Zach Wilson shadow hangs over Jets’ big-swing 2021 draft

With the NFL Draft approaching, we are taking a look back at Joe Douglas’ first three drafts as Jets general manager.

This week, we take a look at the 2021 draft.

This was one of the most anticipated drafts in recent memory for the Jets. They had two first-round picks after the Jamal Adams trade the summer before, and held the No. 2 overall pick after going 2-14 in 2020.

Adam Gase had been fired and Robert Saleh hired as the new head coach, giving Douglas a new partner.

This is my outlook on draft picks: First- and second-round picks should be immediate starters or major contributors. Third-round picks should play special teams as rookies and become starters by Year 2 or 3. The fourth round and later is a total crapshoot.

I don’t want to give out letter grades for each pick. It is too soon for some of them. Let’s do pass/fail grades for their careers so far.

Here is a look at the 2021 draft:

QB Zach Wilson, first round, No. 2 overall

Corey Sipkin for the NY Post

This pick overshadows the rest of this draft. As a GM, you usually get a pick in the top two once, and you better land your franchise quarterback with it.

Wilson has not looked like that guy in his first two seasons, and now the Jets are trading for Aaron Rodgers because of it. There is a chance Wilson gets his career back on track, but it seems unlikely to happen with the Jets.

Pass/fail: FAIL

OG Alijah Vera-Tucker, first round, No. 14 overall

Jets guard Alijah Vera-Tucker speaks to the media.
Bill Kostroun for the NY Post

The Jets traded up to get Vera-Tucker in the first round because they had a strong belief in him. That has looked like a good decision.

Vera-Tucker was on his way to having a monster 2022 season before he tore his triceps in Week 7. He has started at left guard, right guard, right tackle and left tackle in his first two seasons, showing remarkable versatility.

Pass/fail: PASS

WR Elijah Moore, second round, No. 34 overall

Elijah Moore talks with Jets head coach Robert Saleh
Elijah Moore with Jets head coach Robert Saleh
Bill Kostroun for the NY Post

The Jets just traded Moore to the Browns in a move that might lead to securing Rodgers. Still, this is going to be painful if Moore develops into a star with the Browns.

The potential is clearly there. He had some flashes with the Jets, but fell out of favor with the coaching staff and demanded a trade during last season. Though I still think Moore has a lot of potential to be a good player, this pick has been a mistake to date.

Pass/fail: FAIL

RB Michael Carter, fourth round, No. 107 overall

Michael Carter runs for a touchdown for the Jets against the Bills.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

I think this might be the hardest to evaluate of all the picks Douglas has made. Carter showed such potential as a rookie, and then took a step backward in his second year. The 2023 season is huge for Carter.

When evaluating this pick, I can’t overlook the potential Carter has shown. Also, remember how I feel about fourth-round picks. It’s a crapshoot. The Jets already have gotten seven touchdowns from Carter. That’s a win.

Pass/fail: PASS

LB Jamien Sherwood, fifth round, No. 146 overall

Jamien Sherwood celebrates after a Jets game.
Bill Kostroun for the NY Post

Sherwood has played in 22 games, including starting four games as a rookie before suffering a season-ending injury.

He has flashed at times when playing in place of C.J. Mosley, and is a solid special-teams player. Still, there is no reason to think Sherwood will be a major contributor for years to come and that this pick was a hit.

Pass/fail: FAIL

CB Michael Carter II, fifth round, No. 154 overall

Michael Carter II of the Jets covers Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown
Michael Carter II covers Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Corey Sipkin for the NY Post

Carter has played in 32 games in his first two years and is a de facto starter as the slot cornerback, a position that has become extremely valuable in today’s NFL.

Carter has been a pleasant surprise for a fifth-round pick. He has played some really strong games, and has two career interceptions. He should be locked in as the third corner for the next few years.

