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2021 New York Jets Draft

To The Analytics Crowd Saying The New York Jets made a serious error trading up In The NFL Draft for Alijah Vera-Tucker: You’re Wrong

It was one of the defining moments of the Jets 2021 draft.

Joe Douglas had just got his man and he wasn’t afraid to show how fired up he was about it. Earlier that night, Douglas had made what is likely to be the defining pick of his tenure as the New York Jets General Manager, taking BYU quarterback Zach Wilson second overall.

Now it was time to begin to build a wall around his new prized asset.

Douglas got on the phone to Vikings GM Rick Spielman and offered the trade. Spielman accepted. For their second pick in the first round, the Jets would now be on the clock at number 14 instead of 23.

‘It has to be for Vera-Tucker’ surmised Daniel Jeremiah on NFL Network as news of the surprise trade up flashed onto our screens. He wasn’t wrong about his old friend’s intentions and moments later back at Florham Park, Douglas made the pick, pumped his fist and bear hugged the nearest member of his team.

And so the consensus number-one interior offensive lineman in the draft was going to line up next to Mekhi Becton in that much needed green wall protecting Zach Wilson. USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker was a Jet and at that point, Douglas wouldn’t have been the only member of Gang Green giving out bear hugs.

But a couple of weeks on from the draft, it seems not everyone is as excited about the pick as Douglas. It would be fair to say that some in the NFL analytics community didn’t like it. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that they hated it! Particularly Seth Walder…

Now, if we’re being totally honest, of course it’s impossible to say two weeks after the draft how any pick will pan out. The numbers guys may be right in time. And if the only way you grade a pick is to compare value against draft charts, then at this very early stage yes you could say that Jets did over-pay to move up. Thankfully, the NFL is more about the numbers you put up on the field than the numbers in a draft chart and this pick has a hell of lot more nuance to it than the number crunchers are giving credit.

What did the Jets give up to get AVT?

The Jets moved picks 23, 66 and 86 to the Vikings in return for pick 14 and pick 143. Like Walder, Overthecap.com’s Jason Fitzgerland was less than impressed…

Does AVT really have to be the best guard in the NFL?

I’m a big fan of his work, but Fitzgerald’s claim that AVT has to go on to become the best guard in the NFL seems wildly overblown. As Scott Mason said earlier this week, even if AVT only becomes a top 5-10 guard in the league but keeps Zach Wilson effectively protected for years to come, Jets brass and fans will be delighted they made this trade. What Douglas has done is paid a price to minimize the risk that one of the guards protecting Wilson isn’t good. He knows he’s paid that price and if that insurance policy pans out, two third round picks (and a fourth back) won’t feel like much to pay. The left side of that line will be set for years.

Vera-Tucker was the highest ranked guard on nearly everyone’s boards and it wasn’t even close. He can also slide to tackle if necessary. So devoid of talent on the offensive line for years, the Jets are finally making it a priority.

Not only that, but the Jets have added serious talent at receiver in Corey Davis and Elijah Moore and the last thing they want is Wilson on his back before he can find them as Darnold so often was. The offence that Mike LaFleur will scheme for the Jets relies heavily on the run game. The line, so often a weakness for New York in recent times is going to have to become a strength. And quickly.

Douglas nabbed many observers’ best player at the position in the draft to help the Jets do this. But according to Walder’s analysis, they overpaid to the tune of pick 66. Does that seems like too steep a price to pay really?

‘The Jets could have got Tevin Jenkins and Brady Christensen for the same price’

Well, maybe. And will those two players turn out to be good? Maybe. And would they have been available when the Jets came to pick? Maybe? Would Vera-Tucker fall to 23? Maybe.

You see where I’m going here? Just as trading up for a player comes with risk, so does staying put when you have identified a player as being of huge value to your team and who is available. And let’s face it, it’s not like the Jets gave up two first round picks for a box safety is it…(hi Seattle).

Joe Douglas famously said he would build a wall to protect Sam Darnold. We all know how that turned out. He is going to do everything in his power to give Wilson all of the tools he needs to succeed in New York. Below average linemen are not going to cut it (as the Jets have found to their cost). Good ones rarely become available in free agency (or they sign with the Chiefs). Douglas should be commended for being bold enough to identify what he sees as a premier talent at the position and doing what he could to secure him rather than let the Raiders take him, as many felt they would have done.

You don’t have to love the trade, but killing it at this stage is silly

With so many holes to fill on the roster, sure the Jets could have done with those third round picks. I get it if you aren’t in love with losing picks as a Jets fan – let’s face it there weren’t many talking about trading up pre-draft.

Now, without using Google, who remembers what the Jets traded to the Panthers to go up and get Darrelle Revis back in 2007? Anyone?

I’m not comparing AVT to Revis as a player for one minute, nor am I saying that he will turn out to have half the impact the all time great corner did for the Jets. Point is, no-one cares what the Jets had to give up because Revis was unbelievable and the trade up collateral is long forgotten. But I’m sure there were those in May 2007 who had charts saying the Jets overpaid two weeks after the draft and that for the trade to work he had to work to be the best corner in the NFL…

Talking of numbers, Revis was selected at…number 14.

And finally…

I think this statement speaks for itself.

The point is, there’s more to football than numbers and charts. And thank god for that. Let’s see how this pans out and give it more than two weeks before we use draft charts to destroy the Jets please.

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