Jets Receive High Marks on 2021 NFL Draft Grades

ESPN Gives GM Joe Douglas 'A-'; Pro Football Focus, The Ringer Give an 'A'


General manager Joe Douglas selected 10 players in his second draft orchestrating the New York Jets. He started the 2021 NFL Draft picking BYU QB Zach Wilson No. 2 overall followed by USC OL Alijah Vera-Tucker (No. 14), Mississippi WR Elijah Moore (No. 34), North Carolina RB Michael Carter (No. 107), Auburn LB Jamien Sherwood (No. 146), Duke DB Michael Carter II (No. 154), Pittsburgh CB Jason Pinnock (No. 175), Florida State LB Hamsah Nasirildeen (No. 186), Kentucky CB Brandin Echols (No. 200) and Arkansas DT Jonathan Marshall (No. 207).

Douglas executed trades throughout draft weekend, first moving up nine spots in the first round from No. 23 to No. 14 to select Vera-Tucker. He then traded back with the Raiders in Round 4 and the Chiefs in Round 5. The Jets entered draft weekend with 10 draft picks and after maneuvering throughout the draft, Douglas still added 10 players to the roster. Below is how different media outlets graded the team's draft:

ESPN (Mel Kiper) - A-
"The Jets are another team in the early stages of a rebuild, and with two first-round picks and an extra third-round pick, they had the capital this weekend to find a few immediate starters. Let's start with the quarterback: I've been open about how much I still believe Sam Darnold can be a good player -- I would have ranked the 23-year-old as the No. 2 quarterback in this class, ahead of new Jets pick Zach Wilson (2). Darnold got a raw deal in New York, which surrounded him with a poor offensive line and some of the worst pass-catchers in the league. That can't happen again if Wilson is to succeed.

"Give general manager Joe Douglas credit for getting three picks for Darnold, and now this class is going to be defined by Wilson's career. Wilson took a monumental leap in 2020. He has a rocket for a right arm. Some of the off-platform throws he made last season were special. He also played a cupcake schedule, though, and I wouldn't throw him into the fire immediately next season. He needs some time, and I hope he's not rushed. I do think he can become a great player in time.

"Douglas & Co. prioritized help for Wilson with their next two picks, taking my top-ranked guard, Alijah Vera-Tucker (14), and No. 4 wide receiver Elijah Moore (34). As I noted after Day 2, that means the Jets ended up with three prospects inside my top 16 overall. That's tremendous and is part of the reason this grade is so high, though they did have to surrender a third-round pick in the Round 1 trade up to get Vera-Tucker. Wilson already has better weapons to throw to and a better offensive line than Darnold ever had in New York.

"Fourth-round pick Michael Carter (107) was my best available prospect headed into Round 3, so I love that pick. The 5-foot-8 back carried the ball 514 times in four years for the Tar Heels and averaged 6.6 yards per carry. He should be in the rotation as a rookie. The Jets went with five total defensive backs on Day 3, and safeties Michael Carter II (154) and Hamsah Nasirildeen (186) are the guys who stick out for me. Get them on special teams early and see if they can carve out a role on defense. They had a nice Day 3, one of the best in the league.

"Just looking at the roster again, I was surprised Douglas didn't target a corner before Round 5, but he also lost a pick moving up for Vera-Tucker, so that probably keeps this from being a solid A. Jets fans are not going to remember this class for the front office's inability to take a Day 2 corner, though, so if Wilson turns into a star, all will be forgiven. I really like what they did overall."

Pro Football Focus (Staff) - A
Day 1: One year ago, no one could have foreseen Zach Wilson being the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. But here we are. The BYU quarterback had a breakout 2020 campaign that saw his PFF grade shoot up from 80.5 as a freshman and 76.2 as a sophomore in 2018 and 2019, respectively, to a stunning 95.4 mark.

The Jets have thrown a lot of resources at their offensive line already, but they haven't come close to completing the rebuild yet. And they were smart to acknowledge that with another first-round pick. Trading up to make it happen harms the grade on this pick, but Vera-Tucker is an excellent player, ranking 21st on PFF's Big Board. He was an excellent tackle at USC, earning an 89.2 PFF pass-blocking grade on true pass sets last year. He could potentially play right tackle or guard for the Jets.

Day 2: The New York Jets take Elijah Moore, who ranked 22nd on the PFF Big Board heading into the draft. Moore is a prototypical super-slot receiver. His floor will likely allow the Jets to replace Jamison Crowder for a lot less money, and his ceiling is an ability to succeed on the outside in a similar manner to other small receivers, such as Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin in Seattle. Moore helps revamp New York's receiving corps for new quarterback Zach Wilson.

