Can New York Jets use NFL Draft momentum to make AFC splash?

Robert Saleh and Zach Wilson endured a chastening first season with the New York Jets as both the rookie head coach and quarterback were exposed by a limited roster. Saleh had moved from the San Francisco 49ers, where had excelled as their defensive coordinator for four seasons. Although Saleh and his coaching staff got decent performances out of limited talent, he was powerless to stop his side from posting a 4-13 record, finishing bottom of the AFC East for the fifth time in six seasons.

Wilson was just as much overwhelmed as he was pressed into the starting role after being selected second overall in the 2021 Draft. Without talent in his receiving corps, the 22-year-old struggled throughout the campaign and suffered a knee injury during the middle of the term. He returned later in the season to lead the Jets to victories over the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars, beating Trevor Lawrence. Those victories will have given Wilson a semblance of confidence to take into his sophomore campaign along with putting forward a good performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, albeit in a losing effort amid a late Tom Brady comeback.

The Jets’ front office noted that their two key men were undermanned, and responded in the 2022 NFL Draft. General manager Joe Douglas used all three first-round picks in the first round that New York had at its disposal to acquire top-tier talent. Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson, and Jermaine Johnson were all deemed to be players that could be selected in the top 10 of the 2022 Draft, but the Jets secured all three from picks four, 10, and 26. Running back Breece Hall was also selected in the second round to balance up the selections, joining the Wilsons on offense, while Gardner and Johnson will aim to bolster Saleh’s defense.

The Jets are not going to turn into a Super Bowl contender overnight or even contend in the AFC Conference any time soon, while the best odds you can find with the top New York sportsbook apps for them to win the AFC East come at +1800. Those odds rank them bottom of the AFC East, so there is an expectation that New York will once again struggle to make a mark in the 2022 campaign. On the other hand, if they can transform overnight like the Cincinnati Bengals did last term with Joe Burrow, then you could make money on those odds of +1800 and even beyond at odds of +6000 to win the AFC.

For once, New York has optimism heading into an NFL season, which has been in short supply since the days of Rex Ryan, who led the franchise to back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship Game in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Those units fell apart extremely quickly, and the franchise has struggled to find cohesion on and off the field since. Zach Wilson will now have a number one target as Garrett Wilson, who was extremely impressive at The Ohio State University in his final term.

Former Buckeye receivers Michael Thomas, Terry McLaurin, and Curtis Samuel have all made a seamless transition into the NFL, and the Jets will be hopeful that Wilson is the next wideout to star. A star receiver was key to the breakout of Burrow at the Bengals as JaMarr Chase allowed his quarterback to thrive. The two Wilsons could enjoy the same success, while the presence of Elijah Moore and Corey Davis will prevent teams from double-teaming Garrett Wilson. The onus is on Zach Wilson to make it work, but at least now he has a fighting chance.

Saleh too will be licking his lips with anticipation. Gardner earned comparisons to former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman due to his skills on the perimeter. Johnson will provide speed and power as a pass-rusher, which the Jets have sorely lacked. Saleh had players in those positions at the 49ers and created a behemoth of a defensive unit. If he can mold the Jets into a similar style and quality, then their dreams of competing in the playoffs could come sooner rather than later.

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