FLORHAM PARK, NJ — The 2022 NFL Draft is being held April 28 through April 30 and every New York Jets draft pick will be analyzed here.
The draft will be held in Las Vegas on the Strip in the area adjacent to Caesars Forum two years after it was initially scheduled. The 2020 NFL draft was turned into a virtual event because of COVID-19.
Here’s a pick-by-pick look at how each New York player has selected will fit.
My take: The Jets got Sauced — in a good way. They addressed a glaring need by scooping up a consensus top-four prospect, based on rankings by draft experts. You need top corners, especially in a division that includes wide receivers Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. The ideal pick would’ve been an edge rusher, but Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan) was gone. Travon Walker (Georgia) would’ve been a consideration, but he was off the board. Instead of reaching for defensive linemen Jermaine Johnson II (Florida State) or Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon), the Jets wisely took the safe pick. Gardner is “not Jalen Ramsey,” one scouting source said, but he has the potential to be a very good corner. The Jets haven’t had a shutdown corner since Darrelle Revis 1.0.
Flawless in college: New York headline writers will love Gardner because of his nickname. You can almost envision the “Apple Sauce” headlines. He got the moniker from a youth coach at age 6 because he loved the dipping sauces at fast-food joints. He dominated on the college level, not allowing a touchdown pass in three years (more than 1,000 coverage snaps). Known for his speed (4.41 in the 40), sticky man-to-man coverage and ball skills, he made nine interceptions over that span. He’s long in every way — 6-foot-3, with 33½-inch arms, ideal traits for the Jets’ scheme. He needs to add bulk, improve his play strength and cut down on penalties (nine over the past two years). He played mostly press-man in college, so there will be an adjustment to the Jets’ zone-based system.
Massive upgrades: With Gardner and DJ Reed (three years, $33 million), the Jets have significantly upgraded their cornerback room. You can’t win in the pass-happy NFL without a strong back end. They tried it last season with unknown kids, but it didn’t work. The Jets allowed the third-worst completion rate (68%) and yielded 73 pass plays of at least 20 yards (31st). Quite simply, they didn’t make any plays — only two interceptions by cornerbacks. brice hall and Brandin Echols, last year’s starters on the outside, are headed for backup roles. Hey, depth matters, especially in today’s NFL. This is only fourth time in the past 20 years that the Jets have drafted a corner in the first round. The others: Darrelle Revis (2007), Kyle Wilson (2010) and Dee Milliner (2013).
Round 1, No. 10 overall: Garrett WilsonWR, Ohio State
Look back at Garrett Wilson’s college career and why he is a star in the making at WR.
My take: He’s not Deebo Samuel, but Wilson has the tools to become a very good receiver. Instead of using this pick to trade for the disgruntled San Francisco receiver, the Jets decided to play it straight and continued their methodical rebuild through the draft. Samuel would’ve provided a huge jolt to the offense, including quarterback Zach Wilson. He would’ve cost at least $20 million per year, but he would’ve been worth the 10th pick in the draft — if, in fact, that was the deal-breaker. The Jets had similar grades on Wilson and WR Drake London, who went two picks earlier to the Falcons, so the decision was relatively easy. Florida State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson also was a consideration. Wilson became the Jets’ first first-round wide receiver since Santana Moss in 2001.
going vertical: Wilson will provide a much-needed vertical threat on offense, and he will have an opportunity to grow with Wilson. Get ready for the Wilson-to-Wilson era. Wilson’s best attributes are explosiveness and separation ability. At the scouting combine, I clocked 4.38 in the 40-yard dash. He just has a knack for getting deep. I have made 12 touchdown receptions last season, including six on vertical routes. He averaged 15.1 yards per catch — 70 for 1,051 yards. He did have six drops, suggesting concentration lapses. One question is his size. A shade under 6-foot, he’s 183 pounds. He will have to adjust to physical, bump-and-run coverage. He has a basketball background — he received Division I offers — and it shows up in his play style with his quickness, footwork and body control.
Offensive makeover: On paper, the Jets should have a very good receiving corps. Wilson joins Elijah Moore, Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios, not to mention a revamped tight-end group. The Jets made no secret of their desire to improve Zach Wilson’s supporting cast. By drafting Wilson with the pick acquired in the jamal adams trade, general manager Joe Douglas essentially completed a massive makeover on offense. This unit bears no semblance to the offense he inherited two years ago. One question: What happens to 2020 second-round pick Denzel Mims, who are you disappointed? At best, he’s the WR5 without a special-teams background. It’s hard to imagine him on the roster in 2022.
What’s next: The Jets will be busy on Day 2. They own the 35th and 38th picks, the latter acquired in the Sam Darnold trade. The No. 1 priority should be edge rusher, but they also could go for a safety or offensive linemen.