Here's a pick-by-pick look at how each player New York selected will fit.
Round 1, No. 4 overall: Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
My take: The Jets got Sauced -- in a good way. They addressed a glaring need by scooping up a consensus top-four prospect, based on rankings by draft experts. You need top corners, especially in a division that includes wide receivers Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. The ideal pick would’ve been an edge rusher, but Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan) was gone. Travon Walker (Georgia) would’ve been a consideration, but he was off the board. Instead of reaching for defensive linemen Jermaine Johnson II (Florida State) or Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon), the Jets wisely took the safe pick. Gardner is “not Jalen Ramsey,” one scouting source said, but he has the potential to be a very good corner. The Jets haven’t had a shutdown corner since Darrelle Revis 1.0.
Flawless in college: New York headline writers will love Gardner because of his nickname. You can almost envision the “Apple Sauce” headlines. He got the moniker from a youth coach at age 6 because he loved the dipping sauces at fast-food joints. He dominated on the college level, not allowing a touchdown pass in three years (more than 1,000 coverage snaps). Known for his speed (4.41 in the 40), sticky man-to-man coverage and ball skills, he made nine interceptions over that span. He’s long in every way -- 6-foot-3, with 33½-inch arms, ideal traits for the Jets’ scheme. He needs to add bulk, improve his play strength and cut down on penalties (nine over the past two years). He played mostly press-man in college, so there will be an adjustment to the Jets’ zone-based system.
Massive upgrades: With Gardner and D.J. Reed (three years, $33 million), the Jets have significantly upgraded their cornerback room. You can’t win in the pass-happy NFL without a strong back end. They tried it last season with unproven kids, but it didn’t work. The Jets allowed the third-worst completion rate (68%) and yielded 73 pass plays of at least 20 yards (31st). Quite simply, they didn’t make any plays -- only two interceptions by cornerbacks. Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols, last year’s starters on the outside, are headed for backup roles. Hey, depth matters, especially in today’s NFL. This is only fourth time in the past 20 years that the Jets have drafted a corner in the first round. The others: Darrelle Revis (2007), Kyle Wilson (2010) and Dee Milliner (2013).
Round 1, No. 10 overall: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
My take: He's not Deebo Samuel, but Wilson has the tools to become a very good receiver. Instead of using this pick to trade for the disgruntled San Francisco receiver, the Jets decided to play it straight and continued their methodical rebuild through the draft. Samuel would've provided a huge jolt to the offense, including quarterback Zach Wilson. He would've cost at least $20 million per year, but he would've been worth the 10th pick in the draft -- if, in fact, that was the deal-breaker. The Jets had similar grades on Wilson and WR Drake London, who went two picks earlier to the Falcons, so the decision was relatively easy. Florida State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson also was a consideration. Wilson became the Jets' first first-round wide receiver since Santana Moss in 2001.
Going vertical: Wilson will provide a much-needed vertical threat on offense, and he will have an opportunity to grow with Wilson. Get ready for the Wilson-to-Wilson era. Wilson's best attributes are explosiveness and separation ability. At the scouting combine, he clocked 4.38 in the 40-yard dash. He just has a knack for getting deep. He made 12 touchdown receptions last season, including six on vertical routes. He averaged 15.1 yards per catch -- 70 for 1,051 yards. He did have six drops, suggesting concentration lapses. One question is his size. A shade under 6-foot, he's 183 pounds. He will have to adjust to physical, bump-and-run coverage. He has a basketball background -- he received Division I offers -- and it shows up in his play style with his quickness, footwork and body control.
Offensive makeover: On paper, the Jets should have a very good receiving corps. Wilson joins Elijah Moore, Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios, not to mention a revamped tight-end group. The Jets made no secret of their desire to improve Zach Wilson's supporting cast. By drafting Garrett Wilson with the pick acquired in the Jamal Adams trade, general manager Joe Douglas essentially completed a massive makeover on offense. This unit bears no semblance to the offense he inherited two years ago. One question: What happens to 2020 second-round pick Denzel Mims, who has disappointed? At best, he's the WR5 without a special-teams background. It's hard to imagine him on the roster in 2022.
Round 1, No. 26 overall: Jermaine Johnson II, DE, Florida State
My take: The Jets stopped his fall by trading up from the No. 35 to No. 26, addressing their need for an edge rusher. It cost them second-, third- and fifth-rounders; they received a third-rounder in return. Johnson is similar to quarterback Zach Wilson in that he shot up draft boards off one great year, then crushed the pre-draft process. Hence, the “one-year wonder” label. If Johnson is the real deal, the Jets will have their first legitimate edge rusher since John Abraham, circa 2004. They desperately needed speed in the front four.
