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Jets general manager Joe Douglas took a while to get defensive in this year’s NFL draft, but then he went full throttle.
Douglas used his last six picks on defensive players after using his first four on offense. After taking BYU quarterback Zach Wilson with the second-overall pick on Thursday, Douglas used his next three picks to give Wilson some help. He took guard Alijah Vera-Tucker in the first round with the 14th pick then took wide receiver Elijah Moore in the second round.
The offensive trend continued with his first pick Saturday, which was the second pick in the fourth round. He used that on speedy North Carolina running back Michael Carter. It was the first time since 1983 the Jets used their first four picks on offense.
That was it for offense, though. He used his next six picks — three in the fifth round and three in the sixth round — to give coach Robert Saleh’s defense some depth and competition.
“We feel good about these last three days,” Douglas said. “We feel like we improved this team. We feel good about this offseason.”
Douglas drafted three cornerbacks, which is a position that is very thin. He also drafted two college safeties who will be converted to linebackers. Finally, he drafted a defensive lineman with his final pick.
“I feel like the board fell our way and fell the defense’s way in the second half of this draft,” Douglas said.
Though much of the focus was on how terrible the Jets offense was last season, the defense was not much better. The unit allowed 387.6 yards per game, which was 24th in the NFL. They gave up 275.6 yards passing per game, 28th in the NFL.
Before getting to the defense on Saturday, Douglas used one last pick on offense with Carter.
Carter is just 5-foot-8 and 202 pounds but he had a monster season in 2020. He rushed for 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns and had 25 receptions for 267 yards and two more touchdowns. He shared the workload at North Carolina with Javonte Williams, who was drafted in the second round by the Broncos.
Douglas has been focused on helping the Jets create explosive plays. That is what Carter did at North Carolina. He had 23 plays of 20 yards or more in 2020. He is explosive and can also return kicks.
“For him to be where he was at [pick] 107 was a major surprise to all of us, including Joe and his staff,” Saleh said. “We felt like it was no-brainer at that point.”
Douglas and Saleh felt like the reconstruction of a roster that went 2-14 last year took a big step in this draft.
“The objective of this entire weekend has been to get better as a team,” Saleh said. “Find a way to fill this roster up because teams win championships, not individual players. I feel like we’ve done a really good job taking advantage not only of value but positions of need.”
The Jets added three cornerbacks on Day 3 with Michael Carter from Duke (their second Michael Carter of the day), who will also play safety, Jason Pinnock from Pittsburgh and Brandin Echols from Kentucky.
They also drafted two college safeties who will convert to linebacker for the Jets — Jamien Sherwood from Auburn and Hamsah Nasirildeen from Florida State. With their final pick, they selected Arkansas defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall.
Saleh said he is not worried about the learning curve for Sherwood and Nasirildeen moving to linebacker.
“With the chaos we create up front our guys are more run and hit. They’re more lateral players,” Saleh said. “When you look at Sherwood and Hamsah, they’re down safeties, which is basically a linebacker. You look at guys like [49ers linebacker] Fred Warner, who played nickel basically in college, and he transferred over and he’s turned out all right. There’s examples all over the league.”