By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — The New York Jets moved up in the NFL draft again and added another speedy playmaker to their offense.
Iowa State running back Breece Hall was taken with the 36th overall pick Friday night after the Jets acquired it from the Giants for their second-round selection — No. 38 — and a fifth-rounder.
“He’s a home run threat,” general manager Joe Douglas said. “He can score from anywhere on the field.”
New York kept its focus on the offense in the third round, drafting Ohio State tight end Jeremy Ruckert with the 101st pick.
“He’s a dynamic athlete,” Douglas said. “He’s a dynamic weapon in the passing game. He wasn’t always the No. 1 option at Ohio State, but he was a guy willing to do the dirty work to help his teammates as a blocker.”
Barring any other deals, the Jets have two more selections in this draft: two fourth-rounders (Nos. 111 and 117).
Hall was staying at a hotel in the Las Vegas area and watching the draft, but didn’t attend. He instead was celebrating with friends and family when he received the call from New York and his name was announced by former Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.
After doing a Zoom interview with reporters, Hall made his way to the draft site. Wearing a Jets cap, Hall was allowed to walk on to the stage — both arms raised as fans in attendance cheered — and received a celebratory hug from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“It’s just a dream come true,” Hall told NFL Network. “Last night, just knowing the Jets, they tried to trade into the first round to get me but it didn’t go through. So it was kind of a bummer. But, I mean, I’m still blessed to be a Jet and blessed to be able to have the opportunity to come on here. So it’s been fun.”
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Hall was a two-time All-American who set an Iowa State record with 56 touchdowns in three seasons, including 41 TD runs in the past two years. Hall was the first running back drafted this year, and first Big 12 player selected.
The Wichita, Kansas, native could form a potentially potent 1-2 combination in the Jets’ backfield with Michael Carter, a fourth-rounder last year who led the team in rushing. New York also has veteran Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson, La’Mical Perine and Austin Walter on the roster.
“I know it’s really running back-friendly,” Hall said of coordinator Mike LaFleur’s offense. “Just being able to touch the ball and have a lot of opportunities, that’s all I need.”
Douglas has made it his mission this offseason to surround second-year quarterback Zach Wilson with more playmakers. Hall fits the bill, as does Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson, who was the No. 10 overall pick Thursday night.
The Jets were busy at the start of the draft, taking Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner at No. 4, Wilson six picks later and then trading back into the first round to select Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson at No. 26.
The opening night-haul was lauded by many fans and media as a massive success for a franchise that has the NFL’s longest active playoff drought at 11 seasons.
When asked Thursday night if the Jets had a high grade on a player who hadn’t yet been drafted, Douglas replied: “Absolutely, yes. Absolutely.”
Apparently, Hall was one of them — so much so the Jets pulled off a trade with the team whom they share a home stadium.
Ruckert is a native of Lindenhurst, New York, and grew up rooting for the Jets. He joins a tight ends room that includes free-agent signings C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin.
“I’ve dreamed this since I was a little kid,” said Ruckert, who watched practices as a youngster at the team’s previous training facility at Hofstra University.
At Ohio State, Ruckert caught 54 passes for 615 yards and 12 touchdowns in four seasons. His statistics weren’t as gaudy as some tight ends around the country, in large part because of the many receivers the Buckeyes had — including his now Jets teammate Garrett Wilson. But Douglas and the Jets liked the versatility they saw from Ruckert.
“When you did see the flashes, they were really impressive,” Douglas said. “Really, really dynamic, athletic movements in the passing game. … You saw those things and said, ‘This guy is made of the right stuff.’”
A few hours before the second round began, the Jets were still buzzing about their trio of first-rounders — who were formally introduced at a news conference at the team’s facility.
And, yes, Gardner was still wearing his diamond-encrusted “SAUCE” medallion.
The current crew of first-rounders recognized that they will forever be linked — and will together carry the task of trying to help return the Jets to respectability. And more importantly, the postseason.
“We come from the limelight and it ain’t nothing new to us,” Johnson said. “We’ve been leaned on before as those guys on the team. I think we’re going to attack it and be the best teammates we can be.”
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