At 1-4 entering their bye week, it is easy to say the 2021 New York Jets season has not gone as planned. Nevertheless, with a team featuring as many rookies as Gang Green has, it is hard not to be pleased with the performance of most. That being said, let’s evaluate each member of the Jets 2021 draft class’ first few weeks in the NFL…
Grading New York Jets 2021 Draft Class Entering Bye
Quarterback Zach Wilson – Round 1 (2nd overall)
Where oh where to begin with Zach Wilson. Across his first few months in the league, the second overall pick has flashed the amazing arm he did at BYU. At the same time, he hasn’t made too many of them. Between the inconsistent pass blocking and drops by receivers (15), Wilson’s first five weeks in the NFL have been disappointing. Already, he has been sacked 18 times, hurried 28 times, and has faced pressure on 29.4% of dropbacks. For Wilson to live up to his rookie year expectations, the least the team could do is block for him and catch his passes. Oh, and for Wilson to stop making ill-advised passes right to opposing defenders.
Offensive Guard Alijah Vera-Tucker – Round 1 (14th overall)
For USC product Alijah Vera-Tucker, the start to his rookie year has been a success. Although it has not been perfect, the fact of the matter is Vera-Tucker has been a massive upgrade over 2020 starter Alex Lewis. Vera-Tucker has been a rock in the ground game at left guard and has improved week-by-week in pass protection. In Week 5, his 92.4 overall grade was the highest among offensive linemen according to Pro Football Focus. Certainly, this comes as music to General Manager Joe Douglas’ ears. Just wait until left tackle Mekhi Becton returns from injury and that duo gains chemistry.
Wide Receiver Elijah Moore – Round 2 (34th overall)
In a matter of five weeks, all the buzz Elijah Moore generated during the off-season has vanished. An elusive playmaker from Ole Miss, Moore appeared to build chemistry with Wilson early. However, Moore has not gotten off to the start many thought he would, especially considering slot receiver Jamison Crowder was out the first couple of weeks. In four games (three starts), Moore has just eight receptions on 20 targets with two of them being picked off, for just 66 yards. For as inept as the Jets offense has been at times, one would expect a player like Moore to get the ball more. Nonetheless, Moore enters the bye having been underused so far by Gang Green.
Running Back Michael Carter – Round 4 (107th overall)
Unlike Moore, Michael Carter has become a bigger part of the offense as the season has progressed. Even at 5’8” and 201-pounds, Carter has established himself as the Jets sparkplug out of the backfield. Sharing time with Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson, Carter has gone from at least 43% of snaps since Week 2, to over 50% of offensive snaps the past two weeks. There is still work to be done, as he is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, but the flashes have been there for Carter to be a key contributor for years to come.
Linebacker Jamien Sherwood – Round 5 (146th overall)
When linebacker Jarrad Davis suffered an ankle injury that put him on injured reserve, Jamien Sherwood stepped into the starting strongside linebacker role. In four games played (three starts), Sherwood has seen his reps increase more over the course of the season. To date, Sherwood has 12 tackles and owns a 72.2 run defense grade according to PFF. Currently, the Auburn product finds himself fighting for snaps in the Jets linebacker rotation. All while he embarks on his first year playing linebacker, after playing safety in college.
Cornerback Michael Carter II – Round 5 (154th overall)
Following the draft, who would’ve guessed Michael Carter II would be the Jets best draft pick after five weeks. Although he only has one start to his name, Carter has been the Jets primary slot cornerback, getting significant playtime every week. He has totaled 27 total tackles, including two for a loss, has two pass deflections, and one fumble recovery. Moreover, Carter also ranks 25th amongst 115 eligible cornerbacks with a 70.0 grade from PFF.
Cornerback Jason Pinnock – Round 5 (175th overall)
A 6’0” and 200-pound cornerback out of Pittsburgh, Jason Pinnock has yet to make his mark compared to the rest of the Jets 2021 draft class. He has only appeared in two games this season, with all his playtime coming on special teams (19 snaps). Thus, leaving more to be seen from the second of the three cornerbacks drafted by New York. Until he makes his mark defensively, Pinnock’s rookie outlook is as a special team’s regular and a depth piece in case of injury.
Linebacker Hamsah Nasirildeen – Round 6 (186th overall)
Another safety-turned linebacker by the Jets, Hamsah Nasirildeen’s rookie year has not gone as planned. Standing at 6’3” and 215-pounds, Nasirildeen’s transition to linebacker this off-season went well, as he had worked his way onto the first-team defense during training camp. Yet, by Week 3, he went from a starter to a special team’s player alongside Pinnock. In limited playtime, Nasirildeen has shown promise in coverage but has struggled against the run. At this point, the Jets would love to see more out of the former Florida State Seminole.
Cornerback Brandin Echols – Round 6 (200th overall)
One of the biggest surprises entering the season was the emergence of sixth-round pick Brandin Echols. The former Kentucky Wildcat got plenty of attention for his performance in training camp and the pre-season, which led to him starting opposite Bryce Hall in every game this season. This season, Echols has 22 total tackles to his name and two pass deflections, though has a way to go in improving against the run and in coverage.
Defensive Lineman Jonathan Marshall – Round 6 (208th overall)
Last but not least, the final Jets 2021 draft pick Jonathan Marshall, an athletic defensive lineman out of Arkansas. At 6’3” and 310-pounds, he is likely to factor into the Jets defensive line rotation by the end of the season. After all, defensive coordinator to Jeff Ulbrich loves to have options along the front. Then again, entering the bye, Marshall finds himself in a similar situation to Pinnock, as he simply has not gotten enough playtime in five weeks to properly begin to evaluate his rookie year.
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