sauce gardner jets
The Record

The Jets had three first-round picks in April’s NFL Draft.

Peter King believes the headliner will earn rookie honors at the end of this season.

The longtime NFL reporter picked Sauce Gardner to win defensive rookie of the year honors in his latest NBC Sports column. If Gardner pulls it off, he would be the first Jets player to receive the honor since Sheldon Richardson in 2013 (the Associated Press award takes precedent for league records).

King writes:

A bit of a shot in the dark, because, unfortunately, corners have to have picks to win this award. Gardner will have some high-profile matchups, with the Jets facing Stefon Diggs, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Tyreek Hill and whoever Aaron Rodgers is throwing to a total of seven games.

King also has Giants right tackle Evan Neal finishing in the top-3 on the offensive rookie of the year ballot. His teammate, Saquon Barkley, earned the award in 2018. It would be pretty hard for a lineman on a non-contending team to win the honor, but early impressions of Neal have been positive.

King’s take is spot-on. You need statistics to win a rookie of the year award. Gardner could shut down his side of the field consistently. But if he only has one interception he’s probably out of luck. You figure Giants defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux would have been a trendy pick here if not for his injury.

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James Kratch can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JamesKratch.

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.