Who are the best comparisons for New York Jets rookies like Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson?
For fans of the New York Jets, the most wonderful time of the year has finally arrived: optimism season.
After amassing a universally celebrated 2022 draft class, Gang Green is riding high on a wave of confidence and hope the franchise hasn’t felt since its last playoff appearance in 2010. General manager Joe Douglas was aggressive in trade-ups for the second year in a row, using his surplus of draft capital to land immediate impact players throughout the top four rounds.
New York’s seven total picks were all selected within the top-120 of the draft, an indication that the team had respectable grades on every prospect. Unlike most draft classes, each pick could reasonably be expected to make some contribution as a rookie, with the hopes of developing into potential starters in the future.
How will the newest Jets fit into the offense and defense? What might their potential ceilings look like?
To find out, I’ve compiled a list of pro-player comparisons for every member of the Jets’ 2022 draft class, based on their athletic profiles, play style, and likely usage in the NFL.
CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner
Comparison: Antonio Cromartie
The idea of the Jets adding a young Antonio Cromartie should have fans of Gang Green salivating.
Like Cromartie before him, Sauce Gardner is a tall, long, and aggressive press-man corner with exceptional speed to match. Both corner prospects measured in at over 6-foot-2, had at least 33-inch arms, and ran in the low-4.4s in the forty-yard dash.
Sauce did not do enough athletic testing to qualify for a Relative Athletic Score (RAS), but few other corners in the history of the league have possessed his blend of size, length, and speed. Cromartie is one of those few.
WR Garrett Wilson
Comparison: Percy Harvin
Another former Jet, Harvin may be an unexpected comparison for Garrett Wilson, but their athletic profiles are shockingly similar.
Their height and weight are very similar, as are their forty-yard dashes, vertical jumps, and broad jumps. As far as skillsets, Wilson is essentially a more polished version of Harvin coming out of Florida, while Harvin was more adept with the ball in his hands.
Both players are capable of winning short, over the middle, or deep, and while Wilson isn’t quite on Harvin’s level as a ball carrier, he can still be an effective weapon in space, evidenced by his 19 missed tackles forced in 2021.
EDGE Jermaine Johnson II
Comparison: Robert Quinn
Robert Quinn has been one of the most under-appreciated defensive players of the last decade, and if Jermaine Johnson can come even close to his level of production, the Jets will have gotten an absolute steal with the 26th overall pick.
As talented as Quinn is, Johnson profiles as an even better athlete.
Both players measured at least 6-foot-4 with identical 34-inch arm length, while Quinn slightly out-weighed Johnson by 11 pounds. However, what Johnson lacks in weight, he makes up for in explosion, posting an elite 4.58 forty and 1.59 10-yard-split.
Johnson and Quinn are both capable of beating offensive tackles in a variety of ways: speed off the line, raw strength, bend around the corner, and everything in between. They both use their length as a shield to keep blockers out of their frames, and as a weapon when they need to overpower them for sacks.
Like Quinn, Johnson is an ideal fit as a 4-3 defensive end and should find a quick home in Robert Saleh’s defense.
RB Breece Hall
Comparison: Reggie Bush
Another unexpected connection, like Wilson and Harvin, Breece Hall and Reggie Bush are more similar than they might first appear.
Hall and Bush are both truly exceptional athletes.
Both players had sub-4.4 forty times and at least 40-inch vertical jumps – evidence of elite explosion that translates to the field in the form of long touchdown runs and highlight-reel jukes.
While their speed and explosion numbers are practically neck-and-neck, Hall actually beats out Bush in overall RAS due to Hall outweighing Bush by 16 pounds. That extra bulk should help Hall withstand the toll of the NFL better than Bush did in his career, while still possessing Bush’s dominant explosiveness.
TE Jeremy Ruckert
Comparison: Pat Freiermuth
Jeremy Ruckert may not have the same impact as a rookie that Friermuth did for Pittsburgh due to the Jets’ free agency additions of C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin, but their similarities are striking.
Both prospects dealt with injuries that limited their testing in the pre-draft process, but what little information we do have is basically a mirror image. Ruckert and Friermuth are both 6-foot-5, with Friermuth outweighing Ruckert by a single pound; 251 to 250 respectively.
On the field, Ruckert matches Friermuth’s potential as an every-down tight end who is just as useful as a blocker as he is in the passing game. They both excel at making contested catches, especially in the red zone, and were the safety valves of each of their college passers.
If Ruckert can follow in Friermuth’s footsteps and overcome his injuries, the Jets’ tight end room could be one of the best units in the entire NFL.
OT Max Mitchell
Comparison: Riley Reiff
Reiff may not have lived up to his draft status as the 23rd overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, but if Max Mitchell‘s career can follow a similar arc as a fourth-rounder, it will be more than a success.
Mitchell and Reiff are near carbon copies of each other athletically.
Mitchell is roughly a half-inch taller, and Reiff is six pounds heavier, but the rest of their testing numbers are extremely close. Both players have less-than-desirable arm length (under 34 inches) with underwhelming athleticism overall, but what they lack in measurables, they make up for in technique and smarts.
On the field, Mitchell and Reiff are both quality pass blockers with quick hands and agile feet to mirror rushers around the edge. To counter their lack of length, Mitchell and Reiff are both extremely crafty with their hands, waiting until the perfect moment to strike and get in the rusher’s frame.
Mitchell will likely start his career as a backup/swing tackle for the Jets, but if he continues to build on his already impressive technique, he could be competing for one of the starting tackle jobs in the very near future.
EDGE Micheal Clemons
Comparison: Emmanuel Ogbah
The last pick of the Jets’ 2022 draft class, Micheal Clemons has a unique athletic profile that, like Ogbah before him, gives him a natural advantage against most of his opponents.
Clemons and Ogbah both have elite arm length for defensive ends; just shy of 35 inches for Clemons and 35.5 inches for Ogbah.
That length allows them both to outreach offensive tackles and get into their chest before the tackle’s hands can make contact. With no way for the tackle to get a grip, Ogbah and Clemons can easily disengage from blocks and disrupt offenses in both the run and pass games.
Ogbah gets the overall win in RAS due to posting excellent explosion numbers along with his size, but Clemons’s numbers are still respectable. Considering he was the 117th overall pick, if the Jets can get even 80 percent of Ogbah in the fourth round, it will be a pick well spent.