Recapping the New York Jets 2021 NFL Draft

The perfect season was in sight for the New York Jets last year, but not in the way fans would have liked to hear. After starting the season 0-13, the Jets had the inside track on getting the first-overall pick in the draft. However, a pair of wins against the Los Angeles Rams and the Cleveland Browns late in the season propelled them over the Jacksonville Jaguars, who finished 1-15. Ending up with the second overall pick, the Jets were faced with a lot of options. Still having quarterback Sam Darnold on the roster, general manager Joe Douglas and his front office could have built a team around the third-overall pick in 2018. Instead, New York elected to trade him to the Carolina Panthers for a 2021 sixth-round pick as well as second and fourth rounders in 2022. With Darnold gone, it was clear the Jets would go quarterback at two. The question remained, which one?

Round 1, Pick No. 2 Overall: Zach Wilson (QB/Brigham Young University)

With Trevor Lawrence’s chances of going to Jacksonville being certain, the draft in many cases started at two with New York. As the draft got closer and closer, inside information seemed to be locked in as Wilson being the guy for the Jets. Going into the college football season, Wilson’s name was hardly mentioned as a potential top quarterback to be picked. With much of the attention being on Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields early on, Wilson sort of snuck his way into the thick of this year’s QB draft class. Wilson’s ability on the field at BYU impressed a lot of people, but it was his Pro Day in particular that blew scouts away and made him a virtual lock at number two. Just like all quarterbacks in this draft, many questions remain about him. Having played at an independent school like BYU, the quality of competition has been a bit of a concern.

Round 1, Pick No. 14 Overall: Alijah Vera-Tucker (OT/USC)

A huge criticism of the Jets these past few years has been its inability to surround Sam Darnold with strong talent. The team was prone to leaving Darnold unprotected, causing him to miss time due to injury. New York looked to rectify that and do so early. While the Jets were sitting with another first-round pick at 23 thanks to them trading safety Jamal Adams to the Seattle Seahawks, the team had their eyes set on protecting their new investment at quarterback. Trading up nine spots to 14 with the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for both of their third-round picks, New York drafted offensive tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker. Continuing the USC-New York Jets draft connection that has gone on for years, Vera-Tucker will join up alongside fellow offensive tackle Mekhi Becton who the Jets drafted 11th overall the year prior.

Round 2, Pick No. 34 Overall: Elijah Moore (WR/Ole Miss)

The Jets had one goal in regards to this year’s draft…support Zach Wilson. Needing to draft another quarterback in the top three just three years after doing exactly that doesn’t reflect too well on the New York front office. With protection in front of Wilson, now it was time to invest in weapons to be at his disposal. Early on in the second round, the Jets secured wide receiver Elijah Moore out of Ole Miss. Moore was a four-star recruit out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Once at Ole Miss, Moore was a centerpiece playing immediately as a freshman and eventually becoming the school’s all-time leading receiver. Joe Douglas said about drafting Moore that he was a steal in the second round and had the first-team All-SEC receiver in the top 25 of the Jet’s big board.

Round 4, Pick No. 107 Overall: Michael Carter (RB/North Carolina)

Announced by former Jets running back Leon Washington, who was also drafted in the fourth round, New York once again went offense by picking up running back Michael Carter out of North Carolina. Carter is 5-foot-8, 201 pound back who ran a 4.5 40-yard dash. Lately, running backs have been an issue for the Jets. Most notably, the team released Le’veon Bell last season due to a multitude of reasons. Bell was signed to a $52 million deal that his numbers weren’t living up to. Unable to find a trade partner for him, he was released, leaving the team in desperate need of some rushing help. Not only did the Jets draft Carter as a way to help bolster their run game, but have also made some free-agent signings such as running back Telvin Coleman to a one-year $2 million deal. Teams have shown that a strong running game can be had even without using high draft picks for the backfield. Pass-catching running backs are all the rage today and Carter can do just that, being another weapon for Wilson. 

