Scouting service: New York Jets score rare NFL draft trifecta with top picks

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- At various points during the 2021 NFL draft, New York Jets officials were seen hugging and high-fiving on video released by the team. They weren't the only ones excited.

Often questioned on their draft-day decisions, the Jets received high marks from draft experts on their three-day performance. It was one of the best in recent memory, according to Scouts Inc., which evaluates drafts prospects for ESPN.com.

The Jets drafted three players with a grade of 90 or above, something that had not been done since the 2008 Miami Dolphins. Scouts, Inc. has been grading players since 2004. The only other time a team pulled a 90-hat trick was the 2005 Dolphins.

In this year's draft, only 16 players received a 90 grade. The Jets selected BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (93) with the No. 2 overall pick, USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker (91) at No. 14 after trading up and Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore (90) with the 34th pick.

Three out of 16 -- not bad. On the Jets' draft board, the trio was ranked in the top 25, according to general manager Joe Douglas.

"We're excited about the competition we're going to create, we're excited about the depth that we added, so I do feel like we improved ourselves throughout this offseason and the offseason isn't over until training camp starts," Douglas said. "There's more opportunities to improve this team, improve this roster. We're going to take it."

That the Jets had three picks in the top 34 certainly improved their chances of landing highly-graded players. They can thank Jamal Adams for that. If the star safety hadn't complained last offseason, forcing his way out of town, the Jets wouldn't have dealt him to the Seattle Seahawks for a package that included first- and third-round picks in 2021 and a first-round pick in 2022.

Douglas took the 2021 picks (23, 66 and 86) and used them to trade up nine spots to grab Vera-Tucker. It was costly -- they missed out on a potential starting cornerback in Round 3 -- but the Jets considered Vera-Tucker a top-10 talent, a future star.

Time will tell, but none of that happens without the Adams trade. That extra draft capital put Douglas in an aggressive mood, and he didn't want to sit on his hands and watch a highly-ranked player land with another team. A source with a team picking ahead of the Jets' original position (23) said his team would have taken Vera-Tucker.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. gave the Jets an A- in his post-draft grades, noting that he, too, had Wilson, Vera-Tucker and Moore ranked in his top 16.

"That's tremendous and is part of the reason this grade is so high, though they did have to surrender a third-round pick in the Round 1 trade up to get Vera-Tucker," Kiper said. "Wilson already has better weapons to throw to and a better offensive line than [Sam] Darnold ever had in New York."

For a change, the Jets, with a GM and a coach working in lockstep, seem to be heading in the right direction. The disclaimer is that high draft grades guarantee nothing. For proof, look no further than those Miami teams.

Of those six highly-graded players in 2005 and 2008, only two made the Pro Bowl -- left tackle Jake Long (four times) and running back Ronnie Brown (once). The others were disappointments -- defensive end Phillip Merling, quarterback Chad Henne, defensive end Matt Roth and linebacker Channing Crowder. Miami made the playoffs in 2008, their only postseason appearance from 2005 to 2015.

Post-draft kudos are nice, but you don't make the playoffs in April. In the Jets' case, though, it feels like a turning point.