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 Garrett 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.
Round 1, No. 26 overall: Jermaine Johnson IIDE, Florida State
My take: The Jets stopped his fall by trading up from the No. 35 to No. 26, addressing their need for an edge rusher. It cost them second-, third- and fifth-rounders; they received a third-rounder in return. Johnson is similar to quarterback Zach Wilson in that he shot up draft boards off one great year, then crushed the pre-draft process. Hence, the “one-year wonder” label. If Johnson is the real deal, the Jets will have their first legitimate edge rusher since John Abraham, circa 2004. They desperately needed speed in the front four.
Breakout performer: After a two-year junior college stint and two non-descript years at Georgia, Johnson, 23, enjoyed a breakout performance in his only year at Florida State — 12 sacks and 18 tackles for loss, both of which led the ACC. He was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a team captain. The Jets fell in love with him at the Senior Bowl, where they coached him (but not his squad). He had a strong showing at the scouting combine, clocking the 40 in 4.58 seconds. That’s fast, but he doesn’t have the first-step explosiveness of some of the top edge-rushing prospects. He’s only 254 pounds, but he can add more weight on his 6-foot-4 5/8 frame. The main questions: Only one year of real production and he plays too upright at times.
A perfect fit: Short term, Johnson will join Carl Lawson and John Franklin-Myers as the top players in the defensive-end rotation. Long term, can they afford to keep all three? They will count $30 million on the 2023 cap. The Jets rotate eight linemen, with Franklin-Myers having the ability to slide inside on passing downs. Lawson and Johnson can be terrors on the edge, but they will give up size on running plays. Johnson played outside linebacker and defensive end at FSU, with 26% of his snaps at end coming in the wide-9 technique — an ideal fit in the Jets’ scheme. There’s no question about his effort from him. Johnson once said, “I’m vicious. I’m physical. I’ll be on you the entire game.” He will fit Saleh’s “All gas, no brake” culture.
What’s next: The Jets have two picks on Day 2 — 38th overall and No. 101, which they acquired from the Titans. They could go for a safety or an offensive lineman.