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The first round of the 2021 NFL draft couldn’t have gone better for the Jets.
Not only did New York grab Zach Wilson – one of the best quarterbacks in the class – but Joe Douglas also moved up nine spots to take arguably the best zone-blocking guard in the draft, Alijah Vera-Tucker.
“I feel like the ballclub improved,” Douglas said, according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “I feel good about the two people and players we brought in — just ecstatic, really, about those two young men.”
While the final evaluation of either pick won’t be seen for quite some time, the immediate improvements at two key positions on offense are important first steps in the Jets’ quest to regain relevance in the league. Douglas paid a hefty price to go up and snag Vera-Tucker, but it was certainly worth it for what he ended up adding to the Jets.
Here are Jets Wire’s Day 1 grades for the Jets.
QB Zach Wilson: B+
(Gregory Shamus-Getty Images)
Wilson was not the consensus No. 2 quarterback prospect, but he fits the Jets offense better than the other arms taken in the first round. Wilson's swagger, mobility and arm strength will be major improvements at the position and he should quickly acclimate to Mike LaFleur's system, which features a lot of quarterback-friendly plays. Wilson isn't a perfect prospect, though. He's smaller than some of the other quarterbacks in the class, had a shoulder injury during his sophomore season and played inferior competition. But none of those things scared Douglas away after speaking with Wilson and watching him throw live. If the Jets can surround Wilson with better talent and blocking than they did with Sam Darnold, Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez, Wilson has a shot to be one of the best Jets quarterbacks of the past decade.
OL Alijah Vera-Tucker: A-
This pick would have received an A if Douglas didn't have to trade up for Vera-Tucker, but he is exactly what the Jets need to strengthen their offensive line. The Jets said they were looking for linemen who can fit in their zone-blocking scheme, and Vera-Tucker fits that as well as any other prospect. He's also versatile and could fill in at tackle if needed. The only real knock against Vera-Tucker is his size and length, which scouts categorize as just average. But his technique is sound enough that Vera-Tucker should be a perfect compliment to Mekhi Becton on the left side of the offensive line to block for Wilson. Douglas gave up a lot – two third-round picks – to move up nine spots, which will shrink the margin for error for this draft, but that's a small price to pay for landing a great pass-blocker. He also didn't overpay for the pick: the Nos. 23, 66 and 86 picks are worth 1,180 points, while the No. 14 pick is worth 1,100 points, according to the Jimmy Johnson draft pick chart. The cost was also less than what the Bears gave the Giants to move up from No. 20 to No. 11.