Jets Rookies Who Will Make Instant Impact in 2021 Season
The New York Jets hope that their selections in the 2021 NFL draft will soon translate to success on the field. As the team looks to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010 (the longest active drought in the league), it replenished its roster with 10 young players it will try to build around moving forward.
There were no surprises with the No. 2 overall pick, as they selected BYU quarterback Zach Wilson on Thursday night. Over the three-day draft, New York then addressed several areas of need. It used its first four picks on offensive players, then added six defensive players on Day 3 of the draft.
Some of these players are going to get opportunities to play quickly, such as Wilson, who is the clear top quarterback on the Jets' roster (ahead of James Morgan and Mike White). But Wilson may not be the only rookie who makes an impact in 2021.
Here's a look at some players who New York hopes to have on the field contributing soon.
Zach Wilson, QB
It's unlikely the Jets used the No. 2 overall pick on Wilson to then have him sit on the bench. Especially considering New York doesn't have any other current starting options after trading Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers in April. So, expect to see Wilson under center in Week 1 of the 2021 season.
Will that work out well for Wilson and the Jets? But it's clear that Wilson has talent (and a big arm), so it's quite possible that he'll have success right away.
Wilson is at least going to get an opportunity. Plus, New York has assembled a solid offense around him. It addressed the offensive line and receiving corps early in the draft (more on that to come), and they already had some strong playmakers at wide receiver, including free-agent acquisitions Corey Davis and Keelan Cole Sr. and returners such as Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims.
"There's not another team I'd want to play for besides the Jets," Wilson said on NFL Network on Thursday (h/t Dennis Waszak Jr. of the Associated Press). "We're going to be a special team. We're going for the Super Bowl."
That likely won't happen in 2021. But this year could be a step toward that, especially if Wilson quickly lives up to his potential.
Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG
It cost the Jets a bit to move up in the draft and take Vera-Tucker. They gave the Minnesota Vikings the No. 23 overall pick and a pair of third-round selections in exchange for the No. 14 overall pick and a fourth-round selection. But considering the immediate impact that Vera-Tucker should have in New York, that likely will have been well worth it.
The Jets needed to strengthen the interior of their offensive line, as they were projected to start Alex Lewis and Greg Van Roten at the guard spots. That didn't work out great for them in 2020, and it probably wouldn't have made the unit a strong one in 2021.
But Vera-Tucker, who is turning 22 in June and is listed at 6'4 ½" and 308 pounds, should slot in at left guard and make that side of New York's offensive line set for years to come. He'll be starting alongside left tackle Mekhi Becton, a 2020 first-round pick who made 13 starts last season.
"They're going to be the Bash Brothers over there," NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger said, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. "You can see real progress. Just give Mekhi and AVT as many snaps together as possible and they'll just grow together."
That should start in 2021. Vera-Tucker gained a lot of experience at USC, playing 31 games over the past three seasons, so he'll likely adjust quickly to the NFL level.
Elijah Moore, WR
Moore has first-round talent, yet he was still on the board when the Jets were on the clock for the No. 34 overall pick. Not only did New York get a steal, it also landed a receiver who should quickly get onto the field and boost its receiving corps, potentially in a big way.
By adding Moore, the Jets brought in a speedy slot receiver who could quickly become a favorite target of Wilson in the team's new-look offense. Moore was a first-team All-American as a junior at Ole Miss in 2020, notching 86 receptions for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns in eight games.
New York had other needs when it was on the clock early on Day 2 of the draft, and some of those were arguably much bigger. But the Jets knew what Moore could bring to their offense.
"This was an opportunity we couldn't pass up," New York general manager Joe Douglas said, per Connor Hughes of The Athletic.
There are quite a few talented receivers now on the Jets roster, but Moore shouldn't have trouble carving out a role as a rookie and using his speed to produce big plays.