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Looking back at NY Jets’ 2022 draft class two years later

Sauce Gardner
Sauce Gardner, Getty Images

Revisiting the 2022 New York Jets draft class

As the New York Jets aim for a successful 2024 draft, the team could learn a thing or two from its strategy in 2022, when they secured one of the best draft classes in franchise history.

Now is a great time to revisit that amazing class.

Round 1, Pick #4: Sauce Gardner, CB

It seems strange now, but this selection was heavily debated heading into the draft. Many draft pundits saw the offensive line as the best possible pick and NC State’s Icky Ekwonu as the best option. Others wanted an edge rusher, specifically Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Cornerback was not seen as a primary need for the Jets, at least on the level of edge rusher, offensive line, and wide receiver. Head coach Robert Saleh had already shown a knack for developing defensive talent, and the prevailing thought was that the team could address the position without using the fourth pick.

So, it was somewhat of a shock that the Jets broke their conceived habits and took Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner over the rumored top prospects. Gardner, along with LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr., was considered one of the best cornerbacks in the draft; however, it seemed unlikely that the Jets would take him.

Two years into his career, Gardner looks like one of the best defensive players in his draft class and in all of football.

The cornerback has two Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro selections to his name. In 33 career games, Gardner has allowed just 612 yards into his coverage (18.5 per game) and two touchdowns, yielding a passer rating of 63.0 when targeted.

Gardner might not have been the favorite at the time of his selection, but the cornerback has validated the Jets’ decision to take him.

Round 1, Pick #10: Garrett Wilson, WR

While Gardner’s selection at No. 4 overall was a bit of a surprise, the team’s following selection was not.

Having a second first-round pick in 2022 (thank you, Jamal Adams!), the Jets took star Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson.

Wilson was a constant force at Ohio State, standing out in an offense that included Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. He was a slick route runner and could get open down the field in various ways, giving his quarterback a consistent and productive target.

Even in a brutal offensive situation, Wilson has lived up to his billing with the Jets so far. He has racked up two seasons of over 1,000 yards with subpar playcalling and a brutal quarterback situation.

Heading into 2024, Wilson is getting quarterback Aaron Rodgers back in the fold and should have help opposite of him at wide receiver. As good as Wilson has been up to this point, he has the potential to elevate his play to a new level.

Round 1, Pick #26: Jermaine Johnson, DE

To the enjoyment of many, the Jets surprisingly made a third selection in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

After a trade with the Titans, New York moved into the No. 26 overall selection and selected former Georgia and Flordia State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson.

Johnson, coached by the Jets’ staff at that year’s Senior Bowl, was heavily linked to New York in the pre-draft process. He was rumored to be a target in the top 10 at one point and was very high on the team’s draft board; as a result, the Jets were thrilled to land him in the late first round.

While he had a quiet rookie season, the edge rusher burst onto the scene in 2023. Johnson had 56 pressures, 16 quarterback hits, 7.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, seven passes defended, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a pick-six on his way to the Pro Bowl.

Johnson may not yet have the star power of Gardner and Wilson, but he has shown the talent and potential to be a mainstay on the team’s defense for years to come.

Round 2, Pick #36: Breece Hall, RB

In another trade-up, moving up two spots to leap the Giants, the Jets selected the eventual engine of their offense in Breece Hall.

Hall, an Iowa State product, was considered the best running back in the 2022 class. Yet, some people were skeptical about the capital used on Hall. This was due to the conversation around running backs shifting, as many did not see them worthy of significant investment.

While the long-term discussion is a different story, Hall has immediately shown that he is one of the best running backs in football.

An injury-shortened rookie year saw Hall amass 681 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns in seven games. He averaged 5.8 yards per rush attempt and was a weapon in all facets of the game.

Returning from his ACL injury in 2023, Hall had a freakish season in which he amassed over 1,500 yards from scrimmage. At times, he was the Jets’ whole offense, creating chunk plays out of nothing and willing the team’s offense to points.

Like Wilson, Hall should benefit from the team’s offensive improvements in 2024. If he keeps up his production, Hall has a chance to solidify his claim to the title of best at his position in the entire league.

Round 3, Pick #101: Jeremy Ruckert, TE

Drafted in the late third round out of Ohio State, the New York native has not had the chance to do much with the Jets in two years.

Jeremy Ruckert has potential as both a blocker and receiver, both of which have been shown in spurts at the professional level, but he’s only played 356 offensive snaps in 24 games (14.8 per game). Ruckert has seen just 24 targets in the league, catching 17 passes for 159 yards with no touchdowns.

If the Jets’ tight end room remains unchanged after tomorrow night’s first round, the door is open for Ruckert to emerge as a solid TE2 for a contending team in 2024.

Round 4, Pick #111: Max Mitchell, OT

Drafted as a developmental tackle, Max Mitchell has seen his fair share of ups and downs with the Jets.

The positive moments are enough to invest in his development. Mitchell has had occasional reps of stopping edge rushers in their tracks or paving the way for runners on the ground.

Unfortunately, those positives are mixed in with a good chunk of negatives. Mitchell has constantly gotten beat in both aspects of blocking due to a lack of play strength or proper technique. There are many plays where Mitchell simply does not have the talent to overcome the player across from him.

At this juncture, Mitchell is a depth/backup option for the team. It would be great if the team could rely upon him in the future, but New York cannot afford to do so in 2024.

Round 4, Pick #117: Micheal Clemons, DL

The Jets’ last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, defensive lineman Micheal Clemons, is in a similar role to Mitchell on offense.

The Texas A&M product has had spurts of production for the Jets in two years, recording 63 tackles, 21 total pressures, and three sacks. He has been a useful edge defender against the run at times.

However, Clemons has been unable to string together enough production to be considered a future starter. His pass-rushing upside is limited, as he does not have upper-level athleticism or a deep bag of moves. It leaves Clemons where he currently stands, serving as a depth piece on a stacked 2024 Jets defensive line.

With the draft less than 36 hours away, it is always good to take a look at the positive moments the team has had. The Jets have been set back by significant struggles in the draft outside of 2022. Yet, the success of the 2022 class helped to catapult their roster into a contending window.

To have the best possible draft, New York would be wise to rely on whatever strategies led them to Gardner, Wilson, Hall, and Johnson. If they do, the Jets will be set up to thrive in 2024.

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