One of the fascinating storylines in New York Jets’ do-or-die game against the Detroit Lions is looking back at the teams’ draft choices. The Lions, with the No. 2 overall pick, could’ve selected the Jets’ star rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner.
“We thought about a lot of different guys, but I don’t — I never really felt like it went there for Brad [Holmes] and myself,” said Lions head coach Dan Campbell, referring to general manager Brad Holmes. “We felt pretty comfortable with where we wanted to go with it.”
Ultimately, the Lions drafted defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson out of Michigan, and Hutchinson now is a front-runner along with Gardner, the No. 4 overall pick, for the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Jets Are Happy Lions Pivoted During Draft
The Jets are glad that the Lions never seriously considered selecting Sauce because the 22-year-old has been a revelation in his first season. Not only is he the front-runner for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, but he is already considered one of the top 10 corners in football by some experts.
On the December 14 episode Pro Football Focus’ “NFL Stock Exchange” podcast, Connor Rogers said Gardner is already a top-10 corner and said one could argue he’s top five. He also said there is a realistic path that he is the best corner in all of football before he turns 25.
Then, appearing on the December 15 episode of the “Badlands” podcast, Rogers said: “There’s no reason to think he won’t be a top-five corner in the next six to eight years.”
Senior Jets reporter Eric Allen broke down some more analytical stats on Gardner’s success this season, saying his 16 pass deflections top the league and he leads the league in limiting opponents’ yards after the catch.
Last year, they had one of the worst defenses in the NFL and an unproven patchwork secondary. But with the addition of veteran DJ Reed, they arguably have the league’s best 1-2 punch at cornerback.
Robert Saleh Had a Much Different Take on the Lions Draft Pick
The fact that the Lions never seriously considered taking Sauce has to hurt him. The former Cincinnati product was born and raised in Detroit.
So this should be plenty of additional motivation for this weekend’s big-time matchup.
“Yeah, we did a lot of work on him. He is exactly what we thought he’d be: high effort, relentless, [and] he’s got a tremendous skillset to him. He’s doing a really nice job and to have this kind of production as a rookie and he still has four games left.
Would not be surprised to see him get to double digits. We felt like he would be a perennial double-digit sack guy. I don’t know if you ever expect it out of a rookie but he’s been fantastic.”
Hutch has appeared in 13 games this season and has registered seven sacks, two interceptions, 13 quarterback hits, and a fumble recovery.
Both players have been fantastic this season and both are firmly in the running for the DROY award.