2022 NFL Draft

Jets select CB Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner, WR Garrett Wilson, DE Jermaine Johnson II in first round

Needing to spice up a success-starved franchise, the New York Jets are adding some sauce.

The Jets selected Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner with the fourth overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday night in Las Vegas. Not done at No. 4, New York picked up Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson with the 10th overall pick.

New York then traded back into the first round, taking Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II with the No. 26 overall pick. The Tennessee Titans received pick Nos. 35, 69 and 163, while New York also received the No. 101 pick as part of the swap.

Following a 2021 campaign in which the Jets defense was dead last in the NFL in points and yards allowed, Gardner, the second cornerback taken in the draft after Houston took Derek Stingley Jr. at No. 3, will be looked upon to ignite a defensive turnaround from the jump -- with some help from Johnson.

Joining free-agent signees D.J. Reed and Jordan Whitehead, Gardner has now become the centerpiece of New York head coach Robert Saleh's defensive backfield revamp.

A true lockdown cornerback, Gardner remarkably never allowed a receiving touchdown in coverage during his three-year career with the Bearcats, according to Pro Football Focus. A first-team All-AAC honoree in each of his three seasons, Gardner is coming off a statistically stellar junior campaign in which he racked up 40 tackles, three sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions en route to being voted a first-team AP All-American.

Brimming with swagger and skills, Gardner is a 6-foot-3, 190-pound corner who knows how to use his length well, but also possesses stellar flexibility for a player of his size and has 4.41 speed. His awareness is exceptional, and his toughness has likewise been lauded as he's never shied away in the run or blitz game.

For a corner of his size, Gardner offers an inimitable and all-around package of skills with the intangibles to boot.

As the story goes, Gardner got his "Sauce" nickname from a youth football coach who said he had "extra sauce" on the field. Now, the Big Apple is getting a little extra "Sauce" as Gardner will take the lead in a hopeful defensive turnaround for Gang Green.

As for Wilson, the Buckeyes standout was seen by many to be the top wide receiver in a loaded 2022 class, but that honor went to USC's Drake London at No. 8 to the Atlanta Falcons.

The Jets wasted no time in adding the Wilson-to-Wilson combination in New York as the wideout will be looked on to help the growth and production of second-season quarterback Zach Wilson.

Wilson starred at Ohio State alongside Chris Olave, and the two teamed up to help quarterback C.J. Stroud make a bid for the Heisman Trophy in his first season under center for the Buckeyes. Wilson was a two-time All-Big Ten selection in his final two seasons with the Buckeyes (first team in 2020, second team in 2021), as well as a second-team All-American in 2021, tying for eighth in the FBS and second in the Big Ten with 12 receiving touchdowns

Wilson's greatest strengths -- polished route-running and run-after-catch ability -- should help him transition to the NFL quickly and make an early impact for the Jets. He joins a receiving corps that also includes Corey Davis and 2021 second-rounder Elijah Moore and will aim to help Wilson propel their offense to new heights in 2022 and beyond.

As for Johnson, the former Seminole is a prototypical pass rusher with ideal size (6-foot-4, 254 pounds), speed (4.58 40-yard dash) and statistics (12 sacks as a senior). Johnson found his way in his lone season at Florida State, and it propelled him into becoming a first-round selection.

The ACC Defensive Player of the Year had eight sacks in two years at Georgia before transferring to Florida State.

Johnson is a versatile pass rusher who uses his strength to bull rush, his reach to pull down a QB or his quickness off the ball, depending on the situation. And while his pass-rushing prowess earmarked him for a high draft status, his ability against the run could make him a three-down addition quick in his NFL career.

After 10 picks in the first round, the Jets were the second team to take a corner and the second to take a receiver. But in the eyes of many, they might well have come away with the top players at their positions, with a high-upside edge rusher to boot.

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