With the 2022 NFL Draft just a day away, the NY Jets find themselves with two of the biggest decisions of their franchise's history sitting firmly in their laps.
It's fair to say the biggest needs for the Jets this offseason from a draft perspective are wide receiver, cornerback, and edge rusher. Not necessarily in that order.
Having two top-10 picks this year, in a very rare occurrence, provides the Jets with two unique opportunities to take the best available players at either of those aforementioned positions.
The last time I joined you, I wrote an article where I was adamant that Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner should be the pick at No. 4 for a few reasons — one of them being that the Jets needed a corner desperately to pair with Bryce Hall.
Another being that Gardner was the best prospect in this entire draft pool and passing over him would be a mistake for any team.
And then another reason was as the Jets, you could pass on pass rusher and receiver at No. 4 and still land on an elite one at No. 10, whereas you could not necessarily do that at corner.
Dynamics have definitely shifted since that article with the Jets signing D.J. Reed as their top cornerback as well as Jordan Whitehead as their new starting strong safety.
However, I'm here once again, having thought a lot about this topic, to double down on my assertion that Gardner should be the pick at No. 4. Assuming, of course, he's still available.
Sauce Gardner should still be the pick for the NY Jets at No. 4
We hammered these facts in the last time, but let's briefly go over them again. He's 6-foot-3, 190 pounds with a draft prospect grade of 6.72 — an elite grade.
In three full seasons at Cincinnati, a program that he led back to relevancy after three years of sub-.500 football, Gardner tallied nine interceptions and 16 pass deflections with nearly 100 total tackles sprinkled on top.
But above all else, in the era of offense at both the collegiate and pro levels, Gardner allowed zero touchdowns. That includes against the amazing Jameson Williams — who found the end zone in nine of 15 games last year — in the Cotton Bowl. Pro Football Focus also has him allowing just 14 yards on four targets in that semi-final game.
Gardner is the definition of a lockdown corner. He's got size, speed, physicality, and big playmaking ability, and projects by every objective measure to be a perennial Pro Bowl-caliber player in this league.
When it comes to the Jets' specific positional "needs," they obviously already have two starting corners in D.J. Reed and Bryce Hall. Both are solid guys. I would never argue they aren't. However, I think it's also fair to say no matter the position (except for quarterback) adding "more" is never a bad thing.
And besides, what team doesn't have room for the best overall player in a draft class?
There are many different ways the Jets can choose to go in this first round. They can address pass rusher at No. 4 and wide receiver at No. 10, or vice versa. They can try and make a trade for a prominent veteran receiver like Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, or A.J. Brown.
They can surprise us all and take an offensive lineman. Or they can take the route of adding onto their secondary with pick No. 4 and then settling on a receiver or pass rusher at pick No. 10.
No matter which way they choose to go, I feel the Jets will have a very productive first round. However, I believe that Gardner is the type of player who will instantly make every team that passes on him regret doing so.
As I stated in my previous article, you can take Sauce at No. 4 and still land on a top receiver or pass rusher at No. 10.
I think Gardner immediately becomes the best cornerback on this Jets team if he's picked up. He's my pick at No. 4 if I'm Joe Douglas, controversial as that may be.