How the Jets and Giants Won the First Round of the NFL Draft

There is a classic YouTube video titled “NY Jets Draft Blunders” that has been viewed nearly two million times. It shows an ESPN-produced montage of Jets fans reacting in desperation to the team’s draft rosters in the ’80s and ’90s, such as when the team chose famed quarterback Ken O’Brien over future Hall of Famer in 1983. Dan Marino. cases, the cascade of booing begins at the mere mention of the position being drafted – a first round fullback? — even before the player’s name is revealed.

It’s a 1-minute, 38-second snapshot of what Jets fandom has often been. Recent history has not been much better for those who advocate for the Giants. Over the past five seasons, the teams have shared the league’s worst record, 22-59, and a major factor in that inglorious figure was the draft decisions that proved worthy of that famous boogie.

Therefore, what happened Thursday night was newsworthy in itself: The Jets and Giants each had great plans for drafting in the first round that they executed well, creating excitement around their rosters. In other words, the teams gave their fans nothing to cheer about.

Both entered the first round of this year’s NFL draft with two picks each in the top 10, a godsend for rosters with holes in some of the game’s key positions. At pick No. 4, the Jets secured the player many evaluators viewed as the top corner this year, Ahmad Gardner of Cincinnati. With the #10 pick, one of the first-round selections they picked up in the 2020 trade from Jamal Adams to Seattle, the Jets added a target for their sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson in Ohio State receiver Garrett Wilson.

By the time the Giants first appeared on the clock, defensive players had been taken with each of the first four picks, one of the scenarios the team had fought in advance. They decided to make the fifth pick for Oregon’s edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, hoping he could help the team return to the days of a terrifying pass rush. The Giants knew they could still get one of the best offensive tackles available at the seventh pick, and they did: Alabama’s Evan Neal, who will book the line with Andrew Thomas, a 2020 first-round pick.

But at the end of the night, the Jets had another surprise: They retreated in the first round to take down Florida State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II, a player many analysts had expected in the top half of the first round. General Manager Joe Douglas said at a news conference Thursday that the team began discussing making a move for Johnson around pick number 15, before a deal was struck with the Tennessee Titans to take him at number 26.

As a result, Douglas told reporters, the Jets placed three of the top eight players on their draft board. And the Jets still have an early second-round pick to make Friday night, part of their return from last year’s trading quarterback Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers.

“You get three impact players in three premium positions — you dream it happens,” said coach Robert Saleh. “It was a really good day.”

Of course, there’s no guarantee that a design choice will come true, no matter how good a decision it may seem at the time. The Philadelphia Eagles once analyzed the success rate for first-round selections, defining success as drafting a player who became a full-time starter for at least two of his first four seasons, and determined that there was a chance of about 50-50 was from hitting a player no matter where in the first round he was taken.

But with solid strategies and a bit of luck, both the Jets and Giants came out of Round 1 with players giving them the opportunity to deliver a vastly improved brand of football from what their fans have endured over the years.

“I’m hungry,” said Thibodeaux. “And I feel like New York is the pinnacle of a dog-e-dog world.”

Both teams are at a turning point. For Douglas, who entered his third draft with the Jets, the roster was still in a place that needed to get better quickly, for the sake of Saleh, Zach Wilson and Douglas himself. And after an unusual revolving door in East Rutherford, NJ, the Giants’ new regime of General Manager Joe Schoen and Coach Brian Daboll is trying to get the franchise back on track.

There are still six rounds of the draft and months before any of these players will play in an NFL game, but Thursday night felt like a win for two organizations that haven’t had many in years.

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