The 2021 New York Jets draft class ranks favorably after one season
Right off the bat, let’s be clear: one year is way too early to judge a draft class. You probably need at least three seasons before it’s fair to start making declarations about how successful a draft class was. Draft picks need time to develop. Few players are selected with the expectation to help their team win games in year one or even year two.
Regardless, we’re going to go right ahead and ignore those pragmatic words of wisdom. Let’s jump the gun and find out where the New York Jets‘ 2021 draft class ranks out of 32 draft classes after one year of football.
I recently broke down the output of the Jets’ 2020 draft class through two years. The data revealed that a disastrous second season has the class is in danger of becoming a failure after a good rookie year. Today, we’ll use the same methodologies deployed in that study to analyze general manager Joe Douglas‘ 2021 draft class.
The average 2021 NFL draft class
To get an idea of what a 2021 NFL draft class should be expected to have produced by this point in time, let’s take a look at some league averages.
Here is what the average NFL team’s 2021 draft class (not including undrafted free agents) produced in the regular season:
- Total games played: 84.7
- Number of Pro Bowlers: 0.2
- Number of players to serve as a primary starter*: 1.3
- Total Approximate Value (AV)^: 18.6
- AV per game: 0.219
*The “primary starter” label is assigned by Pro Football Reference. It is based on the number of games started throughout a season. Does not include special teams players.
^Approximate Value (AV) is a statistic from Pro Football Reference that estimates a player’s cumulative impact. Visit here for a more detailed explanation of the methodology.
Where do New York Jets rank?
Here is the output of the Jets’ 2021 draft class, including the group’s rank in each category out of 32 draft classes:
- Total games played: 116 (6th)
- Number of Pro Bowlers: 0 (one of 26 teams without a Pro Bowler)
- Number of players to serve as a primary starter: 4 (1st)
- Total Approximate Value (AV): 30 (3rd)
- AV per game: 0.259 (11th)
This was an excellent debut season for Joe Douglas’ 2021 draft class.
Most notably, the Jets were the only team in the NFL to have four draft picks earn the label of “primary starter” at Pro Football Reference. Quarterback Zach Wilson, guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, running back Michael Carter, and cornerback Brandin Echols were the four players to earn that distinction.
That number actually sells the Jets short. Wide receiver Elijah Moore would’ve earned the distinction if not for injuries costing him six games. Moore was also credited for only six starts in his 11 games despite playing a main role in all of them. Slot cornerback Michael Carter II was essentially a starter even if he only got official credit for seven starts in his 15 appearances.
No matter how you want to lay out the numbers, the bottom line is that the Jets had more rookie starters than any other team in football.
Overall, the Jets got plenty of reps out of their draft picks. New York’s 2021 draft class combined to play 116 games, ranking sixth.
The most important factor in these numbers is that the Jets’ rookies didn’t just play – they played well.
New York’s rookies combined for 30 AV, tying Denver for third-best among 2021 rookie classes behind only Pittsburgh (33) and Dallas (32). On a per-game basis, the Jets’ rookies accumulated a healthy average of 0.259 AV, which ranked 11th.
There is a long way to go, but this was a highly promising start
One year of success does not guarantee a draft class will go on to be a hit. After all, in my previous breakdown, we learned that the Jets’ 2020 draft class produced at a top-15 level in its first season. All of that promise came crashing down in a hellish second season.
However, the Jets’ 2021 draft class was much better in its first season than the Jets’ 2020 class. Whereas the Jets’ 2020 class ranked 15th-best with 18 AV in its rookie year, the Jets’ 2021 class ranked third-best with 30 AV. That’s a huge disparity.
Ranking top-three in rookie-year AV puts the Jets’ 2021 draft class in a good spot. The top three classes when it came to rookie-year AV in 2020 belonged to Miami, Minnesota, and Baltimore. All three classes remained in the top-10 of AV production among 2020 draft classes in the 2021 season.
We still need to wait at least a couple more years before we can affirmatively grade Joe Douglas’ 2021 draft class. The future looks bright, though.