Though the Pittsburgh Steelers showed interest in Western Kentucky WR Malachi Corley, they should thank the New York Jets for grabbing him in the second round. If they weren’t interested, or if Corley was off the board, WR Roman Wilson is probably wearing green and white right now. And Pittsburgh would’ve been left without either.

In behind-the-scenes footage of the Jets’ war room on the second night of the draft, GM Joe Douglas worked the phones to trade up for a wideout. His main target was Corley, who he eventually landed. But Wilson was also in play. 

“I think we can get one of Malachi or Roman at 53,” Douglas says as he maps out a possible trade-up, as shown by the Jets’ draft series and shared by Josh Norris.

The Jets first tried trading a couple of fourth round picks to the Washington Commanders for their 53rd pick. They didn’t budge. There’s also a reference to Douglas calling “Trent,’ likely Jaguars GM Trent Baalke for the 48th overall pick.

From there, Douglas called up a handful of teams, angling for a wide receiver. They eventually struck a deal with the Carolina Panthers, moving from No. 72 to No. 65 in exchange for a fifth round selection, No. 157. For the Panthers, that got them back a fifth they gave to Buffalo to move up one spot and draft WR Xavier Legette at the end of the first round. With the 65th pick, the Jets took Corley, a physical but raw slot receiver and YAC monster, giving QB Aaron Rodgers another target. Pittsburgh brought Corley in for a pre-draft visit and clearly did their homework on him, sending WRs Coach Zach Azzanni to the Western Kentucky Pro Day.

To be clear, Corley was the Jets’ No. 1 guy. That’s obvious enough considering he was the selection over Wilson but furthered by the texts Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh sent each other Friday morning, a Draft Day “no matter what” caption under a photo of Corley.

But had they been unable to land Corley due to unwilling trade partners, it seems likely they would’ve taken Roman Wilson at No. 72. That was 12 spots ahead of Pittsburgh’s 84th pick. Without Wilson, the Steelers would’ve had even fewer wide receiver options to consider. Perhaps they would’ve taken Washington’s Jalen McMillan or potentially Rice’s Luke McCaffrey, the latter brought in for a pre-draft visit. Or maybe they would’ve gone in a new direction, perhaps taking LB Payton Wilson at 84 and seeing what the board looked like at 98.

In the end, both sides got what they wanted. The Jets got Corley and the Steelers seem happy with Wilson. But it shows how one move, or lack of one, could change the complexion of an entire draft for both teams.


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