"Exciting times," Joe Douglas said.
"I'm excited for all if it," Robert Saleh replied.
The rising excitement level can mean only one thing: The NFL Draft is now visible on the horizon.
In fact, it's week of the 2021 draft, set to begin Thursday night and conclude with Pick No. 259 on Saturday evening. The league's festivities this year are centered around the Draft Theater in Cleveland, but the Jets plan to conduct their portion of the draft from 15 tables inside their draft room at the Atlantic Health Training Center in Florham Park, NJ, with a Teams call bringing the rest of an overflow group of scouts and draft personnel into the proceedings.
Later this week, the Green & White will approach and pass more milestones in the refashioning of the team in the image that Douglas, the general manager, and Saleh, the first-year head coach, see for the 2021 season and beyond.
And it all starts shortly after 8 p.m. ET, when the Jet follow the Jacksonville Jaguars onto the clock and make the second overall choice of the draft.
Douglas has declined to tip his and the team's hand on who the Jets will be selecting with that high spot, other than to say it's "a fair assessment" they'll be focusing on quarterback after trading Sam Darnold to Carolina earlier this month.
Pressure? Well, some, said Douglas, who has called QB "the most important position in sports." But no more than usual.
"I don't look at it from a legacy viewpoint," the GM said during his predraft news conference last week. "I feel like every decision we make has risk. Obviously, the pick at No. 2, there's a huge spotlight on that. We understand that. But with every decision you try to take the information you have at hand to make the best possible decision that you can for the team moving forward.
"So ultimately it goes back to our process that's led us up to this point. We feel good about the process, the meetings, the work that's been done leading up to this point so that we can make the best possible decision we can make."
The process since Douglas took the reins in June 2019 has brought the Jets a bounty of personnel capital over the next two draft meetings. This year, after the Darnold trade, the Leonard Williams deal to the Giants in October 2019 and the Jamal Adams trade to Seattle last July, the Jets have 10 picks — with the second and 23rd coming in Round 1 on Thursday and the 34th, 66th and 86th picks arriving in Rounds 2-3 on Friday — plus 11 picks next year.
The 21 choices at the moment are the most in back-to-back Jets drafts since 1997-98, when they had 23 combined selections, and the five high choices are their most in the top 86 in any year since the 2000 "Four Aces" draft — first-rounders Shaun Ellis, John Abraham, Chad Pennington and Anthony Becht plus third-rounder Laveranues Coles. (Coincidentally, Coles is scheduled to announce one of the Jets' picks on Night 2 of this year's draft.)
League-wide, the Jets' 10 selections this year are a lot but not an inordinate amount. From 2016-20, six to eight teams each year traded and bargained their way to double-digit picks. And the Jets' five choices in the first three rounds, while more unusual, are also not unheard of, with one or two teams accumulating five or more picks in the top 100 each year.
How the most active teams in the draft have fared the past five years suggests how important this time of year is:
Baltimore: The Ravens assembled 11 selections in 2016, 12 more two drafts later, and 10 picks last year. In the past three seasons, they achieved three playoff berths and a 52-28 record.
Cleveland: The Browns' 24 picks in 2016-17 and five picks in the top 67 in 2018 provided the foundation from which they rose to 11-5 last season and played in their first postseason game since 2002.
Seattle: The Seahawks' 49 picks in the last five drafts have a little something to say about their run of excellence out of the AFC West — a 52-27-1 record and four playoff berths.
Douglas, Saleh and the Jets organization would like to join the ranks of the NFL teams that build through the draft and annually challenge for postseason entry. Considering that Douglas & Co. have made 11 trades involving draft picks since arriving, they could still be comfortable trading some of this year's picks, and this is the time to start talking seriously about such deals.
But whether the Jets trade up, trade down or use all 10 picks on players, the goal will be the same: finding the right fits for the offense's wide zone scheme, the defense's realignment to the 4-3, and for Saleh's view of the culture he wants in his locker room and meeting rooms and on the field going forward.
"We feel good about the position we're in with the picks where they are," Douglas said. "We're in a good position with the pixel we have inside the top three rounds. And we do feel like with the process we've had with the conversations we had with the collaboration, with the coaching staff and scouting staff, that we're going to be able to let the board come to us and make a lot of good decisions."