The New York Jets 2021 draft class was one of the best in recent memory for the team. On the surface, it looks like they have at least five starters for the next few years, with the potential for a couple more to develop into nice role players. With 10 picks last year, there are a lot of players to get through. With that being said, here is the New York Jets 2021 Rookie class scorecard.
Round 1, Pick 2: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Zach Wilson had an underwhelming rookie year, to say the least. While his offensive line took a second to put it together, and they did, he had a tough time seeing the field as a rookie. According to PFF, Wilson was the worst quarterback in the league in terms of taking sacks he shouldn’t have. He posted almost a 20 sacks posted above expectation, which was the worst mark in the league.
Additionally, while he also finished Week 5 with four touchdowns and nine interceptions, he ended the season with five straight games with no interceptions. Needless to say, he turned down the turnover plays, and that is a form of improvement. He will, however, need to learn how to not take sacks, or this rookie class might not mean anything for the franchise.
Round 1, Pick 14: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC
The Jets traded up for Vera-Tucker to start next to Mekhi Becton on the left side of the offensive line. While it took him a while to get into form, he had a great rookie year as a whole. His run blocking was really good, and he was an integral part of the Jets rushing attack which ranked in the top ten in the NFL from Week nine onwards.
While Vera-Tucker needs to take a step forward in his pass blocking, this rookie season was a great sign of things to come for a player who should be a key piece of this offensive line for the next decade.
Round 2, Pick 34: Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
Elijah Moore is an electric factory. This is a universal truth. During the preseason, many would’ve thought he was the best receiver in the NFL when looking on Twitter. And while he was really good when he played, he didn’t play much. Moore was out for six weeks this season, and fans never really got to see him play with Wilson and Michael Carter.
Once all three are on the field, behind a new and improved offensive line, with creative play-calling from Mike LaFleur, Moore is going to pop off. For him, its more a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if.’
Round 4, Pick 107: Michael Carter, RB, UNC
Carter is the closest thing the Jets have had to a number one back since Bilal Powell. Furthermore, he probably has more potential than Powell ever had. In his rookie year, despite missing a decent amount of time, as well as a carousel offensive line, Carter finished with 639 yards on 4.3 yards per carry. Through the air, he added 325 yards on 36 receptions.
If Carter can stay healthy and mesh well with Wilson next season, he can easily go for 1,500 yards total. A good comparison for him might be a player like New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who is also known for doing it both on the ground and as a threat out of the backfield in the passing game.
Round 5, Pick 146: Jamien Sherwood, LB, Auburn
Sherwood simply didn’t play enough this season. He was not able to stay healthy, playing in only five games. Furthermore, his impact in those games was limited, as he only finished with 15 total tackles, eight solo. Maybe he can get healthy and stay healthy this season, but he needs to get to work.
It is relevant that he was drafted as a safety, and the Jets are trying to convert him to a linebacker. He mostly played as a rotational piece for the Jets in 2021, and fans shouldn’t expect to see him play a much bigger role in 2022.
Round 5, Pick 154: Michael Carter II, CB, Duke
Carter was a great value pick for the Jets in the 5th round. He won the starting nickel position in training camp in 2021, but he wasn’t incredible there as the starter. What Carter II did show, however, is that he is an able and willing run defender. That adds great value on their defense, but he will need to improve his man coverage skills.
The Jets will likely upgrade at this position in the offseason, but Carter has the confidence of the front office and the coaching staff that he will improve and become an above average starting nickel corner.
Round 5, Pick 175: Jason Pinnock, CB, Pittsburgh
Pinnock was the third straight defensive back picked by the Jets late in this draft, and he took a very long time to show any impact defensively. While Pinnock is probably not ever going to start at cornerback, he showed a lot of potential at safety over the last few weeks of the season.
In Week 16, amid Covid-19 and injury problems, the Jets started Pinnock at safety, and he really shined. Playing all but two defensive snaps, he finished with a 91.2(!) rush defense grade, as well as an 80.1 overall PFF grade. He continued to play better than any other Jets safety in Weeks 17 and 18, and his potential is exciting for 2022.
Round 6, Pick 186: Hamsah Nasirildeen, LB, Florida State
Nasirildeen was another safety-turned-linebacker for the Jets, and he, much like Sherwood, didn’t really show much. He played limited snaps, and was trying to fight off injury problems for a lot of the season.
Looking ahead, he is definitely looking like a depth player and special teams player.
Round 6, Pick 200: Brandin Echols, CB, Kentucky
Echols was potentially the most exciting defensive rookie for the Jets throughout the entire season. Most notable for his interception of Tom Brady in Week 17, Echols showed flashes in coverage, and had both interceptions for Jets corners in 2021.
He could be fighting for a starting defensive back spot in 2022 depending on what the team does in free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft, but if he does, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Round 6, Pick 207: Jonathan Marshall, DT, Arkansas
Marshall only played 73 snaps this season, with Foley Fatukasi, John Franklin-Myers, and Sheldon Rankins all ahead of him on the depth chart. He didn’t really show anything when he was on the field, either, and could be a rotational player from here on out.
Overall Grade: B-
The Jets hit on some late-round picks, with Carter looking like a true number one running back, and Carter II and Echols looking like good depth and defensive back. Moore and Vera-Tucker both look to be above-average starters at worst, with the potential to be high-end starters. The other picks don’t really move the needle enough for the Jets at this point.
Most of the grade comes from Wilson. He carries most of the weight, due to playing the most important position in all of sports. If he does not improve in 2022, nothing else really matters. He played well in the latter half of the season, but he needs to continue to improve in 2022. If he does, this grade could look very low in one year’s time. Hopefully, it does. This has been a review of the New York Jets 2021 draft class.