The Draft is always about the long term. While much analysis focuses on how well picks fill immediate needs, it is far more important for teams to find contributors who can help for years to come.
Of course when a team selects four players in the top 36 selections, there are going to be some expectations of immediate results.
Time will tell, but here are my best guesses about how rookies will fit into the roster.
Willow Gardner: Since the drafting of Gardner, I have seen questions about whether Bryce Hall could move to the slot or to safety rather than the bench. (The suggestions he could shift elsewhere seem entirely fan driven at this point, suggesting the bench is his destination.) These questions allude to the obvious. As the fourth overall pick, Gardner is almost guaranteed to be an instant starter across from DJ Reed on the outside. Will he be the number one corner or the number two corner? The question might not be relevant. last year Robert Saleh stated his philosophy was to not match specific corners against specific receivers. Unless that changes, Gardner’s role might be to just lock down whichever side of the field he is on.
Garrett Wilson: Wilson is an interesting case. I think we can say for sure he will be a starter in some capacity. Where that is I don’t know. The Jets seem to believe in Elijah Moore as an outside receiver. Corey Davis is also a fit on the outside, which leaves the slot open for Wilson. I think Wilson has the skillset that could thrive either in the slot or outside. Last year the Jets seemed to define their receivers rigidly. The outside guys tended to play outside three quarters of the time, only moving to the slot 25% or so. The inverse was true of the slot receivers, who only went outside about one-fourth of the time. However, the Jets had slot receivers last year with more limited skillsets in Jamison Crowder and Braxton Berrios. Could a potentially more complete player in Wilson allow the team to rotate guys into and out of the slot more? Or do the Jets just want to keep things simple? Either way, I expect Wilson to get his share of manufactured touches in space along with Moore and Berrios to take advantage of his playmaking ability with him with the ball in his hands.
Jermain Johnson: After the Draft, Robert Saleh alluded to moving John Franklin-Myers inside to defensive tackle but added that he envisioned that happening on passing downs. This leaves the door open for Franklin-Myers to continue playing defensive end on early downs. I think this is getting into semantics, though. Saleh likes to rotate defensive linemen. Johnson can effectively play the run, meaning he can get on the field on early downs. And even situational pass rushers are seeing over half of the snaps in today’s NFL. Johnson is going to see plenty of action at defensive end whether or not he’s technically labeled as a starter.
Breece Hall: If you have followed this website or my podcast, you know how exciting I am about this pick. While I typically preach patience for rookies, I envision Hall getting a heavy workload in his first year and being a featured player on offense. I get the feeling Mike LaFleur wants to make Zach Wilson’s life easier by establishing the run and leaning on Hall. I think Hall is the number one back, giving the Jets a potentially special 1-2 punch with Michael Carter. the Iowa State back will also be a weapon in the passing game.
Jeremy Ruckert: Given where the Jets are at the tight end position, I think a player like Ruckert in the late third round makes a lot of sense. He will be under no pressure to get on the field immediately with CJ Uzomah and Tyler Conklin in the mix, which is good. Ruckert has some development to do on his blocking technique and a route tree to learn. He can come along at his own pace and hopefully develop into a replacement for Uzomah in a year or two.
Max Mitchell: Mitchell likely will take over for Chuma Edoga as the developmental tackle deep on the depth chart. The team will hope he develops into a contributor, but any contributions will likely be down the road. Expectations should be low for this year.
Michael Clemons: In an ideal world, Clemons will push Bryce Huff for playing time as a rotational pass rusher. Since he’ll be a 25 year old rookie, I’m not sure I think of him as a developmental player. Expectations of an immediate contribution seem more fair than with your typical late round rookie.