Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft is complete and the NY Jets have their franchise quarterback in BYU’s Zach Wilson. The world’s worst kept secret is now official — Zach Wilson is a member of the New York Jets.
The quote of the offseason belongs to Jets head coach Robert Saleh, who told his new quarterback over the phone, “The biggest thing I want to tell you is just remember this, this organization is going to lift you, not the other way around.”
It’s safe to say that after Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jets’ entire fanbase is inspired by their new leader’s words and the team’s actions.
The real mystery headed into Day 1 of the draft was what the Jets would do at pick No. 23. In the weeks leading up to the NFL draft, it became quite clear that if the Jets wanted to get one of the top-rated offensive linemen, they would need to trade up to get it done.
And that’s exactly what Joe Douglas did on Thursday night, sending the team’s two third-round picks (No. 66 and No. 86) and its 23rd selection overall to the Minnesota Vikings to move up to the 14th pick in the draft. The Jets also received the Vikings’ fourth-round selection (No. 143) to move up nine spots.
The Jets used that 14th pick in Round 1 to select what they believe will be a foundational piece of their offensive line for years to come in USC tackle/guard Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Vera-Tucker grades as one of college football’s most polished pass and run blockers in this draft, and the Jets had a strong need in finding an elite cornerstone player to pair up on the same line with last year’s first-round pick Mekhi Becton.
It says a lot that the Jets’ front office coveted Vera-Tucker so much that they identified him ahead of other top prospects like Christian Darrisaw and Teven Jenkins — the latter of which is surprisingly still available.
The Jets chose not to sit back and wait or hope for one of the most coveted players on their board to fall to them.
Joe Douglas made the strong play to address a significant need, and in doing so, the green and white land a player that checks off all the boxes of what they are looking for in terms of toughness, smarts, and character.
Vera-Tucker can also play tackle if need be, adding to his value. Protecting the team’s investment in Zach Wilson is priority number one, two, and three moving forward.
The move up in Round 1 has changed the Jets’ original draft ammunition on Day 2. Before the trade, the Jets had three picks on Day 2. Now it’s down to only one, at the moment. Depending on who is available at pick No. 34, the Jets could decide to trade down to recoup the picks they just gave up.
After Day 1, the draft resets as front offices regroup and restock their boards for Day 2. The results at the end of Round 1 and the remaining players on the board will dictate the Jets’ direction.
A new top of the draft begins, and the Jets are back on the clock in Round 2, picking second again (#34). The team could stand pat and take the player they want, same as they did at the top of Round 1.
Or the Jet,s if they see several potential targets, could decide to trade down and amass more picks in the draft. A similar strategy, Jets GM Joe Douglas took in last year’s draft when he traded down, stockpiled picks, and drafted Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims.
Based on who is currently available in the 2021 NFL Draft, let’s look at players that the Jets could target in Round 2.