is an excellent tackler thanks to his burst off of the line. There are parts of his game that must be refined, yet Marshall could quickly become a solid part of the defensive line rotation.

Last Word on the New York Jets 2021 NFL Draft Review

Ultimately, it is easy to see why Douglas and the Jets earned an “A” grade in the 2021 NFL Draft. Douglas’ goal was to give Wilson weapons as a rookie, which he did early on. He later filled numerous needs on the defensive side of the ball too. Who knows, looking back this could wind up being the draft that gives the Jets that push into the future.

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images


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