The 2022 NFL Draft is how the New York Jets wanted to take that next step this off-season. Not by handing players blank checks in free agency. Nor dealing away draft assets for an elite player demanding a massive raise. It is through the draft that General Manager Joe Douglas has always planned to build his team. And he certainly doubled down on that philosophy on Thursday night.
New York Jets Aced Day One of 2022 NFL Draft
Entering day one of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Jets were equipped with the fourth and tenth overall pick. The latter is thanks to the Seattle Seahawks, who sent their pick to Gang Green in return for Jamal Adams. Additionally, the Jets had two second-round picks, and a high third in their arsenal should they pull off a trade. After all the Deebo Samuel rumors and receiver movement, it seemed likely they could deal the 10th overall pick away. In reality, Douglas and the front office had a different plan.
Fourth Overall Pick – Cornerback Ahmad Gardner
By the time the Jets were on the lock, three of the top defensive players were gone. Defensive ends Travon Walker and Aidan Hutchinson went one and two, with corner Derek Stingley Jr. going third. Thus, leaving the Jets big board including cornerback Ahmad Gardner, offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu, and the sliding defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux.
While Thibodeaux would have provided an undeniable boost to the defensive line, there was plenty of depth at the position in the draft. And the Jets didn’t necessarily need a tackle, with George Fant and Mekhi Becton already on the roster. That being said, why not draft one of the most talented players in the class to give the team its deepest cornerback room in years?
Nicknamed “Sauce”, Gardner was one of the top cornerbacks in college football last year. Not only did he go his entire three-year career at Cincinnati without allowing a touchdown, but Gardner earned first-team Associated Press All-American status and the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year award.
Standing at 6’3” and 190-pounds, Gardner is a day one starter on the outside at cornerback for the Jets. His length is going to establish the former Bearcat quickly as a very good starter, with the upside to become a legitimate shutdown corner for the Jets. Joining a cornerbacks unit already featuring D.J. Reed, Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols, and more, the position has just gone from a weakness following the addition of Gardner.
10th Overall Pick – Wide Receiver Garrett Wilson
The Jets could have gone any number of ways with this selection. Trade it for Deebo, draft defensive end Jermaine Johnson after passing on Thibodeaux, or trade down for more picks. With USC wide receiver Drake London gone, it left Garrett Wilson and Jameson Williams as the top two receivers left. Thus, making it a matter of adding a wideout any number of ways or doubling down defensively.
In the end, Douglas opted to give second-year quarterback Zach Wilson arguably the top receiver in the class in Wilson. The Ohio State product, whose well-known for his run-after-catch ability and versatility, is a perfect fit for the Jets offense. With offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur calling the shots, Wilson will be moved all over the field with the goal being simply to get the ball in his hands.
A former five-star recruit, Wilson stole the show with the Buckeyes with his spectacular catches and strong hands. In a talented receiver room, he had to share reps but always provided a reliable option. Forming a quartet with Elijah Moore, Corey Davis, and Braxton Berrios, the Jets did exactly what they set out to do this off-season… give Zach Wilson as many weapons as possible.
26th Overall Pick – Defensive End Jermaine Johnson II
As previously mentioned, Jermaine Johnson II was on the table for the Jets at 10th overall. To see one of the top pass rushers fall late into round one is certainly surprising. So, who can blame Joe Douglas for trading back into round one for the third of the Jets top eight players on their big board?
To jump back into round one, the Jets dealt the 35th, 69th, and 163rd overall picks to the Tennessee Titans for 26th and 101st overall. In that deal, New York gave up more value, although retained a late third-round pick while still holding onto the 38th overall pick. To be able to pull off acquiring a third first-round pick and still hold onto a second a third-round pick is unheard of.
Again, Jermaine Johnson II should not have been available this late. At 6’5” and 254-pounds, the Florida State product is among the best edge defenders in this year’s draft class. A strong run defender with the traits to become a big threat as a pass rusher, Johnson is a day one impact player. He is still a raw, moldable player who in the Jets defense will get the opportunity to thrive.
Playing alongside a healthy Carl Lawson, John Franklin-Myers, and Quinnen Williams, Johnson is joining a young and ascending defensive front. Under Head Coach Robert Saleh and Defensive Coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, the utilization of heavy rotations on the defensive front will allow for Johnson to build on his pass rush arsenal while not throwing him into the fire immediately as a full-time starter. When considering the Jets 4-3 defensive scheme that asks rushers to push upfield, Johnson’s ceiling is through the roof with New York.
New York Jets Won Round One of 2022 NFL Draft
In what was a wild first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, it is impossible to ignore what the Jets achieved within a matter of hours. The team came into the draft in desperate need of a shutdown corner, an elite playmaker at receiver, and a pass rusher. Without parting with players, losing a significant amount of draft capital, or sacrificing cap space flexibility, New York aced the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Round one was only the beginning too, as Jets nation is eagerly awaiting what Joe Douglas can pull off the rest of the weekend.
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