After the Jets engaged in trade discussions that centered on Tyreek Hill and more recently reportedly on Deebo Samuel, general manager Joe Douglas elected to use his No. 10 selection to nab former Ohio State star wideout Garrett Wilson on Thursday night as the NFL Draft opened its three-day stay in Las Vegas.
As Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh said before landing Wilson, one of the team's goals was to continue to surround second-year QB Zach Wilson with more options and talent. In Wilson, the Jets got that and more, much, much more.
"He's another speed guy, he's got the whole repertoire in terms of the route tree, he's got great body control and he's a lot stronger, you see him, and he looks a little slight [6-0, 183], but he's actually very strong," Saleh said. "He plays the game very strong, he's got great range, he's got really good speed.
"So, he's another guy that he can win one-on-one, which, obviously, when you look at Buffalo, New England, Miami, they're man-to-man coverage teams and being able to add him to Corey [Davis] and Braxton [Berrios] and Elijah Moore and the rest of the receiver corps, along with our tight ends and our backs, too, with Michael [Carter] and Tevin [Coleman] and Ty Johnson, it's a group that is really ascending and a very young group that has a chance to grow together."
The last time the Jets selected a receiver with the No. 10 pick in the draft, in 1985, they landed the sure-handed Al Toon out of Wisconsin. Toon went on to play nine years for the Green & White, went to three Pro Bowls and was once a first team All-Pro selection. This year, that No. 10 pick was the Jets' final dividend from the trade that sent S Jamal Adams to Seattle.
Wilson is a sure-handed wide receiver who has a knack for plucking a spiraling pigskin out of the air. With his speed (sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash), elusiveness, skill at stretching the field and ability to break tackles, Wilson is a threat to turn modest plays into big plays.
"I feel like I do a good job of winning the 50/50 ball," Wilson said. "I feel like I do a good job of playing with a lot of passion and you can see it on the field. I feel like I bring my teammates energy up on the field. I also feel like I do a good job of making people miss. Those are things that I'm going to hold my hat on and try to continue doing at the next level."
In his sophomore season in 2020, Wilson (who was a basketball star in high school) saw most of his action as a slot receiver, making 43 catches for 723 yards and 6 TDs. He moved back outside in the 2021 season, making 70 catches for 1,058 yards (15.1 yards a catch) and 15 TDs. He made three receptions of more than 50 yards, with a best of 77 yards in a victory over Michigan State.
In the Jets offense being overseen by coordinator Mike LaFleur, flexibility and versatility are valuable tools in aiding Zach Wilson's development. LaFleur likes his receivers being able to line up all over the field.
Wilson described his approach this way: "I feel like I do a good job of winning the 50/50 ball. I feel like I do a good job of playing with a lot of passion and you can see it on the field. I feel like I bring my teammates energy up on the field. I also feel like I do a good job of making people miss. Those are things that I'm going to hold my hat on and try to continue doing at the next level."
He added: "Just having a plan. I feel like when you're matching up against good players, you got to go to the line of scrimmage with a plan. You can't just go out there and try to run around somebody or not get on shoulders and stuff like that. So, I try to get on my shoulders and make the DB uncomfortable. I don't want to be right in front of them, making moves and stuff like that. There's a lot of nuances to running routes and I'm excited to keep learning under Coach [Mike] LaFleur, the offensive coordinator, and Coach [Miles] Austin as the receivers coach."
Speaking about the prospect of playing with another guy named Wilson, the one who throws the ball, the pass-catching Wilson said: "I think he's got a lot of talent, I think he's got a lot, especially arm talent."
Douglas, closing out Day 1 of the draft after a long night at One Jets Drive again stressed the importance of building around and protecting Zach Wilson.
"I've talked about the importance of Zach's development and getting guys that can help," Douglas said. "I feel like all three of these guys [Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, Wilson and Jermaine Johnson II] can help Zach in different ways whether it's helping him on the field on offense or getting the ball back to him as quick as possible. We feel great about Garrett at the value we were able to get him. His playmaking ability, his explosiveness, ball skills, run after catch, he's a very talented young man."