LB Zaire Barnes, Western Michigan, Round 6, Pick 184

The Jets, who had already selected Pitt to deal Carter Warren with the first pick they received from trading their fourth-round pick to New England, moved to the Patriots’ second pick in that trade and selected linebacker Zaire Barnes out of Western Michigan at No. 184 overall in the sixth round.

What they get at Barnes (6-1, 227) is a jack of all trades and an expert in many. For starters, he played safety at Illinois high school and when he started as a college sponsor at WMU before switching to LB — a transfer that Jets coach Robert Salih and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich are known to favor.

“It allowed me to focus my mind on a different level,” he said after his selection. “I feel like ti just helped me with the mental side of things, seeing different perspectives. It showed the teams that the coaches trust me to do the job and do more than one job.”

No doubt one of those jobs with the Jets will be covering punts and returns. But Barnes sounded like, with his apologies to John Fogerty, the quintessential “Put me down, coach, I’m ready to play special teams.”

But sooner or later, his job will be as a “backup who can move forward and back and sometimes steal a lost turnover.” His college numbers suggest he’ll be able to do just that. He appeared in all 12 games as a senior and led the Broncos with a career-high 94 tackles. , including five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, he also recovered three fumbles and intercepted a pass, and those accomplishments elevated him to the All-MAC first team.

And for his career at WMU, he played in 49 games despite missing the 2020 season due to an ACL injury, totaled 206 tackles, 13.5 for loss, 4.0 sacks, six fumble recoveries, and first college INT.

Barnes did not participate in the NFL Combine but did play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and was one of the Jets’ 30 pre-project visits, during which he took one of Salih’s incantations seriously.

“The NFL has always been my dream, so I would wake up every day and go chase that dream,” he said. “I heard ‘all gas, no brakes’ on my visit and the Jets were a team unit. That’s what I really love. Football is a team sport and that’s what they teach there.”

All of these sound like the trends Zaire Barnes intends to change, and maybe even the attention-grabbing part. Like he said, he’s determined to do the job and do more than one job.

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