Skip to main content

Why the Jets' Final Two Draft Picks Are Anything but Irrelevant

Qwan'tez Stiggers & Jaylen Key Eager to Join Jets at Minicamp


There were 257 young men selected in the 2024 NFL Draft. For the Jets, their final two picks were spent on defensive backs – Qwan'tez Stiggers (Rd. 5, No. 176) and Jaylen Key (Rd. 7, No. 257). They will arrive at rookie minicamp this weekend as late-round picks determined to find a role on one of the NFL's top defenses.

Key, who played last season at Alabama, thought his professional path would initially start with free agency. As Day 3 of the draft wound down, Key stepped away from his family before he received a phone calla New York number appeared on his phone. Key was the final the pick of the draft – "Mr. Irrelevant" – and his wait ended as the draft reached its conclusion.

"Just going through every day, seeing a lot of the guys I know get drafted and things of that nature, and it coming down to the very last pick," he said. "Pretty nerve-racking. I was actually in the garage while all my family was in the living room watching. Then once I got the call, I saw that it said 'New York', and I knew you guys had the last pick. So when I saw that, I knew. That's when I ran back in the house."

Fan Controlled Football and Transfer Portal
Stiggers' story has included several hardships and multiple countries. Stiggers' father, Rayves, was injured in a car accident in February of 2020. After graduating from high school, Stiggers, one of 13 children, enrolled at Lane College in Tennessee. But his stay was short as he left school to help his family when his father died in September. His mother directed Stiggers back to the football field in 2022 and Fan Control Football (FCF), a 7-on-7 indoor league that paid him $450 per game. Then he moved north to Canada and starred for the Toronto Argonauts before making good of his appearance in the East-West Shrine Bowl.

"The NFL has always been a lifelong dream for me, but unfortunately, my father passed when I graduated, and it just kind of put my dreams on hold," Stiggers said. "I thank God and thank my mom for signing up for Fan Controlled Football. I'm going beyond the sky now."

Key ended up with the Crimson Tide but that was after appearing in 43 games at Alabama-Birmingham. His Blazers' breakthrough occurred in 2022 with 60 tackles, 3 INTs and 2 FF. With the NFL in his sights, Key transferred to ''Bama and lined up for Nick Saban in the coaching legend's final season as head coach.

"My overall thing going into the portal was if I'm going to do it, I'm going to go against the best talent in the country every day," he said. "So, I can get better for the next level [and] be prepared for the next level," he said. "So when I ultimately get to the point I'm at now, it's really a seamless transition, because I've already been going against the best every day."

Learning from a Legend and Canada
In his one year in Tuscaloosa, Key again totaled 60 defensive stops including 4 tackles against No. 1 Michigan in the Rose Bowl national semifinal.

"I'd describe my game as being able to be a versatile player," Key said. "I was at UAB, I basically played every position in the backfield. Maybe not really corner, but pretty much every other position I played. When I got to Alabama, going into that system under Nick Saban, that was the whole part of it. For me, it was going there, learning from one of the best defensive minds in the game, being able to play under his system. He's the DB coach there, so for me, that sort of was a part of going to Alabama. But yeah, I'd describe my game as a physical playmaker in the backfield."

Stiggers was a playmaker up north, recording 5 INTs and 53 tackles in 16 games and was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Rookie. The dynamic is different in Canada becauseas all offensive backfield players (sans the quarterback) can be in motion at the snap as long as they are behind the line of scrimmage. With 12 players on offense, 4 offensive players (3 WRs and 1 RB) can be in motion. Siggers, who posted a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash along with a 36.5 vertical and 10-8 broad jump at his pro day, impressed during the East-West Shrine Bowl in Frisco, TX.

"I think my biggest adjustment is just going to be having guys not run at me," he said. "I feel like I showed at East-West that I can press. My whole mindset was, if you get around the right coaching staff, the right nutritionist, the right coaches, the sky is the limit. That's what I'm going to do. I feel like being with the Jets – I just got a great opportunity to further my career."

A Chance to Compete and a Lesson in Persistence
Key will join a safety room that has Chuck Clark, Tony Adams and Ashtyn Davis at the top of the depth chart. At the NFL Combine, he ran a 4.60 in the 40-yard dash with a 36.5 vertical and 10-1010'10" broad jump.

"He's a safety," HC Robert Saleh said of Key. "His football IQ and intelligence, his instinct, his length, his play speed is actually much faster than his time speed. So, we're excited to get him in that spot and give him a chance to compete."

This weekend "Mr. Irrelevant" will join Stiggers, a cornerback who never played a down of college football, at Jets rookie minicamp. Key rode the transfer portal to relevancy and Stiggers climbed one of the most unlikely football ladders in recent memory.

"He's just a real authentic guy," Douglas said of Stiggers. "He's been through the rigors of life that some kids his age haven't been through. Just with his experience, there's been plenty of opportunities for Tez to say, 'You know what, maybe this isn't for me. Things aren't working out.' But his persistence, his attitude never wavered. So, for him to be in the position that he's in now, it's such a great credit to him and his makeup."

Related Content