After last season's virtual draft, Cleveland played host to festivities this year with a handful of potential draft picks present and socially distanced because of COVID-19.
Here's a pick-by-pick look at how each player New York has selected will fit.
Round 1, No. 2 overall: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
My take: The Joe Douglas QB Gambit is complete. His hand-picked successor to Sam Darnold is Wilson, who has plenty of talent but carries just enough risk to make this anything but a slam dunk. They made a mistake by trading Darnold, but Wilson can make everyone forget about that. Under the circumstances, he was the best fit for the Jets. He has better arm talent than the other top prospects not named Trevor Lawrence and many scouts believe his learning curve won't be as steep as it will be for the others. This is a seminal moment for the franchise. They can't be wrong.
Armed and dangerous: There's a lot to like about Wilson. From a pure arm standpoint, he might be the Jets' best thrower since Vinny Testaverde. His arm is strong and accurate, and he can throw from different angles. His release is lightning quick. He can throw on the move, which fits nicely into the new offensive scheme. In 2020, he completed 62% on attempts of 20-plus yards, the best mark for an FBS passer since the metric was first tracked in 2011. There's a schoolyard element to his game; some compare him to Baker Mayfield. In Zoom interviews, Wilson impressed the Jets' brass with his aptitude for the game.
Question marks: It takes more than arm strength to play quarterback in the NFL; this isn't a "Punt, Pass & Kick" competition. Wilson's durability is a question. He's 6-foot-2, 214 pounds, but played closer to 205. His shoulders are narrow, so some wonder about his ability to add muscle and take a pounding. His throwing shoulder was surgically repaired in 2019. At BYU, Wilson was a one-year wonder who racked up amazing numbers against weak competition in a pandemic-marred college season. Can he replicate that in the NFL? Douglas, who could have traded the pick for two future first-rounders, has pushed all his chips to the middle of the table.
Round 1, No. 14 overall: Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, USC
My take: The Jets addressed a major need by drafting the top guard in the draft. Detect a trend? This was the second straight year that they picked an offensive lineman in the first round. It's a smart move because it will help new quarterback Zach Wilson. It was a costly move. The Jets traded up nine spots, giving up their first-round pick (23) and two third-round picks (66 and 86) for the Vikings' first-rounder (14) and a fourth-rounder (143). It's unlikely he would have fallen to the Jets at No. 23. Credit New York for being aggressive.
Left side, strong side: Vera-Tucker played left tackle last season for the Trojans, but he has extensive experience at left guard -- and that's where he projects for the Jets. He will replace veteran Alex Lewis, a two-year starter for them. Suddenly, they have a potentially formidable left side, with Vera-Tucker and Mekhi Becton, last year's No. 1 pick. This is the first time the Jets have drafted a first-round offensive lineman in back-to-back years since 1977-78. That doesn't include 2006, when they drafted D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, both in Round 1.
Skilled pass-protector: Vera-Tucker is a strong, agile blocker with few flaws in his game. Scouts considered him one of the draft's safest prospects. In 2019, when he played guard, he was among the best pass-protectors in the FBS, allowing one pressure in 561 pass blocks. Many believe he has Pro Bowl potential. The biggest negative is that he started only 19 games in college.
Round 2, No. 34 overall: Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
My take: Another present for new quarterback Zach Wilson. This marks the the first time since 2009 the Jets used their first three picks on offense. Remarkably, it's the first time in the common-draft era (since 1967) that they picked a quarterback and wide receiver in the first two rounds of the same draft. Wow.
Moore is a pure playmaker out of the slot, a 5-foot-9 dynamo with 4.32-second speed in the 40-yard dash. The Jets, ranked 32nd in offense the past two years, needed a home run threat. Moore made 86 receptions for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns in 2020 ... in only eight games! He opted out.
Coach Robert Saleh said Moore is "dynamic. When he gets the ball in his hands, he becomes something different."
Moore can give them a Deebo Samuel-like presence because he can be a weapon on jet sweeps and screens. The Jets received offers for this pick, but they stayed put because they felt Moore was too good a value at No. 34. This could impact Jamison Crowder, the team's leading receiver the past two seasons. He's entering the final year of his contract and is due to make a non-guaranteed $10 million.
Douglas said he didn't draft Moore to replace Crowder, claiming Moore won't be used exclusively in the slot: "We drafted Elijah to be a playmaker."
Round 4, No. 107 overall: Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina
My take: This was their fourth straight pick on offense, something the Jets hadn't done since 1983. Carter doesn't have great stopwatch speed (4.5 in the 40-yard dash), but his quickness is exceptional. He evaded 33 tackles in 2020, third-most in the FBS, which helped him rush for 1,245 yards and an 8.0 average.
