Of all the scenarios entering Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft, Jets GM Joe Douglas probably didn't envision one where he could land CB Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, WR Garrett Wilson and Edge Jermaine Johnson. But he produced what might be remembered as a perfect hand in Las Vegas when he took Gardner No. 4 overall and Wilson with 10th selection before moving back in Round 1 to grab Johnson with the 26th pick. The trio marks the first time the Jets had three Round 1 picks since the "Four Aces" in 2000.
"We got better tonight," Douglas said. "What a great opportunity. A lot of credit goes to our coaching staff and our scouts for all the hard work to make an opportunity like this come to fruition. Feel fortunate to get three players that we feel can really help this team moving forward, three players that were in our top eight, so we're excited about that."
A memorable night started with a saucy cornerback from Cincinnati. In 37 games for the Bearcats, Gardner registered 27 PDs and 9 INTs.
"He's a great zone corner, he can play man, he can do it all," head coach Robert Saleh said. "Football still comes down to third down. Third-and-4, game on the line, everyone knows you're in man coverage, everyone knows the ball is being thrown and who's going to win? Sauce can do everything. He can play zone, he can play man, he can win in crunch time, he can run with the fastest guys, he can defend the biggest guys. He's elite and really fortunate we were able to get him at 4."
See Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, Garrett Wilson and Jermaine Johnson on draft night in Las Vegas when they became Jets.
Gardner was available to the Jets after pass rushers Travon Walker (Jacksonville) and Aidan Hutchinson (Detroit) and CB Derek Stingley Jr. (Houston) were taken with the first three picks. The Jets flipped back to the offense with their second first-rounder as they took Ohio State's Garrett Wilson No. 10 overall. Wilson's production increased each year in Columbus, culminating with a 2021 campaign when he amassed 70 receptions, 1,058 yards receiving and 12 TDs. In 33 college contests, the versatile Wilson, who possesses 4.38 speed, had 23 TDs.
"Feel great about Garrett and adding him, the value we were able to get him. His playmaking abilities, explosiveness, ball skills, run after catch, he's a very talented young man," Douglas said.
Already feeling good about their haul, the Jets kept their foot on the gas. With Johnson still on the board at No. 15, Douglas and the Jets started frantically working the phones to get back into Round 1. It took a while, but the Jets secured the Titans' 26th overall selection and third-round pick (No. 101 overall) in exchange for the Green & White's second- (No. 35), third- (No. 69) and fifth-round picks (No. 163). After transferring from Georgia, Johnson was the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year at Florida State with 12 sacks and 18 TFLs.
"Big, long, explosive, he's got great athleticism and violence to his game," Saleh said. "Very smart, he's probably the most pro-ready of all the pass rushers this year in terms of having a repertoire to his game and something we can add to. Really a perfect fit for what we do defensively with our wide-nine system, putting him on an edge, getting him firing off the ball and attacking. He's really going to be a great complement to what we already have."
The Jets are scheduled to pick twice on Friday with single selections in Rounds 2 (No. 38) and 3 (No. 101). The club also has three picks on Saturday with a pair in Round 4 (No. 111 and No. 117) plus a single selection in Round 5 (No. 146). Some of the higher profile names on the board include LB Nakobe Dean (Georgia), RB Breece Hall (Iowa State), Edges Arnold Ebiketie (Penn State) and Boye Mafe (Minnesota), DT Travis Jones (Connecticut), S Jalen Pitre (Baylor), ILB Christian Harris (Alabama) and DT Perrion Winfrey (Oklahoma).
"I think what's great about the new format is teams can really take tonight and tomorrow, take a breath and kind of regroup," Douglas said. "Get their stack together for Rounds 2 and 3. In that time, there are a lot of calls made. You see the last couple years especially, jockeying for position when it comes to the top-10 picks in the second round. We'll see how tomorrow plays out. We're going to get together as a staff in the afternoon, kind of restack our board, take inventory of what's out there and take a plan tomorrow night."