Round 5, Pick No. 146 Overall: Jamien Sherwood (LB/Auburn)

Up until now, the Jets had picked all offensive players for the first time since 1983. Clearly, the motto for this year’s draft for the Jets was to support Zach Wilson. However, a team is only as strong as its defense and the Jets certainly have a need to bolster that side of the ball as well. Enter Auburn linebacker Jamien Sherwood, or at least linebacker is how the Jets see him. Sherwood exudes the positionless play that has become more common over time in the NFL. In college he was able to play at a variety of positions allowing him to be useful at different parts of the field. His tackling is what caught Joe Douglas’s eye and made him feel he was worthy of the Jet’s first defensive pick.

Round 5, Pick No. 154 Overall: Michael Carter II (CB/Duke)

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Yes, there was another player in this year’s draft with the name Michael Carter and it just so happens that he too will dawn a Jets uniform. Just eight picks after selecting Sherwood, New York once again went defense and once again picked a Michael Carter. Using one of the picks from the defensive lineman Leonard Williams trade, the Jets drafted Michael Carter II out of Duke, which happens to be a rival of the school the running back Micheal Carter went to. The cornerback ran a 4.3 40-yard time and posted a vertical of 35.5’. Carter II can be expected to see a lot of playing time on special teams where he played all four years at Duke and has also specialized in the nickel. While having two Michael Carter’s on a team can be confusing, Jets head coach Robert Saleh has already workshopped ideas for nicknames, such as MC1 and MC2. 

Round 5, Pick No. 175 Overall: Jason Pinnock (CB/Pittsburgh)

Moving back in the fifth round in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Jets continued the defensive streak they had made to catch up with the offensive streak it had at the beginning of the draft. If having two Michael Carters wasn’t confusing enough already, then the Jets looked to add to that by drafting another cornerback from the ACC. In all seriousness, Jason Pinnock was a first-team all-state player out of high school in Connecticut. During his time at Pitt, he gradually became more involved in its system. In 2020, he had three interceptions (tied for most on the team), as well as five broken passes and 19 tackles. That year he was suspended by coaching staff for unknown reasons. This didn’t seem to be an issue for New York despite its recent history of players clashing with coaches.

Round 6, Pick No. 186 Overall: Hamsah Nasirildeen (LB/Florida State)

Defense and the ACC. That’s what pretty much describes many of Jet’s picks at this point. This pick was no different with New York picking Hamsah Nasirildeen at the beginning of the sixth round. A pick that the Jets had originally traded to the New England Patriots for wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, the two teams agreed to another trade that gave New York this pick back. Nasirideen was considered a leader for the Florida State defense as he led the team in tackles in 2018 and 2019, earning second-team all-ACC the later year. However, due to an ACL tear, he only played the team’s two final games in 2020, hurting his draft stock. His willingness to come back that late in the season was enough to get him picked in the draft in the late rounds.  

Round 6, Pick No. 200 Overall: Brandin Echols (CB/Kentucky)

The third and final cornerback drafted by the Jets, Brandin Echols gets the bragging right of being exactly the 200th pick in the draft. A pick that was originally owned by the Las Vegas Raiders, New York at this point had solidified a roster for its secondary. Echols was known for his offensive capabilities at Southaven High School in Mississippi. He switched to defense, specifically cornerback at Northwest Mississippi Community College. His play there gave him a chance to play at Kentucky on scholarship.

Round 6, Pick No. 207 Overall: Jonathan Marshall (DT/Arkansas)

With the Jet’s final pick, the streak defensive picks going back to Sherwood in the fifth round continued amounting to six consecutive after four offensive players in a row. Jonathan Marshall, a defensive tackle out of Arkansas was mainly a reserve for the Razorbacks before getting a chance to shine in 2020. He made everything out of that opportunity as he had a career-high 35 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Coming in at 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, Marshall has the physical attributes to be a solid player in the league one day. The thing that certainly made the difference in him getting drafted at all was his 4.81 40-yard dash, a very impressive time for someone his size. Marshall also has NFL experience in his blood. He is the cousin of defensive end Cedric Reed, who played two seasons in the NFL and is related to defensive end Cedrick Hardman, a former first-round pick and two-time Pro Bowler.

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