Jets go offense early before making run on defense in draft

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New York Jets fan of the year Lynne Pondview reacts after the Jets selected Michael Carter II, cornerback for Duke, in the fifth round of the NFL football draft, Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

NEW YORK – The New York Jets' offense was downright offensive on most Sundays the past few seasons.

Pick by pick early in the NFL draft, Joe Douglas went to work on changing all that.

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The Jets went with offense on their first four selections, kicking things off by taking their newest franchise quarterback in BYU's Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall.

Next came a trade up from No. 23 to No. 14 to pick USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. New York stayed put at No. 34 despite calls from teams looking to move up, and selected speedy and versatile Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore. The Jets stayed on that side of the ball to start the fourth round, taking elusive North Carolina running back Michael Carter.

It marked the first time the Jets drafted offensive players with their first four picks since 1983, when they took quarterback Ken O’Brien, running back Johnny Hector, wide receiver JoJo Townsell and tight end Wes Howell.

“We take the quarterback and then Vera-Tucker is sitting there and Joe was aggressive in getting him, which was awesome,” coach Robert Saleh said. "We had no idea and no expectations to see Elijah Moore sitting there, and there he is, sitting there in the second round, so that was a no-brainer.

“We go through and just watched the third round unfold and we're just looking at Michael Carter fall and we're like, ‘Holy cow, he might get to us.’ So we went to bed (Saturday) night as excited as heck because Michael Carter's sitting there.”

Then, Douglas took defensive players with the team's final six picks.

Auburn linebacker Jamien Sherwood, Duke safety Michael Carter II (yes, another Michael Carter) and Pittsburgh cornerback Jason Pinnock all went in the fifth round, while Florida State linebacker Hamsah Nasirildeen, Kentucky cornerback Brandin Echols and Arkansas defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall were selected in the sixth round.

“I feel the board fell our way," Douglas said. “And it fell the defense's way the second half of this draft.”


The ultimate success of the 10-player draft class will be determined in large part by the performance of one person: Wilson.

After Douglas pressed the reset button at the quarterback position by trading Sam Darnold to Carolina, the focus shifted to his replacement. The Jets knew it would be Wilson after Douglas, Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur were awed by the former BYU star's performance at his pro day.

Wilson is tasked with being the quarterback to finally help lead the Jets back to respectability — and someday back to the Super Bowl.

“This is an opportunity for me to come to an amazing organization and take the same approach that I did when no one believed in me back at BYU at a time after my sophomore year,” Wilson said. “So it’s really that prove-them-wrong mentality of just being able to have that chip on your shoulder and making sure every day you’re working and doing everything you can, no matter how high the highs are or low the lows are.”


Sherwood and Nasirildeen were defensive backs in college, with both primarily playing safety. But the Jets announced both as linebackers and they're expected to stick there as hybrids in New York's 4-3 base defense.

“With the chaos that we create up front, our guys are more run and hit, more lateral players,” Saleh said. “These young men, when you look at Sherwood and you look at Hamsah, they’re down safeties, which is basically a linebacker.”


The Jets apparently can't have enough Michael Carters on the roster, one for each side of the ball.

“Yeah, that was the hope, to get MC squared going into today and we were able to accomplish that," Douglas said with a smile. "We’re trying to corner the market on Elijahs (Alijah Vera-Tucker and Elijah Moore) and Michael Carters.”

Saleh said a funny moment in the draft room came when they submitted their pick for Carter (the running back) and ESPN showed a graphic for Carter II (the safety).

“We were like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa — wait a minute!’” Saleh said with a laugh. “So, it was, check the notes, make sure we got the right pick. ... We're excited to have them both.”

Carter, the former North Carolina running back, welcomed his new Jets teammate on Twitter, saying: “What up Twin.” Carter II responded with: “What’s good!!” along with a rolling on the floor laughing emoji.


Pinnock was celebrating draft day Saturday at a bowling alley near his hometown of Windsor, Conn., when he got the call from the Jets.

“I’ve been a fan since (Darrelle) Revis,” Pinnock said of the former Pitt and Jets star. “It’s almost like life has come full circle. It’s surreal.”

While talking with reporters on a video call, Pinnock’s brother surprised him by dousing him with champagne — causing the cornerback to yell and laugh before apologizing for the interruption.

“That's my crazy brother, man,” Pinnock said while laughing and wiping his face. “That's my only brother. He's my biggest inspiration.”

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