Breakout performer: After a two-year junior college stint and two non-descript years at Georgia, Johnson, 23, enjoyed a breakout performance in his only year at Florida State -- 12 sacks and 18 tackles for loss, both of which led the ACC. He was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a team captain. The Jets fell in love with him at the Senior Bowl, where they coached (but not his squad). He had a strong showing at the scouting combine, clocking the 40 in 4.58 seconds. That’s fast, but he doesn’t have the first-step explosiveness of some of the top edge-rushing prospects. He’s only 254 pounds, but he can add more weight on his 6-foot-4 5/8 frame. The main questions: Only one year of real production and he plays too upright at times.
A perfect fit: Short term, Johnson will join Carl Lawson and John Franklin-Myers as the top players in the defensive-end rotation. Long term, can they afford to keep all three? They will count $30 million on the 2023 cap. The Jets rotate eight linemen, with Franklin-Myers having the ability to slide inside on passing downs. Lawson and Johnson can be terrors on the edge, but they will give up size on running plays. Johnson played outside linebacker and defensive end at FSU, with 26% of his snaps at end coming in the wide-9 technique -- an ideal fit in the Jets’ scheme. There’s no question about his effort. Johnson once said, “I’m vicious. I’m physical. I’ll be on you the entire game.” He will fit Saleh’s “All gas, no brake” culture.
Round 2, No. 36 overall: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
My take: Hall was the first running back selected, an ultra-productive player who blew up the scouting combine (4.39 in the 40-yard dash). The Jets traded up two spots to pick him, sending a third-rounder (No. 38) and fifth-rounder (No. 146) to the Giants. The question: Did they need to take a running back this high, especially after a promising rookie year by Michael Carter? “I think I can come in and complement (Carter) really well,” Hall said.
They have other needs, but you know GM Joe Douglas: He loves players with super measurables. Hall described himself as “a three-down back, a guy who can catch the ball, make people miss and run you over.” Hall put up crazy numbers in college, rushing for 1,572 and 1,472 yards in each of his last two seasons. And, oh, yeah, he was a touchdown machine -- 41 rushing touchdowns in 2020 and 2021. Some evaluators say he doesn't always play up to his speed. Clearly, this doesn't bode well for 2020 draft pick La'Mical Perine, whose days appear numbered. Hall and Carter are roster locks, with Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson battling for reserve roles.
Round 3, No. 101 overall: Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State
My take: Interesting pick on a number of levels. Ruckert is a good value at this point in the draft, but the Jets didn't need a tight end after signing C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin. Early on, Ruckert can contribute on special teams as he grows into a bigger role. His production at Ohio State was limited because the offense featured the wide receivers (see: Garrett Wilson), but the Jets believe he might be a better pro than college player.
For his career, he had 54 catches for 615 yards and 12 touchdowns. "He was willing to do the dirty work," Douglas said. Saleh called him "an absolute bulldog" as a run-blocker. Ruckert said, "Our strength coach at Ohio State told us, 'Some slow down and some speed up at contact.' That really hit home with me. Even since then, I've tried to be a dominant player in the run game."
Ruckert wasn't able to participate in the pre-draft process because of a foot injury. Douglas said they "feel really good about where he's at," adding they don't expect him to miss significant time. He grew up a Jets fans on Long Island, adding another layer to the story.
Round 4, No. 111 overall: Max Mitchell, OT, Louisiana
My take: The Jets needed to add a developmental tackle into the pipeline, so this makes sense. George Fant will be a free agent in 2023, and there's no heir apparent on the roster. Mitchell, listed at 6-foot-6 and 307 pounds, was a three-year starter, mainly at right tackle. Douglas called Mitchell a “versatile piece” on the offensive line, someone who can play tackle or guard. He described him as tough, highly competitive and smart. He's not a power player -- he's had trouble keeping weight on -- but he has good movement skills. That makes him a good fit in the Jets' outside zone scheme. He can pass protect; run blocking will be a work in progress. He needs to add strength and mass. Mitchell is a good value at this point in the draft. On Day 3, you're looking for players who can eventually develop into starters/key contributors.
Round 4, No. 117 overall: Micheal Clemons, DE, Texas A&M
My take: This is a risk/reward pick. Clemons has some red flags -- a long injury history, age (will be 25 for the start of the season) and two arrests within a three-month span in 2021. Charges included unlawful possession of a weapon, a small amount of marijuana and driving with an invalid license (twice), per reports.
“I’ve been in trouble with the law once,” Clemons said. “That’s not who I am. That’s not what my character shows. It’s in the past and I’ve learned from it.”
Douglas said Clemons was vetted thoroughly and they're confident he will stay out of trouble. Speaking of Clemons as a player, Douglas called him "one of the nastier players in this entire draft." He has NFL traits -- 6-foot-5, 263 pounds, 4.83 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He was a three-year starter, with 12 sacks and 21 tackles for loss. He was suspended for the 2021 opener. He was a seven-year player in college, including two years at a juco. The Jets are deep at defensive end, so there are no guarantees for Clemons. When you're picking on Day 3, you look for players with traits that can translate to the NFL. Clemons has the traits, and some baggage, too.