Few draft gurus had a running back near the top of the Jets' shopping list leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft. Then a funny thing happened as the first round melted into the start of the second round on Day 2 in Las Vegas.
After working his magic, trading three picks (No. 35, No. 69 and No. 163) to Tennessee and moving back into the first round to grab Florida State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson and a third-round pick (No. 101), Jets general manager Joe Douglas stepped in front of the Houston Texans by sending a fifth-round pick to the Giants and moving up two spots. Another one of the guys on the board of Douglas and the Jets was still sitting there at 36.
"I really wish I could tell you there's some magic trick or special sauce, it's just us following our board," Douglas said after adding Iowa State running back Breece Hall to the offensive backfield. "Breece was our 18th-rated player. And it was like, this is an opportunity to get one of the more dynamic players in the draft; the best running back in the draft. He's a home-run threat."
Hall, 20, who has sported the nickname "Beast" since middle school, is ultra-productive and will provide a worthy complement to second-year RB Michael Carter (and others) and give second-year QB Zach Wilson an appetizing option coming out of the backfield. But as he sat watching the draft turn from the first to the second round with his name still not being called, Hall said he did get a bit antsy.
"At times it was discouraging and frustrating," he said. "I was sitting there looking at some running back's past stats and comparing them going in the first round. There was not too much of a difference and I wondered why I was not yet picked. After a few hours it happened. But now I see it as a blessing to be in this position now, able to help my family and go out and play the sport I love."
This past weekend, Hall joined his fellow draft picks, a handful of undrafted free agents and dozens of tryout hopefuls at the Atlantic Health Jets Training center for a couple of days that were more conditioning sessions than full-on practices for the '22 Class.
"It was good to knock off some rust after the whole draft and Combine process," Hall said. "Up until now, there's been a lot of testing but not much football. It felt good to get back out there."
Hall sees himself as a three-down back, though the Jets offense overseen by coordinator Mike LaFleur lean more toward a running-back-by committee approach.
"I feel like now we have one of the more elusive backfield tandems in the league now [with] Michael and Breece," Douglas said.
What the Jets are getting in Hall is a consensus first-team All-America and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2020 and 2021. He rushed for 3,044 yards and 41 touchdowns and also had 59 receptions, for 482 yards and 5 TDs. He owns 11 school records and set an FBS record with a rushing TD in 24 consecutive games. Hall (5-11, 217) posted a 4.39 time in the 40-yard dash and 40-inch vertical jump at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
"I'm excited," Hall said. "I carried a big load and it takes a lot out of your body. It's going to be nice to have one or two counterparts to share the reps. It's going to be different, but I'm good with that."
See the 2022 Jets rookies on the field for the second practice during Rookie Minicamp at 1 Jets Drive.
At present, the Jets' roster at RB includes Carter, Hall, Tevin Coleman (who re-signed), Ty Johnson, La'Mical Perine, undrafted free agent Zonovan Knight and FB Nick Bawden. LaFleur and head coach Robert Saleh expect a lot from their running backs, not only carrying the ball, but providing support for Wilson in pass protection. Hall said the offensive scheme suits him and his talents.
"I know that it's really running back friendly so just being able to touch the ball a lot and have a lot of opportunity, that's all I need," he said.
He added: "Seeing what he [Carter] did last year [639 rushing yards, 4 TDs; 36 receptions for 325 yards] and seeing what he did at North Carolina, I got to watch his game a lot. He's a bruiser but he can also make you miss. I think I can come in and complement him really well and I can't wait to get in there and learn from him, for me to ask him questions whenever I need to and for him to teach me the ins and outs of being a running back for the Jets."
Hall, who is a cousin of the 49ers former star RB Roger Craig, said he often hears from Craig, absorbs suggestions and observations, but ultimately fashions his approach his own way.
"I'm a guy who can catch the ball, make people miss, run you over, and somebody that plays hard," Hall said. "I'm a person who is just as good off the field as he is on the field, so a guy that's going to impact the community and just be more than a football player."
During his career so far, Hall said that "coaches preached that if I did the little things right my natural ability would take over. Now it's about learning the offense and just trying to get better at pass blocking. It's going to be fun to keep learning."