At 5-foot-8, 201 pounds, his size screams "third-down back," but the Jets believe he has the toughness and instincts to be an inside runner on early downs. But there are workload questions. From a scheme standpoint, he's ideal for the wide zone. With no clear-cut RB1, Carter will have a chance for early playing time. He joins Tevin Coleman, La'Mical Perine and Ty Johnson in the backfield. Saleh called Carter an "incredible talent." Carter said his running style is "explosive and fun."
Round 5, No. 146 overall: Jamien Sherwood, LB, Auburn
My take: And so ends the run on offense. Sherwood (6-foot-1, 216) was a one-year starter at safety for the Tigers, but the Jets project him as a linebacker in their 4-3 front. It's a trend these days (see: Mark Barron). Sherwood (only one career interception) doesn't have the coverage skills to play safety at the NFL level, so the change makes sense. He's a well-built athlete with toughness, but this transition takes time. He can contribute on special teams as he learns linebacker. The Jets are hurting for outside linebackers, especially on the weakside.
At Auburn, he played safety on first and second down, then moved down to weak-side linebacker on third down. That allowed him to blitz at times (one sack and 75 tackles in 2020.) "My versatility got me here," Sherwood said. "They could put me at defensive end or cornerback. I'm just going to go out there and make plays."
Round 5, No. 154 overall: Michael Carter II, DB, Duke
My take: The Jets lead the draft in Michael Carters. This Carter is an undersized cornerback (5-foot-10, 184 pounds) who projects as a free safety/nickelback, where he will compete with Javelin Guidry. Re-signing veteran Brian Poole also is a possibility. Carter was a three-year starter at Duke, where he had four career interceptions and 28 pass break-ups. He also contributed on special teams, which appealed to the Jets. The man can run -- 4.32 speed in the 40-yard dash. He was a team captain.
In college, he was the other Michael Carter in the ACC. Now he's teammates with the former North Carolina running back. "Great dude, cool dude," said Carter II, who trained with Carter before the draft. On the field, they were involved in some collisions. Said the former Duke cornerback, "He got the best of me one time, I'm not going to lie."
Nothing like a Duke-UNC rivalry between two Michael Carters.
Round 5, No. 175 overall: Jason Pinnock, CB, Pittsburgh
My take: Once upon a time, the Jets drafted a great cornerback out of Pitt (Darrelle Revis, 2007). The similarities end there. Pinnock was considered a late-round talent, possibly a free agent. After ignoring the cornerback need in Days 1 and 2, GM Joe Douglas took a quantity-over-quality approach on Day 3. Pinnock didn't become a full-time starter until his senior year. He had a solid year, leading the team with three interceptions. Scouts say he has NFL-level ball skills. He has good speed (4.45 in the 40) and good size (6-feet, 204), but he's slow to diagnose. The Jets have used a lot of late-round picks in recent years on corners; add Pinnock to the list. It remains a need position. Pinnock can contribute immediately on special teams.
"I've been a [Jets] fan since Revis," Pinnock said of the Jets' 2007 first-round pick. "It's almost like life comes full circle. It's surreal." Pinnock said his ball skills are his strength. In college, he was primarily a press-man corner.
Round 6, No. 186 overall: Hamsah Nasirildeen, LB, Florida State
My take: Another big safety (6-foot-3, 215) who will attempt to make the transition to outside linebacker. Nasirildeen was rated as a third-round prospect by some talent evaluators. He probably dropped because of concerns about his surgically repaired knee. He underwent ACL surgery in November, 2019, and missed the first seven games of 2020. He played in only two games but made 13 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss, two pass break-ups and one interception. He should make an impact on special teams; he played more than 500 snaps in college. Nasirildeen was a three-year starter.
Saleh said Nasirildeen has the skill set to be a run-and-hit linebacker in his scheme. He's had success with hybrid players, noting that San Francisco 49ers All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner was used as a nickel defender in college.
Round 6, No. 200 overall: Brandin Echols, CB, Kentucky
My take: Yes, another college defensive back -- the first time since 1978 the Jets picked five DBs in the same draft. Echols (5-foot-10, 179) is a pure corner, although he's relatively new to the position. He blew up his pro day, running the 40 in 4.35 seconds to enhance his stock. He was a two-year starter for Kentucky after traveling the JUCO route. He's raw, but he has the physical tools and showed a nose for the ball -- 12 pass break-ups in 24 games. If nothing else, the Jets added a lot of bodies at corner, but they still lack a proven CB1 or CB2.
Round 6, No. 207 overall: Jonathan Marshall, DT, Arkansas
My take: This was a weird draft, as the Jets finished by picking six straight defensive players. Marshall (6-foot-3, 310 pounds) didn't have much production in college, as he was only a one-year starter, but he is a good athlete (4.81 seconds in the 40) and might benefit from a scheme change. At Arkansas, he was a 3-4 nose tackle and managed only 35 tackles and one sack as a senior. In the Jets' 4-3 defense, he will have an opportunity to turn it loose. He will be at the bottom of a depth chart that includes Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins and Folorunso Fatukasi. Marshall could learn for a year on the practice squad.