The New York Jets helped kick off the second night and the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland by making the second selection of tonight's session. And after addressing offense with their first two picks of Round 1 on Thursday, the Jets let it ride on the offensive side of the ball at the top of Round 2 in selecting Mississippi wideout Elijah Moore.
And what has to be exciting for the Green & White's followers is how general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh characterized their good fortune to be able to pluck Moore at No. 34 overall after taking BYU QB Zach Wilson at No. 2 and Southern Cal OL Alijah Vera-Tucker at No. 14 on Thursday.
"Last night, we really didn't think Elijah had any chance to make it to us," Douglas said at mid-evening Friday. "To get a player of his caliber sitting there at pick 34, we're sitting here with a unique opportunity to add three unique players, really top-25 players, to be impact players for us."
"He's dynamic. When he gets the ball in his hands, he becomes something different," said Saleh, who "used" to be a defensive-oriented coach until this draft began to unfold. "His ability to separate on routes, run the jet sweeps, come out of the backfield — he's extremely versatile. I'm ecstatic he was able to get to us. There's not a lot of things he can't do.
"It was a real good start to the night."
Moore agreed with his new HC, telling newyorkjets.com's Ethan Greenberg after his selection, "This is the moment a lot of kids like myself have planned for. "I'm grateful already.
"I really didn't, I had no clue where this was going to go," he said of whether he knew the Jets' high level of interest in him. "But having Zach Wilson at quarterback, he has a great arm. I'm ready to go to work with him."
And as for what led to his eye-popping per-game numbers this past season, he said, "
"I really just felt it was my preparation. I had everybody at Ole Miss put me in position to be myself. I really just can't thank God enough." He added about his strengths as a dangerous slot/gadget/split wideout, "Really just everything. I pay attention to details. I'm a route runner.
"It's going to show soon enough."
Here's how it showed last year: Even though he opted out of Mississippi's final two games of the 2020 season, he finished with a school record of 86 receptions, for 1,193 yards and 8 touchdown catches. As a result of those couple of fewer games, he led all FBS receivers with 10.8 catches/game and with 149.1 receiving yards/game. After last season he was named an All-SEC first-teamer.
Moore (5-10, 178) becomes the lucky 13th draft choice by the Jets out of Ole Miss all-time. The biggest Rebel to become a Jet was the first — LB Larry Grantham, a first-round pick in the very first American Football League Draft in 1960, who played in 175 games as a Jets and a Titan of New York. He was named to five AFL All-Star Games as a player and then 51 years later, in 2011, he was named to the second Jets Ring of Honor class.
Virtually all the rest of the Mississippi players chosen by the Jets since then didn't play for the Green & White, although SS Stevon Moore started nearly 100 games in the AFC North for the Browns and the Ravens. Now it's time for Elijah Moore to show he can shatter that recent Ole Miss Jets mold and team up with Wilson on HC Robert Saleh's and coordinator Mike LaFleur's offense for years to come.
Besides making LaFleur feel like a kid in a candy store, the pick could be seen as a message to veteran slot WR Jamison Crowder, the Jets' leading receiver of the past two seasons. But both Douglas and Saleh threw cold water on if the pick meant keeping Moore over Crowder.
"It adds quality competition and quality depth," Douglas said. "We have so much respect for Jamison as an outstanding player and outstanding leader. This addition of Elijah just adds more depth."
The choice of Moore at 34 was the Jets' own choice in the second round. He joins their Round 1 offensive haul, when they selected BYU's Wilson second overall, then sent their two third-round picks to Minnesota to trade up to 14th overall on Thursday and grab Southern Cal OL Alijah Vera-Tucker.
So at the moment, unless they trade up from Rounds 4, 5 or 6, the Green & White have no more choices until they make the second (their own) and 38th (from Minnesota) picks of Round 4 on Saturday afternoon. And they haven't drafted any defense for new coordinator Jeff Ulbrich and Saleh.
But the GM counseled that the draft is still somewhat young.
"This is really the way the board fell this year," Douglas said. "We haven't taken a defensive player yet, but right now we have a t least six more chances to do so. We're not going to leave Coach Brick. We're sitting here tomorrow with six picks and there's going to be a lot more opportunity to add to this team."
On both sides of the ball.