How the New York Jets can build on their rookies' 'monumental' 5,681 snaps

The Jets need to see better accuracy from quarterback Zach Wilson in his second season. Noah K. Murray/AP Photo

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets' 2021 draft didn't produce a Ja'Marr Chase or Micah Parsons, but it yielded six starting players -- a solid foundation as they prepare for the second offseason under coach Robert Saleh.

Counting undrafted free agents, the Jets' rookie class of '21 amassed 5,681 snaps -- second only to the Detroit Lions (5,969), according to ESPN Stats & Information. General manager Joe Douglas called it "a monumental player-development task."

The result was only four wins, but the Jets improved the roster. A look back at a potentially franchise-changing draft, and how it could impact 2022:

Zach Wilson, QB, first round (No. 2 overall)

Final stats: 3-10 as starter; 2,334 yards, 55.6% completion rate, 9 TDs, 11 INTs, 4 rushing TDs, 28.2 Total QBR (fourth among five qualifying rookies).

Total snaps: 709 (68% of offense's total)

What he showed in 2021: He went from overwhelmed rookie to serviceable game manager, finishing the season with no interceptions over the final five weeks. Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers is the only other quarterback who can make that claim. Wilson offered snapshots of elite talent -- namely, arm strength and escapability -- but there were obvious holes in his game. He must prove his first season, statistically one of the worst for a rookie since 2000, was out an outlier and not indicative of his potential.

Looking ahead: Wilson needs to get better in two key areas -- decision-making and accuracy. He held the ball too long, which should improve with more experience in the offense. An example of his accuracy issues: He threw to an "open" receiver on 49.9% of his attempts, the league's third-highest rate, but had an NFL-low passer rating (81.9) on those throws, per NFL Next Gen Stats, which defines "open" as the targeted receiver having three-plus yards of separation when the pass arrives.

Alijah Vera-Tucker, LG, first round (No. 14)

Final stats: 16 games (16 starts); fifth out of seven qualifying rookie guards in pass block win rate (90.5%); sixth out of seven rookie guards in run block win rate (62.5%), via ESPN Stats & Information.

Total snaps: 975 (94%)

What he showed in 2021: Vera-Tucker didn't have a Quenton Nelson-type impact, as some experts forecasted, but he certainly demonstrated high-end traits. The Jets, who traded a third-round pick to move up for him, believe he has Pro Bowl potential. He showed he could move well in space and get to the second level. He also displayed the ability to finish blocks, at times with a lot of nasty.

Looking ahead: Vera-Tucker projects as a long-term starter. He must improve his post-snap awareness, adjusting to stunts and blitzes, but that shouldn't be a problem with his mindset and quick feet. Now they need to find a right guard.

Elijah Moore, WR, second round (No. 34)

Final stats: 11 games (six starts); 43 receptions, 538 yards, 12.5 average, 5 TDs. Finished fifth among rookie wide receivers in receiving yards, fourth in yards-after-catch (4.79).

Total snaps: 447 (43%)

What he showed in 2021: When healthy, Moore was a playmaker, showing everything you want in a receiver -- quickness, good hands and football instincts. His route running, already a strength, improved as he learned to read pass coverages and understand offensive concepts. He made plays with the ball in his hands, including as a runner on gadget plays.

Looking ahead: Moore is a WR2, possibly a WR1 if he learns to play bigger than his size (5-foot-10, 178). He has to focus on gaining strength, so he can last an entire season. His rookie year began with a quadriceps injury and ended with one. Barring injury, he should snap the Jets' second-round receiver jinx (Denzel Mims, Devin Smith, Stephen Hill, et al). They're in the market for a wideout to complement Moore and Corey Davis.

Michael Carter, RB, fourth round (No. 107)

Final stats: 14 games (11 starts); 147 rushes, 639 yards, 4.3 average, 4 TDs. Finished fourth among rookie running backs in rushing yards, led all rookies in yards after catch (9).

Total snaps: 427 (41%)

What he showed in 2021: Some in the organization felt he was their most consistent player on offense, a nice compliment for a rookie. Carter became the chairman of the running-back committee, displaying toughness and excellent contact balance. He played bigger than his size (5-8, 201). He was steady, if not explosive (only 13 runs of 10-plus yards). That skill should improve as he gets comfortable reading blocks.

