By Lenn Robbins
If there was one underlying message that came out of the Jets first draft under the Joe Douglas-Robert Saleh administration it’s this: Versatility and the ability to get to the football in a hurry are priorities.
This is not the sexiest storyline, of course, but it’s a winning one.
Once the Jets officially took poster boy Zach Wilson with the No.2 pick and he was anointed the franchise savior it soak up the media air. Heck, Wilson’s mother, Lisa, got more media than the Jets later round picks, particularly fifth-round pick Jamien Sherwood and sixth-round pick Hamah Nasirildeen.
Sherwood, a 6-2, 220-pound safety, will move up in some formations as will the 6-4, 220-pound Nasirildeen, who could be a real impact player. After the 2020 NFL Draft, the former FSU star was tabbed a 1st-rounder in a too-soon 2121 NFL mock draft.
“Those are two very long, fast, versatile athletes that kind of fit the mold of what we ask out of our linebackers — they run and hit and have speed and coverage ability,” Saleh said. “What you can see out of those guys is their ability to read, diagnose, run and hit, play coverage, understand route concepts that are in front of them. We feel like they’ll be able to translate to linebacker pretty easily.”
Nasirildeen isn’t the only highly touted player to fall. The Jets signed former Oregon State edge rusher to a Hamilcar Rashed, Jr. to a free agent contract. He, too, was dubbed a first-round pick prior to the 2021draft but he returned to college and after a 14-sack, two and one-half tackles for loss in 2019, Rashed posted no sacks and two tackles for loss in 2020.
If the Jets can get Rashed back to the form he displayed, they might have found a valuable situational pass-rusher/special teams demon in the 6-2, 251-pounder who posted a 4.58, 40 at his pro day with 25 reps at 225 pounds.
“I know what type of player I am,’ Rasheed told reporters. “I know what I bring to the table,” Rashed said. “If everybody wants to get into the stats and stuff … I feel like I’m still the best pass rusher in the draft. All that stuff is not going to stop from one year to the next. If you pick me, you’ll see what you get.”
Nasirildeen also had a subpar 2020 season but he was recovering from a torn ACL. Nasiridldeen doesn’t have the straight-line speed to be a centerfield safety but he’s a beast in the box. He and Sherwood, who has an 81.8-inch wingspan and tackles with vengeance, are the type of hybrid players needed to help underneath against slot receivers, a position that’s become a premium.
“Jamien may be one of the best tacklers I’ve ever seen in the secondary,” former Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said in September. “He’s that talented with his balance and body control and just a really, really good tackler.”
Even the players the Jets took on the offensive end offer versatility and toughness. Much has been made about second-round pick Elijah Moore’s brain fart that cost his team a win in the 2019 Egg Bowl against Mississippi State. But Moore ran a tight route in traffic, absorbed a hit by two defenders and scored.
Caught up in the emotion of the moment in the nastiest rivalry in college football, Moore crawled to the goal post, lifted his leg and mimed a dog urinating. The outrage was swift and savage. Ole Miss coach Matt Luke was fired, although he was on shaky ground going into the game. Moore never had another such incident and he’s big-play threat.
As is the case with every team, there’s no guarantee these picks turn into elite or even quality players. But Saleh came here selling, “All Gas, No Break.” He got players with that makeup.
We analyzed each pick and found our favorite selection for each team outside of the first round. Some make the list because they could fill a need but all have qualities that could make their GM look good.
Arizona Cardinals – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue, 2nd round – Him and Kyler Murray on the field at the same time is going to produce some stupid-fun highlight plays.
Atlanta Falcons – Avery Williams, CB/KR,PR, Boise State, 5th round – He’s undersized (5-9, 195) but he scored eight special teams touchdowns.
Baltimore Ravens – Ben Mason, FB, Michigan, 5th round – He’s not as versatile as the 49ers Kyle Juszczyk, but at 6’3, 246 he sure can block.
Buffalo Bills – Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa, 3rd round – A massive man (6-8, 311) who doesn’t have to play immediately but could become a long-term anchor.