Pass/fail: PASS

S Jason Pinnock, fifth round, No. 175 overall

New York Giants cornerback Jason Pinnock (27) defends against Washington Commanders wide receiver Curtis Samuel (10)
Jason Pinnock makes a play in coverage … for the Giants.

This is another player who it would be premature to judge. Pinnock played sparingly as a rookie, but hooked on with the Giants after the Jets cut him last year. He started five games for the Giants, and played pretty well.

Because his future is not going to be with the Jets, though, I am going to ding Douglas on this one.

Pass/fail: FAIL

LB Hamsah Nasirildeen, sixth round, No. 186 overall

Nasirildeen was converted from safety to linebacker, and he has pretty much just been a special-teams player in his first two years.

Pass/fail: FAIL

CB Brandin Echols, sixth round, No. 200 overall

New York Jets cornerback Brandin Echols (26) runs at practice.
Corey Sipkin for the NY Post

Echols started 14 games as a rookie, and had two memorable interceptions — one a pick-six and one off of Tom Brady.

The Jets decided to upgrade in 2022 with Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed, sending Echols to the bench. Echols did develop into a strong special-teams player, and gives the Jets a nice backup at cornerback.

Pass/fail: PASS

DT Jonathan Marshall, sixth round, No. 207 overall

Marshall played just four games as a rookie, and then the Jets moved on. He is currently on the Steelers roster, but has not played in a game since 2021.

Pass/fail: FAIL

Overall assessment: There is still a lot to learn about this class after just two seasons. Players such as Michael Carter (the running back), Elijah Moore and a few others have shown potential that has not really developed into production.

Still, all this draft will be remembered for is Wilson. If he ends up being one of the all-time worst picks in franchise history, that will be the takeaway. If he can turn things around and become a starter for the Jets again, this draft will be viewed differently.

Want to catch a game? The Jets schedule with links to buy tickets can be found here.

Waiting for a Q

Quinnen Williams not showing up for the start of the Jets’ offseason program on Monday was expected. Williams said in January he would stay away if he did not have a new contract. The two sides have been negotiating, but have not reached a deal.

Quinnen Williams of the Jets speaks to the media after the 2022 season.
Quinnen Williams continues seeking a new contract that will make him one of the NFL’s highest-paid defensive tackles.
Corey Sipkin for the NY Post

It is imperative for the Jets to sign Williams to a long-term extension. He has been a dominant player on the field and a good guy in the locker room. He has not made noise about the contract until this offseason, when he is totally justified to want more money.

The Jets should be able to get this done for $23 million-25 million per year. That is less than Aaron Donald’s $32 million per year and more than everyone else.

The Jets have not re-signed a first-round round pick since Muhammad Wilkerson in 2016. They need to end that drought with Williams.

Stat’s so

Wayne Chrebet and Laveranues Coles celebrate during a Jets-Patriots game in 2002.
Wayne Chrebet and Laveranues Coles are the most recent entrants on the Jets’ all-time touchdown scorers list.
Getty Images

The Jets have not had anyone a long-term weapon on offense over the past decade. They are hoping Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall can change that.

It has been awhile since they have had someone who finds the end zone often. Just look at the team’s top 10 career touchdown leaders:

1. WR Don Maynard (1960-72): 88 TDs
2. WR Wesley Walker (1977-89): 71 TDs
3. RB Emerson Boozer (1966-75): 65 TDs
4. RB Curtis Martin (1998-2005): 63 TDs
5. RB Freeman McNeil (1981-92): 50 TDs
6. RB Bill Mathis (1960-69): 46 TDs
7. RB Johnny Hector (1983-92): 44 TDs
8. WR Wayne Chrebet (1995-2005): 41 TDs
9. WR/TE Jerome Barkum (1972-83): 40 TDs
T-10. WR Laveranues Coles (2000-02, 2005-08): 37 TDs
T-10. TE Mickey Shuler (1978-89): 37 TDs

Source: Pro Football Reference