The first round of the NFL draft fell perfectly for the New York Jets. General manager Joe Douglas even told reporters that Ahmad Gardner, Garrett Wilson and Jermaine Johnson II were all ranked in the top eight of their board after the big weekend.
Fortunately, the GM was not forced to scramble and alter his plans. He was patient, and then aggressive when the time came — but what if things had gone differently and Wilson was gone at No. 10?
ESPN NFL insider Jeremy Fowler revisited the front office’s pivotal No. 10 selection on May 9 and had some interesting intel on what might have occurred if the Ohio State wide receiver was unavailable.
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2 Options at 10 Without Wilson
According to Fowler, Wilson changed everything for Gang Green. He reported:
One scenario could have prompted the Jets to circle back with San Francisco on wide receiver Deebo Samuel: Drake London and Garrett Wilson going off the board before they picked at No. 10. A few execs figured the Jets had zeroed in on those two at wideout, so at that point, they’d be faced with the decision: They could either take edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II (whom they got at No. 26 via trade anyway) or make one more play on Samuel while on the clock, knowing they already had negotiated with the 49ers and desperately needed receiver help. But the Jets didn’t need to make that call.
Based on this new information, Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh may not have been considering another wideout at No. 10 — like Chris Olave or Jameson Williams. Fowler’s findings also sync up with a couple of other post-draft rumors.
For starters, Saleh hinted that they probably would have drafted Johnson over London at 10 if they couldn’t get Wilson, when speaking with SNY’s Jeanne Coakley.
“To be able to get [Johnson] when he was a serious conversation at 10,” Saleh began, “if Atlanta doesn’t take Drake and they take Garrett — it’s just, well he’s our guy — and to have the opportunity to get both of them was unreal.”
The San Francisco 49ers beat reporter for The Athletic, Matt Barrows, also informed that the Jets offered the No. 10 selection and a fifth-round pick for Deebo Samuel and the Niners’ 2022 second-rounder (No. 61).
That trade package was most likely denied before the draft, based on quotes from Douglas and Saleh that they did not engage in talks with San Fran during the first round. Fowler’s new report would agree with this, noting that a Wilson selection by another team may have pushed the Jets to pick up the phone and reinitiate a negotiation with 49ers’ GM John Lynch.
Who knows if anything might have materialized, being that the Niners were supposedly looking for a king’s ransom in return and Douglas is generally frugal, but one final chat on draft night could have changed everything for New York.
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Alternate Universe vs. Reality
The real question is — would you prefer a world where the Falcons drafted Wilson and the Jets overpaid for Samuel, causing them to miss out on Johnson or Breece Hall? Or are you happy with the way things turned out?
It’s hard to argue with the current results.
The franchise does lack experience, especially at wide receiver, but the future looks brighter than ever. Gardner, Wilson, Johnson and Hall represent four first-round talents to most, and four potential Week 1 starters for the Green & White.
As helpful as Samuel might have been in 2022, he wouldn’t provide the same impact as three or four future stars if each of those picks develops as planned. That’s no slight against the versatile playmaker either — few superstars account for multiple quality starters in a team sport like football, if any.
Sure, they still would have drafted Gardner, but the rest is unclear if Atlanta or Seattle takes Wilson. It’s the NFL draft version of the butterfly effect, and most Jets fans will count their lucky stars that it never happened.