Carolina Panthers – Daviyon Nixon, DT, Iowa, 5th round – When he’s fully engaged, Nixon is a 2nd/3rd round talent. If he doesn’t washout, he’ll be in the league a while/
Chicago Bears – Khyiris Tonga, DT, BYU, 7th round – Saw some games when he was dominant. At 6-2, 325, he can add weight and become an immovable force.
Cincinnati Bengals – Chris Evans, RB, Michigan, 6th round – Suspended for the 2019 season he never recovered his form in 2020 but he has talent.
Chicago Bears – Demetric Felton, RB, UCLA, 6th round – At 5-9, 189 Felton doesn’t get a lot of yards after contact but he’s quick and can return kicks.
Dallas Cowboys – Jabril Cox, LB, LSU, 4th round – With the Boys not picking up the option on LB Leighton Vander Esch (neck) this becomes a key pickup.
Denver Broncos – Jamar Johnson, S, Indiana, 5th round – Similar pick to what the Jets did. A smart, versatile safety who isn’t a deep safety but a SS who can help up.
Chicago Bears – Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC, 4th round – Not a game-breaker like Michael Pittman but a tough-in-traffic, strong receiver.
Green Bay Packers – Isaiah McDuffie, ILB, BC, 6th round – McDuffie (6-1, 227) reminds me of Blake Martinez (6-2, 238). Smart, relentless, overachievers.
Houston Texans – Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami, 5th round – Every NFL team is looking for a Darren Waller-type TE. Maybe.
Indianapolis Colts – Shaun Davis, S, Florida, 5th round – He’s a little undersized but every time we saw him, Davis was throwing heavy leather.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Walker Little, OT, Stanford, 2nd round – A first-round talent who hasn’t played in 2 years. If healthy he’s a 10-year no-worry, tackle.
Kansas City – Trey Smith, OG, Tennessee, 6th round – The discovery of blood clots in his lungs is the only reason he wasn’t taken on Day 2.
Los Angeles Chargers – Chris Rumph II, LB, Duke, 4th round – We like everything about this 6-3, 244-pound prospect, especially the 3.3 pounds between the ears.
Los Angeles Rams – Ben Skowronek, WR, Notre Dame, 7th round – Not a stretch the field player but super strong hands. More of a TE/WR prospect.
Las Vegas Raiders – Divine Deablo, S, Virginia Tech, 3rd round – Carrying on the tradition of great Va Tech DBs.
Miami Dolphins – Hunter Long, TE, Boston College, 3rd round – Very much in the Travis Kelce mold and a high-character kid.
Minnesota Vikings – Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio State, 3rd round – Could be in the league for 12-15 years, maybe never overwhelming but highly workmanlike.
New England Patriots – Ronnie Perkins, OLB, Oklahoma, 3rd round – We have the over/under on personal fouls at 4 in his rookie season. Bad intentions.
New Orleans Saints – Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame, 4th round – Love the way Ian Book moves in the pocket but not sure that can get him above quality career backup up.
New York Giants – Aaron Robinson, CB, UCF, 3rd round – Warning: He’s going to get beat at times. And he’s going to erase receivers more often.
New York Jets – Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina, 4th round – What’s the difference between Carter and Travis Etienne? Not a lot.
Philadelphia Eagles – Tarron Jackson, DE, Coastal Carolina, 6th round – Plays with a mean streak that he’ll need to check but he gets after it.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Quincy Roche, OLB, Miami, 6th round – The Temple transfer probably will have to make it on special teams and go from there.
Seattle Seahawks – No one. And those two No.1 picks for Jamal Adams might come back to haunt this super aggressive franchise.
San Francisco 49ers – Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State, 3rd round – Perfect for Mike Shanahan’s running back by committee. He might become the chair.
Tampa Bay Bucs – K.J. Britt, LB, Auburn, 5th round – In an era in which LBs are judged in sideline to sideline, Britt is an old-school, in-the-box beast.
Tennessee Titans – Rashad Weaver, DE, Pittsburgh, 4th round – Weaver will have to fine tune his body (6-4, 253) if he’s going to play OLB or DE. But he can play.
Washington – Shaka Toney, DE, Penn State, 7th round – Think of Toney as a not-so-lesser Azeez Ojulari from Georgia