After last season’s virtual draft, Cleveland is playing host to festivities this year with a handful of potential draft picks present and socially distanced because of COVID-19.
Here’s a pick-by-pick look at how each player New York has selected will fit.
Round 1, No. 2 overall: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
My take: The Joe Douglas QB Gambit is complete. His hand-picked successor to Sam Darnold is Wilson, who has plenty of talent but carries just enough risk to make this anything but a slam dunk. They made a mistake by trading Darnold, but Wilson can make everyone forget about that. Under the circumstances, he was the best fit for the Jets. He has better arm talent than the other top prospects not named Trevor Lawrence and many scouts believe his learning curve won’t be as steep as it will be for the others. This is a seminal moment for the franchise. They can’t be wrong.
• Kiper’s Round 1 recap: Who won?
• McShay answers first-round questions
• Best available players | Draft order
• NFL Nation analysis | Trade tracker
• Rankings: Kiper | McShay | Legwold
• Scouting reports | More draft coverage
Armed and dangerous: There’s a lot to like about Wilson. From a pure arm standpoint, he might be the Jets’ best thrower since Vinny Testaverde. His arm is strong and accurate, and he can throw from different angles. His release is lightning quick. He can throw on the move, which fits nicely into the new offensive scheme. In 2020, he completed 62% on attempts of 20-plus yards, the best mark for an FBS passer since the metric was first tracked in 2011. There’s a schoolyard element to his game; some compare him to Baker Mayfield. In Zoom interviews, Wilson impressed the Jets’ brass with his aptitude for the game.
Question marks: It takes more than arm strength to play quarterback in the NFL; this isn’t a “Punt, Pass & Kick” competition. Wilson’s durability is a question. He’s 6-foot-2, 214 pounds, but played closer to 205. His shoulders are narrow, so some wonder about his ability to add muscle and take a pounding. His throwing shoulder was surgically repaired in 2019. At BYU, Wilson was a one-year wonder who racked up amazing numbers against weak competition in a pandemic-marred college season. Can he replicate that in the NFL? Douglas, who could have traded the pick for two future first-rounders, has pushed all his chips to the middle of the table.
Check out the best highlights from USC OG Alijah Vera-Tucker’s college career.
My take: The Jets addressed a major need by drafting the top guard in the draft. Detect a trend? This was the second straight year that they picked an offensive lineman in the first round. It’s a smart move because it will help new quarterback Zach Wilson. It was a costly move. The Jets traded up nine spots, giving up their first-round pick (23) and two third-round picks (66 and 86) for the Vikings’ first-rounder (14) and a fourth-rounder (143). It’s unlikely he would have fallen to the Jets at No. 23. Credit New York for being aggressive.
Left side, strong side: Vera-Tucker played left tackle last season for the Trojans, but he has extensive experience at left guard — and that’s where he projects for the Jets. He will replace veteran Alex Lewis, a two-year starter for them. Suddenly, they have a potentially formidable left side, with Vera-Tucker and Mekhi Becton, last year’s No. 1 pick. This is the first time the Jets have drafted a first-round offensive lineman in back-to-back years since 1977-78. That doesn’t include 2006, when they drafted D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, both in Round 1.
Skilled pass-protector: Vera-Tucker is a strong, agile blocker with few flaws in his game. Scouts considered him one of the draft’s safest prospects. In 2019, when he played guard, he was among the best pass-protectors in the FBS, allowing one pressure in 561 pass blocks. Many believe he has Pro Bowl potential. The biggest negative is that he started only 19 games in college.
What’s next: On Day 2, the Jets have one second-round pick (34) and no third-round picks, thanks to the trade for Vera-Tucker. Expect it to be a defensive night, with needs at cornerback and edge rusher. Douglas also could trade down, looking to recoup picks.
Elijah Moore is taken 34th overall by the Jets and his family and friends are hyped.
Round 2, No. 34 overall: Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
My take: Another present for new quarterback Zach Wilson. This marks the the first time since 2009 the Jets used their first three picks on offense. Remarkably, it’s the first time in the common-draft era (since 1967) that they picked a quarterback and wide receiver in the first two rounds of the same draft. Wow.
Moore is a pure playmaker out of the slot, a 5-foot-9 dynamo with 4.32-second speed in the 40-yard dash. The Jets, ranked 32nd in offense the past two years, needed a home run threat. Moore made 86 receptions for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns in 2020 … in only eight games! He opted out. He can give them a Deebo Samuel-like presence because he can be a weapon on jet sweeps and screens. The Jets received offers for this pick, but they stayed put because they felt Moore was too good a value at No. 34. This could impact Jamison Crowder, the team’s leading receiver the past two seasons. He’s entering the final year of his contract and is due to make a non-guaranteed $10 million.
The big question: What about the defense?
What’s next: Barring a trade, the Jets are finished for Day 2, having traded their two third-round picks to the Minnesota Vikings on Day 1. On Day 3, they have six choices — two in the fourth, two in the fifth and two in the sixth.