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On Thursday night, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. considered the Jets' first-round haul "head-scratching."

Two days and eight picks later, the insider has warmed up to what general manager Joe Douglas and his team did in this year's NFL draft.

Only three teams received a grade above a B+ in Kiper's comprehensive 2021 NFL draft report card, posted to ESPN late on Saturday night. The Jets were one of those teams. 

Here's the full breakdown from Kiper, a glowing review for what has the potential to be a franchise-altering class:

New York Jets: A-

Top needs: CB, OL, RB

The Jets are another team in the early stages of a rebuild, and with two first-round picks and an extra third-round pick, they had the capital this weekend to find a few immediate starters. Let's start with the quarterback: I've been open about how much I still believe Sam Darnold can be a good player -- I would have ranked the 23-year-old as the No. 2 quarterback in this class, ahead of new Jets pick Zach Wilson (2). Darnold got a raw deal in New York, which surrounded him with a poor offensive line and some of the worst pass-catchers in the league. That can't happen again if Wilson is to succeed.

Give general manager Joe Douglas credit for getting three picks for Darnold, and now this class is going to be defined by Wilson's career. Wilson took a monumental leap in 2020. He has a rocket for a right arm. Some of the off-platform throws he made last season were special. He also played a cupcake schedule, though, and I wouldn't throw him into the fire immediately next season. He needs some time, and I hope he's not rushed. I do think he can become a great player in time.

Douglas & Co. prioritized help for Wilson with their next two picks, taking my top-ranked guard Alijah Vera-Tucker (16) and No. 4 wide receiver Elijah Moore (34). As I noted after Day 2, that means the Jets ended up with three prospects inside my top 16 overall. That's tremendous and is part of the reason this grade is so high, though they did have to surrender a third-round pick in the Round 1 trade up to get Vera-Tucker. Wilson already has better weapons to throw to and a better offensive line than Darnold ever had in New York.

Fourth-round pick Michael Carter (107) was my best available prospect headed into Round 3, so I love that pick. The 5-foot-8 back carried the ball 514 times in four years for the Tar Heels and averaged 6.6 yards per carry. He should be in the rotation as a rookie. The Jets went with five total defensive backs on Day 3, and safeties Michael Carter II (154) and Hamsah Nasirildeen (186) are the guys that stick out for me. Get them on special teams early and see if they can carve out a role on defense. They had a nice Day 3, one of the best in the league.

Just looking at the roster again, I was surprised Douglas didn't target a corner before Round 5, but he also lost a pick moving up for Vera-Tucker, so that probably keeps this from being a solid A. Jets fans are not going to remember this class for the front office's inability to take a Day 2 corner, though, so if Wilson turns into a star, all will be forgiven. I really like what they did overall.

Three of Kiper's top 16 prospects and the top-rated player on Day 3. As Kiper called it, this class is "tremendous" for New York. Losing out on both third-rounders in the Vera-Tucker deal was certainly a sacrifice, but the bottom line here is the Jets came out of this draft with far more talent (talent that can contribute as soon as this season) than they had last week. 


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