Day 3: Instead of reaching for a running back on Days 1 or 2, the Jets addressed the position in the proper way by waiting until Day 3 to take Michael Carter here at Pick 107. He's an incredibly small player, but his cuts, balance and overall athleticism helped him put up monster numbers. Since 2018, Carter ranks second to only former teammate Javonte Williams among FBS running backs in percentage of runs picking up a 10-plus yard gain (21%). In 2020, Carter joined Alabama's Najee Harris as the only back to rank inside the top 10 in both rushing and receiving grades.

The Ringer (Danny Kelly) - A
"It's hard to not like what the Jets did this weekend. Wilson has a dynamic skill set that both raises the floor for this team's offense in 2021 and gives that unit the chance to reach an elite level in the future. Vera-Tucker is a plug-and-play guard who can line up next to Mekhi Becton and solidify the left side of the line. Moore is one of my absolute favorite players in this class, a receiver with sure hands, high-end athleticism, and natural instincts after the catch. And Carter represents great value in the fifth round, as he's an elusive back with jitterbug quickness. New York has its quarterback of the future―and the makings of a strong offensive nucleus to surround him."

USA Today (Nate Davis) - A
"This draft will ultimately be defined by whatever success No. 2 pick Zach Wilson has compared to what [Sam] Darnold, now a member of the Panthers, does with a bona fide supporting cast – which NYJ GM Joe Douglas could have built for his former QB by dealing the second pick for a king's ransom, which was apparently on the table. Be that as it may, Darnold is hardly a proven NFL commodity – and by going the Wilson route, Douglas maintains far more financial flexibility than if he had to speculate on the inevitable mid-tier compensation (at minimum) Darnold has coming sooner than later.

And give Douglas credit – he may have hit a home run with Wilson, who has awe-inspiring arm talent that gives him the ability to make just about any throw from just about any area of the field, whether or not his feet are set. But he'll have to prove he can do it against better competition than BYU played while using his athleticism to preserve his 6-2, 214-body from NFL poundings as much as possible. Oh, and there's that Big Apple pressure cooker factor, too. However overcoming such obstacles should all be easier given Douglas has started doing for Wilson what he didn't have time to do for Darnold – import supplementary talent, which will include first-round OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, second-round WR Elijah Moore and fourth-round RB Michael Carter. (And Douglas already has multiple first- and second-round selections in 2022.) Given the path the Jets have chosen, you have to like how they're navigating it so far."

The Draft Network (Ryan Fowler) - A
"General manager Joe Douglas had a heck of a weekend. Zach Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore, and Michael Carter form an exciting offensive core for the future."

Sporting News (Vinnie Iyer) - A
"GM Joe Douglas nailed this draft for Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur by going offense four picks in a row early, supporting Wilson in a great system for him with a rock at left guard, a more dynamic slot and a backfield home-run hitter. The next picks to address the secondary were a bit iffy, but [Hamsah] Nasirildeen and [Brandin] Echols were nice steals late. All key needs were met big time, save for defensive end, where they got Carl Lawson in free agency."

NFL Network (Chad Reuter) - B
"Wilson has an outstanding physical skill set that could translate into an outstanding career, though he will always be compared to fellow draft classmates Justin Fields and Trey Lance. The Jets traded up to the middle of Round 1 for Vera-Tucker, a very good lineman who will have to prove he was worth the price they ultimately paid the Vikings. Moore could be a playmaker in 2021 and beyond, but Javonte Williams would've been an excellent pick at No. 34. Although they passed over Williams, they did snag his former UNC teammate in the fourth round. They got solid value on the RB, who could've been a late-second-round, early-third-round pick.

"Sherwood is a tough-minded safety who will plant ball-carriers, even if his athleticism is not exceptional for the position. Cornerback became a priority on Day 3, with the team picking up Duke's Michael Carter and Pinnock. More secondary picks (at the expense of other needs) came with Nasirildeen, whose medicals (knee) caused his draft stock to drop, and Echols. The Jets failed to draft a pass rusher this weekend, however, which could be an issue, unless they find real value among the undrafted free agents."

CBS Sports (Pete Prisco) - B
"The Jets took Zach Wilson with the second pick and then spent much of the draft building the offense around him. I love the pick of receiver Elijah Moore in the second round. He adds a speed threat in the slot. This is all about Wilson — no matter what any of the other players do. I didn't like him as much as Justin Fields."

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