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Draft

Did we just experience the greatest NY Jets draft ever?

NY Jets (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Give Joe Douglas deserves credit. He’s a man with a plan. The NY Jets general manager insisted on a six-year contract because he knew he could never turn around this shipwreck in a draft or two.

It’s like he’s pulling off the scab from a roster wound caused by 20 years of neglect from previous regimes helmed by beancounters who never really played football.

Douglas exudes quiet confidence never seen before at One Jets Drive. He is a man of conviction, who makes a decision, and then acts boldly.

He didn’t know Robert Saleh before the interview process. But he hired the former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator as the 22nd “head coach of the NY Jets” because he saw greatness.

The GM recognized Sam Darnold as a class act damaged by the three-way trainwreck of the quarterback’s inconsistency, Adam Gase’s arrogance, and Mike Maccagnan’s incompetence.

The NY Jets made all the right moves during the 2021 NFL Draft

So Douglas brushed aside criticisms of Zach Wilson’s weak competition — a negative not applied to Trey Lance’s 17-0 mark at North Dakota State — and never wavered in making the BYU star the face of this franchise.

Before the draft, Douglas paved the groundwork with other teams to trade up for plug-in-and-play USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker.

Jets fans will forget his willingness to cede two pricey third-rounders to Minnesota to move up from No. 23 to No. 14 long before Vera-Tucker’s first Pro Bowl appearance.

At pick 34, Douglas rejected numerous lofty trade offers to select a first-round talent in Mississippi’s Elijah Moore — an electric slot receiver with a skill set comparable to Antonio Brown.

Then he sat back the rest of Day 2 and let the board fall to him. That philosophy resulted in UNC running back Michael Carter — another high-octane player the GM targeted — being available the next day for the taking at pick 107.

Douglas had provided Saleh with vital defensive starters in free agency like defensive end Carl Lawson, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, and linebacker Jarrad Davis. On Day 3, he amassed Saleh-friendly positionless projects to mend their broken secondary.

The defensive future of this league is the LB/S hybrid, with smaller head-knocking types covering both shifty receivers across the field and beefy TEs over the middle.

So Douglas provided Saleh with two versatile safeties he wanted, Auburn’s Jamien Sherwood at pick 146 and one of the biggest draft steals in Florida State’s Hamsah Nisirildeen at 186.

Bryce Hall, Blessuan Austin, and Javelin Guidry lead a depleted cornerback unit. It now includes hard-hitting converted safety Duke’s Michael Carter II, analytics superstar Pittsburgh’s Jason Pinnock, Kentucky project Brandin Echols, and one of the highest-paid undrafted free agents, Oregon State’s Isaiah Dunn.

While the defensive line is this team’s strong point, that group was enhanced by their final selection, defensive tackle project Arkansas’ Jonathan Marshall. Some evaluators and stat geeks feel Marshall can reach star potential, but he’s so new to the position.

This year’s developmental UDFA class may be the finest in team history. There are seven or eight signees who could stick with this organization and contribute with their special-teams prowess.

Along with Dunn, Missississippi tight end Kenny Yeboah, Oregon State edge rusher Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Auburn safety Jordyn Peters, Rutgers safety Brendon White, Illinois linebacker Milo Eifler, and SMU kicker Chris Naggar could all make the opening roster.

Bruising offensive lineman like New Mexico’s Teton Saltes, Air Force’s Parker Ferguson, and Wilson’s BYU teammate Tristen Hoge (nephew of NFL great Merrill Hoge) feel like Joe Douglas-friendly practice-squad future contributors.

You have to love the organizational effort. The Jets GM and his head coach are revamping the roster with players not just fast and athletic — but with “all gas” overachieving leaders of men.

Next. NY Jets: Grade and analysis for all 10 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft

And this is why we just experienced the most significant NY Jets draft of the modern era.

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