The Jets completed a historic week Saturday, selecting five players on Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft. It was an afternoon that saw GM Joe Douglas execute his ninth and 10th draft-day trades, but the deal was overshadowed by the Broadway Blockbuster trade earlier this week that brought Aaron Rodgers to New York.
"It's been a fun week," head coach Robert Saleh said. "To get Aaron here, it's a blessing. And then for this draft to get who we felt was one of the better pass rushers (Will McDonald) and then to add to the O-line, get the back from Pitt (Israel Abanikanda) who just has so much juice and breakaway speed. And then to add these guys on day three, Joe turning three picks into (five), and to add depth and to add versatility and to add smart guys, guys who fit our build in terms of character and mindset, so we got better this week. A lot better this week and excited to work with the group."
Rodgers, the four-time NFL MVP, makes the Jets an immediate contender. The Jets have elite players on both sides of the ball with WR Garrett Wilson, the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, RB Breece Hall in addition to CB Sauce Gardner, the Defensive Rookie of the Year, DT Quinnen Williams, LB C.J. Mosley and CB D.J. Reed. But quarterback was the missing piece, and a reinvigorated Rodgers makes all things possible.
"I think the excitement of a new chapter has really been fueling my offseason workouts so far and just the overall excitement level," Rodgers said. "I've mentioned the Jets fans are an incredibly passionate group. I'm excited to meet them, to play in front of them, but to be a part of something special is what keeps you coming back. I think this is building right now and what Coach (Saleh) has done the last couple of years, he's building something special the right way, with the right values, the right type of leadership and I think I can just fit in perfectly."
See the best images of Aaron Rodgers' first day as a New York Jet.
On Thursday, Rodgers was throwing to his teammates on the field. Something that would have seemed unimaginable months ago is now a reality — Rodgers is a New York Jet. He wanted to be here, and he has joined a team that will run a system he thrived in at Green Bay not too long ago.
"We're a really, really young team especially on offense," Saleh said. "To watch him and Nathaniel (Hackett) work together and the way they communicate together, he's already made his presence felt in regard to meetings and input and just the communications on offense. He is a tremendous human, first and foremost. Just listening, there are little subtle things. He definitely cares about people, and you can tell in the way he speaks to people. Really, really fortunate that he's here."
When asked about Rodgers, Saleh smiled and delivered a bear hug to Douglas.
"I'm not here to be a savior of any kind," Rodgers said on Wednesday. "I'm just here to be the best quarterback I can be to lead authentically and to inspire the guys around me to raise their level of play to an even greater spot."
While he won't be asked to be a savior, it's important to consider Rodgers has been the NFL's MVP two of the past three seasons. Despite battling multiple injuries last season, Rodgers still threw for 3,695 yards with 26 TDs and 12 INTs and connected on 65% of his passes. His "down" is good, his good is great and his great still can be otherworldly. Joe Namath, the first pro passer to throw for 4,000 yards in a season and the man who led the Jets to their sole championship, talked recently during an appearance on "The Official Jets Podcast" about what makes Rodgers unique.
"I've watched a lot of football that Aaron has played, and I marvel at him," Namath said. "Even last season, I marveled at him. He can anticipate things because of repetition, because of the way his brain works. Throughout the years, the way he buys time, the way he moves around, the way he throws the football.
"We can't see what he's thinking as it develops. but we know that process is excellent the way he's able to control his body and throw the ball. Man, there are a lot of good quarterbacks out there, in pro ball there are terrific quarterbacks. But the way he changes the speed on the ball, the way he drops it in different places, the way he releases the ball, the trajectory, the arm motion the way it needs to be done —I haven't seen anybody do that. He's a one of a kind and it's all good."
Riding a surge of momentum into the weekend, Douglas had Rodgers in his mind with each of his first five selections. First-round pick Will McDonald might be an edge rusher, but the Jets, with Rodgers commanding the offense, expect to be playing with leads in the fourth quarter next season. McDonald is an athletic freak and the Jets thought he was the best pass rusher in the draft. Then on day two, Douglas selected the best center in the class and the C-QB exchanges in NY could have a Wisconsin feel with former Badgers star Joe Tippmann snapping to Rodgers. Tippmann (6-6, 317) is big, physical and smart and he's a good mover for a giant.
Douglas kept on adding to the line on day three, moving back in the fourth round before selecting Pittsburgh T Carter Warren. The Paterson, NJ native has excellent length and projects early as a swing backup. Brooklyn's Israel Abaniknada, also a Panther taken in Round 5, gives the Jets another home-run hitter at running back and is an excellent system fit.
A fun week that still feels surreal. The Green & White just introduced a talented seven-player draft class and Aaron Rodgers is a Jet.