The nickname is already taken on the retail market, but the "Trader Joe's" of the football world is about to do some serious business in the coming days. If Jets general manager Joe Douglas can successfully parlay the flurry of deals he has already made, then his team will be in excellent position for a solid rebuild.
It all starts with the No. 2 overall pick, which comes courtesy of Adam Gase’s 2-14 mess of a season in 2020. But what Douglas has done through deals involving Jamal Adams, Sam Darnold, Leonard Williams and other draft-related maneuvers is put himself in an excellent spot moving forward. BYU quarterback Zach Wilson is the likely choice with the team’s first pick, and that will mean extraordinary expectations for the rookie passer, especially on a team that has often failed with first-round quarterbacks – Darnold being the most recent example.
There’s no minimizing the importance of hitting on the most important position in all of pro sports, and so much will be riding on Wilson’s shoulders. But it’s what Douglas does later in the draft that might come to define his legacy. If the GM can hit on close to half of the 10 choices he has in this year’s draft, then he will have given first-year head coach Robert Saleh even more resources to turn this thing around.
Douglas already did some quality work on the free-agent market in March, addressing needs at pass rusher with Carl Lawson and along the defensive line with Sheldon Rankins and Vinny Curry, as well as linebacker Jarrad Davis. On offense, he added running back Tevin Coleman and wide receiver Corey Davis.
Now he has a chance to take advantage of what he considers a deep draft that fits well with what the Jets have in terms of picks. The Jets have five choices among the top 86, including another first-rounder (23rd overall and two second-rounders (34 and 66). There is flexibility to move up or back, depending on whether their targeted players might be, but there is also the ability to not have to force things.
"We feel good about the position we’re in with the picks where they are," Douglas said Thursday in a pre-draft Zoom call. "We’re in a good position with the picks we have inside the top three rounds and we do feel like with the process we’ve had, the conversations we’ve had, the collaboration with the scouting staff, the coaching staff, that we’re going to be able to let the board come to us and make a lot of good decisions."
Douglas has already shown the capability of smart maneuvering in the draft. Last year, for instance, he wasted no time in selecting franchise left tackle Mekhi Becton 11th overall. Though there was also a need at receiver, he addressed the position with Baylor’s Denzel Mims in the second round. With a third-round pick, he took California safety Ashtyn Davis, a capable successor to the one-dimensional Adams – a great box safety who has limitations in coverage.
That’s the kind of vision required for longer-term building, and if Douglas can execute similarly good decisions in next week’s draft, then the process will be that much further along.
He acknowledges the pressure the second overall choice will have, but that "all the pick has to do is be himself. We have to do everything we can to help, not only with pick 2, but pick 86, pick 228. At the end of the day, we’re sitting here with a lot of picks, we have a lot of options, a lot of flexibility, we’re in good position to take the best player available and get players that can help this team."
It is a good time for a coach like Saleh, who brings with him a terrific resume as he has climbed the ladder of coaching success. Building from the ground up with a clean slate, he has a chance to grow together with a franchise quarterback.
"It’s an exciting time," Saleh said. "My excitement goes beyond the second pick. It goes to all of them, including the players here. This is cliché, but I’m excited for every single pick we have because [the front office has] such a bead on the players. We’re going to have some very good players in this building. It’s our job to put them in the best position to be successful, not just the quarterback, but every player that takes the field."
Trader Joe Douglas is about to add as many as 10 new players to his roster. That's 10 more chances for Saleh to get a Jets frachise that hasn't been in the playoffs for a decade back in the market.