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Jets Pursued Value Late in Draft and Among Undrafted Free Agents

7 Draft Picks and 17 UDFA Showed Their Talent at Rookie Minicamp


Sniffing out value in the latter rounds of the NFL Draft, Jets GM Joe Douglas turned his attention to a pair of late-round selections – cornerback Qwan'tez Stiggers and safety Jaylen Key.

"Those are two cool stories, each has his own story," Douglas told Eric Allen on a recent installment of "The Official Jets Podcast." "Combined, the moral of the story is persistence pays off. Qwan'tez having an opportunity after losing father, having to support family but never giving up hope, never doubting himself. He had persistence to keep going and what a crazy route to get here. Defensive Rookie of the Year in the CFL now drafted into the NFL. He's another young man who had an opportunity to come here and left a strong impression."

Douglas used the Jets' first five draft picks to select players for the offense -- OL Olu Fashanu (Round 1, No. 10 overall), WR Malachi Corley (Round 3, No. 65), RB Braelon Allen (Round 4, No. 134), QB Jordan Travis (Round 5, No. 171) and RB Isaiah Davis (Round 5, No, 173).

"Our pro guys were watching him [Stiggers] here," Douglas said, referring to the first-year DB who played last season for Toronto in the CFL. "He's a very young player [22] that's producing. We got the memo [from the NFL] that he was a draft-eligible player. Then our college scouts go to the East-West game in Dallas and this all really starts coming together.. He was among a pool of players we spent time with him. He wasn't invited to the Combine, then he came here and spent time with trainers, docs and equipment guys and he left a really cool impression with our guys."

See all the best photos of the 2024 Jets draft picks and undrafted free agents at Jets Rookie Minicamp.

Perhaps the biggest impression was left on defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich.

"It got emotional in the [draft] room with Brick," Douglas said. "He was so fired up to add him, everyone has their guys."

Stiggers (5-11, 203) started 16 games last season, tying for second in the CFL in with 5 interceptions and making 56 tackles. He was taken in Round 5, No. 176 overall.

Key now and forever will carry the distinction as the "Mr. Irrelevant" of this past draft after the Jets selected him in Round 7 with the 275th and final pick of the draft.

"That was another one, he transferred from UAB to Alabama really accepting that challenge," Douglas said. "When he transferred, Coach Saban promised him nothing. He earned a starting spot, to earn a roll in that secondary you need mental horsepower to come in a take that job. That says a lot, it speaks to his persistence as well. I know we are getting a smart, competitive guy."

Last weekend's rookie minicamp, in addition to hosting the seven draft picks, brought to the Atlantic Health Training Center the 17 undrafted free agents signed by the team.

Douglas spoke about three of the UDFAs -- Michigan DE Braiden McGregor (6-5, 224), Army LB Jimmy Ciarlo (6-0, 229) and Miami DL Leonard Taylor (6-3, 303).

McGregor: "He played on a national championship team, he's a bit of a physical enforcer at DE, a big man, powerful," Douglas said. "One of the top players left when free agency started" He was a one-year starter for the Wolverines and had 26 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble last season. The No. 1 recruit in Michigan's 2020 class, he averaged 27.7 snaps per game in the '23 season and was an honorable mention All-Big Ten. McGregor, a former hockey player, took 157 career snaps for Michigan on special teams.

Taylor: "A supremely talented guy, a big man, athletic, who can jump off the ball and penetrate gaps," Douglas said. He's a good fit scheme wise for what Brick [DC Jeff Ulbrich] and Aaron [defensive line coach Aaron Whitecotton] want to do up front. He's got a unique opportunity to join a really good room with some great dudes and be their shadow." Taylor played three seasons for the Hurricanes and spent two as full-time starter. During his career, he played in 31 games (19 starts) and recorded 6 sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss and 61 total tackles. He led his team in TFLs in 2022 with 10.5 and was named an All-ACC Honorable Mention. In his final season, he showed flashes of a dominant interior lineman with 3.5 tackles for loss but missed the final two games of the season with a knee injury. The Miami native has an 80-inch wingspan and ran a 5.1 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

Ciarlo: "Jimmy came through our local pro day and (it) didn't take long watching guys go through linebackers drills to see he has really good feet, all motor, just all motor, flying around and can run," Douglas said. "He's an undersized linebacker but what we like is that he plays fast, plays furious ... and he's an Army guy. We got a good player, made of the right stuff that's Jimmy." For the Golden Knights last season, he totaled 58 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. He started 12 games at outside 'backer in the 2022 season and had 55 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 PDs and a fumble recovery. The Ringwood, NJ, native, put up 34 reps on the bench press at his pro day, which would have been tied for second most of NFL Combine participants.

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