The Jets evened up their first four picks by selecting their second defensive player to match their two offensive players with the third-round choice of Florida edge rusher Jabari Zuniga.
"I was really excited as soon as I got the call from New Jersey," Zuniga said tonight. "I was just filled with excitement and emotion."
Zuniga (6'3", 264) grew up as a basketball player and participated in only one year of football in HS. But a growth spurt plus a redshirt freshman season put him in position to see his college gridiron career take off.
In 2016 he totaled a team-leading 5.0 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. The next year he fought through injuries to rack up 4.0 sacks and 8.0 TFLs.
Then came a junior year in a Gators starring role in '18 as he compiled 6.5 sacks and 11.0 TFLs. Finally as a senior, he again battled injuries, specifically a high ankle sprain, to play in only 6 games and corral 3.0 sacks and 7.0 TFLs.
See the Top Images of the Florida Defensive End and Third Round Pick for the Jets
"One of my main reasons for coming back was to improve on my onfield performance," he said of his truncated senior season. "I felt like when I got injured, it was definitely great adversity that I had to overcome. I had to make the most out of the season, just deal with it. That's part of football ... but it was definitely frustrating."
But he enjoyed a good Combine in four events that he participated in, with a 4.64-second 40-yard dash and 29 reps in the 225-pound bench press.
"I felt like a lot of teams didn't feel I was that fast, for some reason," he said. "So I did feel like my 40 raised some eyebrows and my bench raised some eyebrows."
Zuniga is the 11th Florida player drafted by the Jets all-time and the third in the last four drafts. One was a keeper in S Marcus Maye in 2017 — Zuniga played on the same defense with Maye and Jets CB Brian Poole — and one didn't last to his first regular season in edge Jachai Polite in '19. The Jets' most productive Gators pick was WR Derrick Gaffney in Round 8 in 1978, who played all 100 of his NFL games as a Jet.
Three 79th picks spent at least some time in green and white. RB Dwayne Crutchfield, from Iowa State, contributed as a rookie to the 1982 AFC Championship team but was waived late in his second season. T Kareem McKenzie, out of Penn State in 2001, had a good four seasons as the Jets' starting RT, then left as an unrestricted FA and spent the bulk of his career on the Giants OL. Alabama WR ArDarius Stewart saw action as a rookie in 2017, was on the practice squad most of the next year, then departed.