Once upon a time, the Jets used four first-round draft picks in 2000 to build a consistent playoff contender.
Could a repeat of history be in store?
The Jets made four of the first 36 picks, including three first-rounders, in the 2022 NFL Draft, as they try to build a team that will return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Under the pressure to deliver big in his third draft at the helm, general manager Joe Douglas might have delivered the Jets’ best-ever draft … on paper. They will be on the field soon enough.
Here are The Post’s pick-by-pick grades for the Jets’ draft class:
Round 1, No. 4 overall: Sauce Gardner (CB, Cincinnati)
Forget all that talk about how defensive-minded head coach Robert Saleh’s scheme doesn’t value cornerbacks. Gardner was the best player available – and the Jets added him with a chip on shoulder because the Texans took cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. ahead of him. He allowed 13 catches for 117 yards last season, and did not surrender a touchdown in 33 career games. A big jump in competition is coming but his swagger is unflappable.
Round 1, No. 10 overall: Garrett Wilson (WR, Ohio State)
How about this for a smart process? After reportedly offering the pick to the 49ers for receiver Deebo Samuel and getting rejected, Douglas had to decide between Wilson and edge rusher Jermaine Johnson. He correctly foresaw what was coming – a run on receivers – and took the second of four in a five-pick span. Wilson made 70 receptions for 1,058 yards – many after breaking tackles or outracing pursuit – and 12 touchdowns last season.
Round 1, No. 26 overall: Jermaine Johnson (EDGE, Florida State)
The Jets came away with three of their top eight-ranked players – a coup as long as their evaluations are correct. It was clear other teams weren’t as high on the one-year wonder and Georgia transfer kept slipping. Saleh called Johnson the “most pro-ready of all the pass rushers this year,” which is a big statement when the first two picks were pass rushers. Johnson’s 254-pound frame isn’t right for all defenses, but it is for Saleh’s wide-9.
Get the latest updates on every New York Jets pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, plus hometown analysis from the New York Post.
Round 2, No. 36 overall: Breece Hall (RB, Iowa State)
The Jets were so overloaded with picks from past trades that they could move up from No. 35 to No. 26 without giving up No. 38. That became big when they wanted to move up again from No. 38 to No. 36 to jump the Texans for the first running back. Hall has the ideal skill set: Tough and elusive runner, reliable hands, clean routes and powerful in pass protection. He scored 56 touchdowns in 36 college games.
Round 3, No. 101 overall: Jeremy Ruckert (TE, Ohio State)
A curious choice given that the Jets spent $44.2 million ($25 million guaranteed) on free-agent tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin. But the Jets crushed hard on Ruckert at the Senior Bowl – returning the love a lifelong Jets fan has for them – and seized a chance to take the best available player as insurance instead of addressing bigger needs. Ruckert already is an advanced blocker from Ohio State, but he has untapped receiving potential.
Round 4, No. 111 overall: Max Mitchell (OT, Louisiana)
Mitchell certainly isn’t ready to unseat Mekhi Becton or George Fant like a first-rounder would’ve been if the Jets went in that direction. He played tackle on both sides and guard in his career as a three-year starter – after only starting one year for his high school team. The best case as a rookie is he supplants Chuma Edoga as the swing tackle.
Round 4, No. 117 overall: Micheal Clemons (EDGE, Texas A&M)
The soon-to-be 25-year-old Clemons first enrolled in community college in 2015 but last season was his first with more than four sacks (7.5). He comes with red flags after two arrests in a three-month span, including a weapons charge. The Jets believe in throwing waves of fresh legs at the offensive line and he’ll be added to the rotation.
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