Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, there was a great build-up for the New York Jets. The team owned two first-round picks. One was the second overall selection in the draft, which was inevitably going to be the franchise’s next signal-caller. The first of two round one picks from the Seattle Seahawks as a result of the Jamal Adams trade came into effect, putting a lot more value into the 2021 draft for the Jets.
From there, the team also had an early second-round pick, two-thirds, as well as an early fourth. General manager Joe Douglas maneuvered his way up and down with trades throughout the draft. In total, the Jets ended up making 10 picks. The 10 prospects added by the Jets were Zach Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore, Michael Carter, Jamien Sherwood, Michael Carter II, Jason Pinnock, Hamsah Nasirildeen, Brandin Echols, and Jonathan Marshall. In year one, more than half of this group ended up playing a significant amount most of the season. Overall, a lot of promise was shown. With the Jets’ long-time draft struggles, the 2021 class looks to be the start of an exciting turnaround.
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Starting with Wilson, his rookie year was what most anticipated. He had his fair share of struggles but also proved his tantalizing upside. Wilson had moments of dominance against the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He showed his arm strength, accuracy, and mobility. Heading into year two, limiting mistakes and growing confidence would go a long way with his great talent.
Vera-Tucker had a solid first year as a Jet. He displayed his ability to be a difference-making run blocker. He started in 16 games and played over 1,000 snaps. Now, making the move to right guard, gaining more repetition will be the key. Once he is fully comfortable playing in his new position, Vera-Tucker has what it takes to keep improving.
As a rookie, Moore had many electrifying moments for the Jets’ offense. His speed, quickness, route running, hands, and yards after the catch ability were all evident. Week-to-week availability will be the main point of emphasis with Moore going into his second year. If he is on the field every or most games, Moore should be incredibly productive.
Carter proved to be a steal for the Jets in the fourth round as a first-year player. He was one of the Jets’ best contributors in both the run and pass game. His contact balance, elusiveness, and vision all showed up from an early point in the season. Expect growth and more big plays from Carter in 2022.
Making the transition from safety to linebacker as a rookie was always going to be a challenge for Sherwood in year one. Then, he, unfortunately, suffered a season-ending achilles injury in October. For Sherwood, more experience will be vital for growth. The Jets do like his mental makeup and character. He offers physicality and size to help the Jets’ defense against the run.
Michael Carter II
Carter had a stellar first year. As a fifth-round pick, he started right away at a tough position in the slot at cornerback. He was effective in coverage, against the run, and as a blitzer. His best trait is his speed. Now, with major improvements on the outside at cornerback, Carter should further develop in year two.
Pinnock was drafted as an outside cornerback. He ended up gaining most of his playing time late in the season at safety. He had some strong moments that make him an intriguing young player. The team has moved him to safety full-time. Ultimately, Pinnock has the speed, length, athletic ability, and man coverage skills to be an asset to the Jets’ defensive backfield.
Along with Sherwood, Nasirildeen made the move from safety to linebacker as well. He ended up gaining most of his playing time on special teams. Hopefully, he can continue to get better in that role. Defensively, he has some potential with his height, length, and skills in coverage to help the Jets linebacker group moving forward.
A pleasant surprise in year one from this class was Echols. He started on the outside at cornerback from Week 1 as a sixth-round pick. He showed some natural instincts while playing in coverage. Athletically, he is talented and offers great speed and explosiveness. His role may not be as significant in year two with Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed. However, Echols will provide the Jets with fantastic depth at an important position.
Marshall tested on a generational level for a defensive tackle with a 9.99 Relative Athletic Score (RAS). It gives him a ton of upside going forward. Last year was essentially a developmental year for him. With some unknowns at nose tackle for the Jets, there is an opportunity for Marshall to take a role. Ideally, he uses his gifted athletic traits to his advantage and carves out some snaps for himself on the defensive line rotation.