Scouts Inc. grades show New York Jets get unprecedented haul in NFL draft

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Rare trifecta: Coach Robert Saleh called it a "dream" first round. It was one for the ages, according to one scouting service.

The Jets became the first team in the history of Scouts Inc., which has been evaluating prospects for ESPN.com since 2004, to select three players with a grade of 92 or better (on a 100 scale) in the same draft.

Cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner: 93

Wide receiver Garrett Wilson: 93

Defensive end Jermaine Johnson II: 92

That's a pretty good haul for the Jets, considering only 14 players received a 92 or better.

"I think they had an awesome [first day]," a scout from an opposing team said. "You can make an argument that all three of those guys were the best at their position this year."

A year ago, general manager Joe Douglas drafted three players with a grade of 90 or above, something that hadn't been done since the 2008 Miami Dolphins. We're talking about QB Zach Wilson (93), G Alijah Vera-Tucker (91) and WR Elijah Moore (90).

On paper, it looks like they have stacked two good drafts (let's not talk about 2020), but we all know that grades and rankings and post-draft plaudits don't really mean anything. Promising, yes, but nobody gets a Lombardi in April.

2. Stunning fall: One of the big stories of the first round was Johnson's tumble to 26. What happened? He was widely projected as a top-10 pick. I checked with some people around the league, and they pointed to a few factors.

First of all, no edge rushers were picked between No. 5 (Kayvon Thibodeaux, New York Giants) and No. 26, so need (or lack thereof) may have played into it. Secondly, Johnson was an eight-month wonder. After a juco stop and two non-descript years at Georgia, he crushed his only season at Florida State (12 sacks), played well at the Senior Bowl and aced at the scouting-combine testing. Teams can be leery of players with a small body of work. And Johnson didn't interview well with some teams during the pre-draft process, according to multiple scouting sources.

"He was a divisive prospect among scouts," one scouting source said. "But I'm glad the Jets were able to get back into the first and get him. Some scouts feel he could end up being one of, if not the best edge rusher in the draft."

He's a nice scheme fit for the Jets, who can use him as a wide-9 pass-rusher.

3. Scouts say: Here's a sampling of comments from scouts on Gardner, Wilson and Johnson:

On Gardner: "I like the way he's wired. He's got that swag, which is what you want in cornerbacks. He's a springy athlete, long, with good burst. Some people think he's the best player in the draft. ... He has the tools and the confidence. He has a lot of things going for him. ... You love his size and competitiveness. I think he'll be good against bigger receivers, but I don't think he can handle the quick, speedy guys. I gave him a late first-round grade."

On Wilson: "He's more dynamic than the (other receivers). I think his skills will translate really well in the league. ... I have Jameson Williams as the best wide receiver in the class, but Wilson is clearly No. 2. After him, there's a drop-off. ... Tremendous body control. I think his route running needs to improve a little bit. ... Wilson and (former Ohio State teammate) Chris Olave are really close, but I think Wilson is more explosive."

On Johnson: "He's got a lot of traits that translate to the NFL. ... He's a player. He competes. He's tall, a little skinny, long-armed. He has good instincts. It's a good pick. ... He's pro-ready as a run defender. He has a lot of moves as a pass-rusher. He's creative and has good hands. He doesn't repeat the same move twice. He has a wide repertoire."

4. Did you know? Not only was it a productive draft for the Jets, but it was unusual. Consider:

They picked a wide receiver, running back and tight end in the first three rounds for the first time in the common-draft era (since 1967). ... Wilson is their first first-round receiver since Santana Moss in 2001. ... Breece Hall (No. 36) is their highest-drafted running back since Blair Thomas in 1990.

5. Hall of a deal (almost): The Jets were so high on Hall that they tried to trade up for him at the bottom of the first round, which would've given them four first-rounders. That's happened only once in NFL history -- the 2000 Jets.

6. Big Ticket stays: So much for those rumors about the Jets moving on from LT Mekhi Becton. They didn't draft an offensive lineman on Day 1 or 2, so should that be perceived as a vote of confidence for the big man? Kind of, because they easily could've taken OT Ikem Ekwonu with the fourth pick.

Saleh, who previously said Becton would compete with George Fant at left tackle, backed away from that on Saturday, hinting that Becton could move to right tackle. Saleh was unusually vague. Asked if Becton could switch to the right side, Saleh said, "We'll see as soon as we can get him back here healthy, and he's ready to roll, and he's on the field."

By rule, teams aren't allowed to criticize players for skipping voluntary workouts, which is what Becton is doing, but Saleh made it clear that he'd like him in the offseason program. At one point, the coach looked at the camera and said, "We would love to have you back, buddy. We'll take care of you."

The Jets better hope Becton doesn't let them down because they don't have a Morgan Moses insurance policy anymore.

7. Extreme makeover: Zach Wilson showed up to the offseason program with a different demeanor, according to one teammate. Said Fant: "My guy came back with a little more swag. ... He definitely came back with a little something different."

This is a huge year for the second-year quarterback, who now has a supporting cast that has a chance to be pretty good. That awful Adam Gase-led offense from 2019, which included the washed-up, overpaid RB Le'Veon Bell, is completely gone. Every projected starter on the current offense was acquired in 2020, 2021 or 2022.

Success won't happen overnight because there's still a lot of inexperience, but the pressure is on Wilson to take a big step and grow with this group.

"I appreciate their confidence in me, and I think they understand that quarterback efficiency in this league ... it’s how you win games, it’s how you're explosive on offense," Wilson said last week. "So I need to do my part. I need to get better. I need to let the guys around me make the plays that they were brought in for."

8. Uphill battle: The addition of Garrett Wilson certainly creates questions about Denzel Mims, who projects as the WR5 at best. That he doesn't play special teams, a virtual must for a receiver in that role, doesn't help his chances. The prediction here is that the Jets bring him to training camp and give him an opportunity to turn the arrow upward. If nothing else, it could increase his trade value. If he sputters, adios.

9. Sam and Adams: A final tally on the Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold trades with the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers, respectively:

The Jets turned the Adams picks (2021 and 2022 first-rounders and a 2021-third rounder) into guard Vera-Tucker and Garrett Wilson, two potential longtime starters. They used that third-round pick to trade up for Vera-Tucker.

They got three picks for Darnold -- a 2021 sixth-round choice, plus 2022 second- and fourth-rounders. They parlayed them into four players -- DB Jason Pinnock, DT Jonathan Marshall, Hall and OT Max Mitchell.

Having that extra pick in Round 2 created flexibility, allowing them to use one (No. 35) to trade up for Johnson. That has to be factored into the equation. On paper, the Jets did well with those two trades.

10. The last word: This happened in the green room Thursday night at the draft in Las Vegas. After completing his media obligations, Gardner saw Garrett Wilson wearing a Jets cap while talking to reporters. That's how he found out they had picked Wilson. Gardner thought to himself, "Oh, man, this is going to be crazy." Then, in a phone conversation with cornerbacks coach Tony Oden, Gardner learned they had traded up for Johnson.

Said Gardner: "I'm like, 'Oh, yeah, this team is going to be special.'"