After playing in only six games his senior year because of a high ankle sprain, new Jets DL Jabari Zuniga feels like the Jets got great value selecting him in the third round, No. 79 overall.
"I definitely consider myself the steal of the draft," said Zuniga, who totaled 7 tackles for loss and 3 sacks this past season. "I feel like I can do a lot on the football field and I'll show that next year."
He added: "It was extremely frustrating because one of my main reasons of coming back was to improve my on-the-field performance, so I feel like when I got injured, it was just adversity that I had to overcome, so I just feel like I had to make the most out of my senior season and deal with it. It was definitely frustrating."
The 6'3", 264-pounder, fully healthy, is a versatile player who feels comfortable playing up and down the defensive line. Zuniga racked up 45 tackles in 2018 as well as 11 TFLs and 6.5 sacks. In 42 games (27 starts) over his four-year career in Gainesville, he totaled 118 tackles, 34.5 TFLs, 18.5 sacks and 1 FF. He felt he "raised some eyebrows" at the combine when he ran a 4.64 in the 40-yard dash and put up 29 reps on the bench press.
"I think, for me, when you're watching tape on Jabari, even when he was dealing with the ankle injury, his explosiveness, his suddenness jumps off tape," Jets GM Joe Douglas said. "He plays with really good hand strength. He can really disrupt gaps. He's an edge presence. His disruption percentage rate was high. He was close to a 16% pressure rate. … He's been a consistent producer in his four years at Florida, even with the injury, and I think we feel good about his makeup, the way that this guy competes."
Zuniga said he met with the Green & White five times throughout the pre draft process — at the Senior Bowl, and combine and in three Zoom meetings — which gave him an idea that they were interested. He joins a defense that finished No. 7 in the NFL this past season and No. 2 against the run.
"The Jets definitely have a lot of great guys across the board, especially D-line wise," he said. "Gregg Williams is a great defensive coordinator. He's one of the best doing it right now, so I'm just very excited to work for him.
"I definitely feel like I bring a lot. I was kind of hampered by my ankle injury, but a healthy me is a very good football player and that's definitely what the Jets are getting — a hard worker, somebody that's dedicated to do anything for the organization."
Zuniga, who described his playstyle as "aggressive and tenacious," is more of an introvert, but he should fit in well both on the field and in the locker room because he'll be surrounded by familiar faces. He one of six Gators on the roster and looked up to CB Brian Poole and S Marcus Maye when they wore orange and blue.
"Those are two Florida greats," he said. "I definitely feel like those guys are legendary. We weren't the closest of friends, but I definitely looked up to them from a leadership perspective."
See the Top Images of the Florida Defensive End and Third Round Pick for the Jets