No risk, no reward. That was the idea behind general manager Joe Douglas’ decision to trade up during the first round of the 2021 NFL draft.
The deal with the Minnesota Vikings involved a nine-position swap of first-rounders, a third exchanged for a fourth, and an extra third-round pick going to the Vikes. After multiple late-round trades, each team’s draft haul shook out like this.
For Douglas and his staff, it was all worth it to get their hands on guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, who many believed to be the most pro-ready interior offensive lineman in the draft.
Flight 2021 Reveals Positive Fallout of AVT Trade
During episode four of the exclusive behind-the-scenes documentary event, Flight 2021: An Offseason with the New York Jets, we got to see the team’s thought process in the draft from rounds two-six (final round for Jets in 2021).
“We had talked about [Elijah Moore] being the first-round guy in our eyes and once the possibility hit of day two and we saw him going to be there potentially at pick 34, as we’ve all said before we would have taken this guy in the first round and the ability to get him at 34 was awesome,” voiced assistant general manager Rex Hogan.
Director of football analytics Brian Shields also mentioned that he was ranked as the 16th best prospect in the entire draft on the Jets’ big board.
Douglas and his team never expected Moore to make it to the second round, which the GM tells the rookie over the phone, but he took a chance and ended up with two of the most coveted players in the 2021 class.
Scout Alonzo Dotson said Moore had “one of the best pro days [he’d] ever been to.” Here were some of the traits the Jets’ scouting team highlighted for the former Ole Miss wide receiver.
- Elite route-runner with burst and acceleration.
- Caught 89 of 107 passes in 2020 with 200-yards after contact.
- Led country with 149 yards per game in 2020.
- 55 first downs compared to just two drops in 2020.
- Caught 60% of his contested catch opportunities.
- His makeup including his intensity and drive.
Hogan referred to the rookie wide-out as the “total package.”
After landing Zach Wilson, Vera-Tucker and Moore, the Jets knew they most likely sacrificed the opportunity to get one of their favorite running backs in the class, North Carolina rusher Michael Carter.
“That first few seconds, five or 10 seconds before you know who they’ve picked is really probably the most tense portion of the whole process for all of us,” explained Dan Zbojowsky, director of personnel operations.
That’s the final moment where another team can steal away the prospect you want. For the Jets, that moment lasted the entire third round with Carter.
“When we moved up for Vera-Tucker, the assumption was that we weren’t going to get Michael Carter, the running back,” head coach Robert Saleh told the audience. Keep in mind, the Jets had traded their two third-round picks and that’s where the UNC product was projected to get drafted.
Saleh continued: “It was cool because we didn’t have a third-round pick but we were glued to the screen just watching pick after pick after pick… he would have been a serious discussion in the third round and to be able to get [him] in the fourth round was a gift to us.”
Douglas even described it as a “long third round for us” when speaking with Carter on the phone. You could basically see the relief and joy through the GM’s mask.
There were a few traits that stood out for Carter according to the Jets.
- He’s an extremely tough and physical runner with added ability as a blocker.
- Break-away speed in the open field.
- He’s an instinctive runner with good vision and quickness on his cuts.
- Magnetic personality as a teammate.
Joe Douglas Shows No Fear
These two picks were reminiscent of the Denzel Mims selection from 2020, where Douglas once again proved he has the cojones of a big-time football boss.
In that draft, Douglas traded down 11 spots for another pick with Mims still on the board and the fanbase clamoring for a wide receiver. He ended up getting Mims anyway, before trading the additional third-rounder from the Seattle Seahawks for even more late-round selections.
Can the Jets GM predict the future? We don’t believe so based on the factual evidence at our disposal, but we cannot rule it out either.
At the very least, Douglas has confidence and bravado. He also has a general feel for what other franchises may do, a crucial characteristic of all the NFL’s top drafters.
This fanbase isn’t used to a GM that has a feel for the first round of the NFL draft, let alone the later rounds. It’s just more wood on the fire of the all gas no brake mentality that has begun a culture shift throughout this organization.