For the first time in years, the New York Jets have seemed to hit on almost all of their draft picks. With their nine picks from last year's draft, fans have a reason to feel optimistic on most of their selections. Even for a skeptical fan such as myself, this is a draft class that offers plenty of hope.
For starters, all of the Jets' draft picks played a combined 69 games this year, which is the most playing time any of their rookie classes have played since 2006. Quarterback Zach Wilson, wide reciever Elijah Moore, and offensive lineman Alijah-Vera Tucker were the only rookies to start going into the season, but more players saw an increase in their roles as the year went on. Offensively running back Michael Carter was one of the team's most skilled offensive players, tallying 945 yards from scrimmaging while possessing a knack to break multiple tackles almost every time he got the ball. twitter.com/nfl/status/1439669558797762564
On defense, cornerback Brandin Echolos became a force late in the season recording five pass deflections and two picks with one going for a pick six, while the other came off Tom Brady. He and his fellow rookie cornerback Michael Carter II combined to deflect 14 passes. Along with the progression of Bryce Hall, the Jets should have a solid cornerback trio for years to come. twitter.com/NFL/status/1472669413832683525?s=20
As for Wilson, Moore, and Vera-Tucker, they all made the most of the playing time they received from the start of the season. Wilson overcame a rocky start to finish the season on a strong not with nine total touchdowns while only throwing two picks since he returned from his week seven injury. His signature game was a 297 yard, two touchdown performance against a Titans team that finished number one in the AFC. Moore's play also improved throughout the season, as 459 of his team leading 538 yards came in his final six games, along with five receiving touchdowns. While he missed the final five games, there's lots of optimism surrounding his potential. Vera-Tucker was arguably the most consistent rookie as he was solid in pass protection while sparking a running game that was coming into its own. https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1444749314526367745?s=20
Going into last year's offseason, the only players that were considered cornerstones for Jets were their stud defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and offensive lineman Mekhi Becton. Now they have a true foundation of promising rookies, to go with Williams and linebacker C.J. Mosley, who had a nice bounce back year. By the season's end their rookies scored 15 touchdowns, which is more than any other draft class in franchise history. They also led the team in passing yards, rushing yards, receiving yards, and interceptions.
There's every reason to believe that Jets will be flirting with a playoff berth next season even if they don't make it. Their draft class was a major storyline for the team going into the season and they performed at an exceptional level for the most part. It's why they beat division winners such as the Titans and Bengals, while nearly upsetting the Buccaneers. Although they only won four games, they enter the offseason with the fourth most cap space in the league along with four selections within the top 50 draft picks. If they have a solid offseason and their rookies take huge leaps in their sophomore years, Jet fans can finally sleep happily after football Sundays.