After the NFL Draft, NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger ranked his 10 favorite draft picks and two of the Jets’ seven selections made the list with Sauce Gardner at No. 4 and RB Breece Hall at No. 6.
“This guy was a three-year starter for Cincinnati,” Baldinger said of Gardner, the No. 4 overall pick in 2022. “The first thing you notice is his length. He’s 6-3, 190 pounds. A great technician, looking back, clueing for the ball and then he knocks it down. He can play press man, he can play zone, he also is a great tackler. A good blitzer, he’ll take people right off their feet. He’s not shy. He’ll throw the leather and pop the leather. The Jets got him, they thought he was the No. 1 corner in this draft and took him with the fourth pick.”
Gardner had 35 tackles with 3 interceptions, 3 sacks, and 4 breakups and led the FBS with a 26.1 QB rating when targeted. He allowed only 13 catches for 117 yards in 2021 and did not allow a touchdown reception in over 1,000 snaps for the Bearcats. He became the first Cincinnati player since 1971 to be selected in the first round.
After trading back into the first round to select Jermaine Johnson, general manager Joe Douglas traded up again in Round 2, from 38 to 36, to select Hall, making him the first back taken in the draft. He was one of the most consistent, productive backs in college football the last two seasons.
He was a consensus first-team All-America and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2020 and 2021, rushing for 3,044 yards and 41 touchdowns. He also had 59 receptions, 482 yards and 5 TDs. Hall left the Cyclones owning 11 school records and set an FBS record with a rushing touchdown in 24 consecutive games.
“My sixth favorite player of this draft is Breece Hall,” Baldinger said. “The first player out of his conference drafted. He’s so patient and he has good size at 5-11, 217. But he can just hit the gas pedal. He ran a 4.39 40 at the Combine, he ran for over 3,000 yards in the last two seasons. His little stutter move coming to the line of scrimmage just makes you freeze and then he goes right by you. He has great contact balance. He’s a very difficult guy to bring down to the ground. He learned a lot from David Montgomery, who was the running back before him at Iowa State and now he’s with the Chicago Bears. Breece Hall, 31 starts, he also caught six touchdown passes. Fifty rushing touchdowns at Iowa State.”
The Jets’ five other picks were WR Garrett Wilson (No. 10), TE Jeremy Ruckert (third round), OL Max Mitchell (fourth round) and DL Micheal Clemons (fourth round).
“I feel like the biggest thing that we did was add quality depth, add quality players to this team,” GM Joe Douglas said after the draft. “Obviously, nothing is going to be handed to these guys. These guys are going to have to work for everything, but these guys have the right mindset and mentality to compete. Coach [Robert Saleh] always talks about the love the game, consistent competitiveness, will to be great. I feel like all these guys bring that.”
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