Looking ahead: A fourth-round steal, Carter will likely go to camp as the starter. He improved on third down, but that's an area where he still needs work, mainly pass protection and feel in the passing game. Now the trick is finding a tag-team partner.

Jamien Sherwood, LB, fifth round (No. 146 overall)

Final stats: Five games (four starts); 15 tackles.

Total snaps: 135 (12%)

What he showed in 2021: Talk about getting thrown into the fire. A former college safety, Sherwood was elevated to the starting lineup in the preseason when Jarrad Davis went down with an ankle injury. When C.J. Mosley missed Week 5 with a hamstring injury, it was Sherwood who got the nod to play middle linebacker and wear the green dot. Predictably, he was overwhelmed. He tore an Achilles tendon in that game, ending his season.

Looking ahead: Sherwood is projected to be a backup/top special-teamer, with the ability to develop into a starter. Aside from the obvious, rehabbing his Achilles, he needs to get bigger and stronger to be an effective linebacker. He has safety size at 6-2, 216.

Michael Carter II, CB, fifth round (No. 154 overall)

Final stats: 15 games (7 starts); 72 tackles, 1 sack, 5 passes defensed. Ranked 11th out of 18 rookie DBs in passer rating (99.2) as the nearest defender in coverage (minimum: 200 coverage snaps), per Next Gen Stats.

Total snaps: 743 (65%)

What he showed in 2021: He won the nickel job in the preseason and never let it go. He was exposed at times in true man-to-man situations, especially against bigger receivers. He demonstrated quickness and toughness; he wasn't afraid to get involved in run support (seven tackles for loss or no gain). The downside was he didn't make nearly enough plays on the ball.

Looking ahead: The slot corner is incredibly important in a division that features the Miami Dolphins' Jaylen Waddle, who led the league in receptions out of the slot. Carter will have the inside track on the position. The organization's hope is that his ball skills and instincts improve with time and reps.

Jason Pinnock, S, fifth round (No. 175 overall)

Final stats: 12 games (two starts); 16 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 pass defensed.

Total snaps: 193 (17%)

What he showed in 2021: The Jets may have stumbled into a sleeper at safety. Pinnock was drafted as a cornerback, but he started getting practice reps at safety as the injuries piled up. He started two of the last three games and proved to be a physical tackler. His lack of experience showed up in pass coverage.

Looking ahead: Pinnock is eager to continue at safety, a position with no clear-cut starter under contract (for now). Realistically, he projects as a backup/special-teamer.

Hamsah Nasirildeen, LB, sixth round (No. 186 overall)

Final stats: 12 games (2 starts); 10 tackles.

Total snaps: 55 (5%)

What he showed in 2021: Like Sherwood, he has to make the difficult safety-to-linebacker transition. He didn't get much of a chance. He was limited almost exclusively to special teams, but at least he showed a willingness to hit -- a pup that likes to nip, as Bill Parcells would say.

Looking ahead: Depth at linebacker and a core special-teamer.

Brandin Echols, CB, sixth round (No. 200 overall)

Final stats: 14 games (14 starts); 63 tackles, 2 INTs (1 for a TD), 9 passes defensed. Ranked third out of 18 rookie DBs in passer rating (76.4) as the closest defender in coverage (minimum: 200 coverage snaps).

Total snaps: 737 (64%)

What he showed in 2021: He had a sneaky good year, with stats/metrics that matched the highest-drafted corners. Regarded as the top athlete among the corners in the '21 draft class, based on Next Gen analytics, Echols displayed quick reaction and closing speed. He had the only two interceptions by Jets corners. He got sloppy with technique, accumulating 66 penalty yards, sixth among all offensive and defensive rookies.

Looking ahead: Echols showed enough promise to be a starter again, but that will depend on what they do in free agency and the draft. Picking fourth and 10th, they will have their choice of the top corners. At 5-10, 175 pounds, Echols got outmuscled by bigger receivers and needs to add strength to take his game to the next level.

Jonathan Marshall, DT, sixth round (No. 207 overall)

Final stats: Four games (no starts); two tackles.

Total snaps: 73 (6%)

What he showed in 2021: It was basically a redshirt year.

Looking ahead: With Folorunso Fatukasi and Nathan Shepherd heading to free agency, Marshall has a chance to be a backup in 2022 and a rotational tackle beyond that.