Jets coach and GM quote 'Draft Day' in Malachi Corley pick

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- On Friday morning, New York Jets coach Robert Saleh channeled his inner Sonny Weaver by using a line from the 2014 film "Draft Day."

At 11:09 a.m., about eight hours before the start of the second round of the 2024 NFL draft, Saleh texted a photo of Western Kentucky Hilltoppers wide receiver Malachi Corley to general manager Joe Douglas. Underneath the photo, he wrote: "No matter what."

Douglas immediately replied: "No matter what."

The text was a reference to a scene in the movie where Weaver, the Cleveland Browns' GM (played by Kevin Costner), writes a note to himself before the draft -- a reminder to pick linebacker Vontae Mack "no matter what." The Jets later posted screenshots of the text message exchange on social media.

Like Costner, the Jets got their man. Similar to the movie, it took a trade to pull it off.

The Jets didn't have a second-round pick -- it went to the Green Bay Packers last year in the Aaron Rodgers trade -- so they moved up seven spots in the third round and selected Corley with the first pick in the third round. It cost the Jets their own third-round pick, plus a fifth-rounder.

They had such a high grade on Corley that Douglas started calling teams in the middle of the second round before making a deal with the Carolina Panthers for the 65th pick.

"We're juiced, man," Douglas said. "Malachi is a guy, you watch his tape and it's hard not to get excited."

Corley was known in college football circles as the "YAC King" because his "yards-after-the-catch" numbers were outrageous. The powerfully built 5-foot-10½, 207-pounder racked up 2,068 YAC since 2021 -- 400 more yards than the next-closest player in FBS. He faced only one power-five opponent last season, but still believes he can be a difference-maker on the NFL level.

"My biggest strength of my game is yards after catch," Corley told reporters Friday night. "I think that's my calling card, and I think I do that better than anyone else. I think that when I get the ball in my hands, I can make special plays. I can take a 2-yard bubble screen 20, 30 yards if I have to."

Corley was so excited about being drafted by the Jets that he got Aaron Rodgers' cell number from the team and called his new quarterback, he told SNY TV -- a veteran move. Eager to build chemistry with the future Hall of Fame quarterback, Corley said he told Rodgers he wants to live in his guest house during training camp.

Rodgers apparently liked the pick. As soon as it was made, he texted Saleh, expressing his excitement. When that was relayed to Corley, the new receiver told reporters, "Oh, my God. It's unbelievable. It's just a testament to my work ethic and everything I've put forward toward my game, knowing that someone who is a great and who has played this game at the highest level for over a decade sees me in the same light."

Corley joins a receiving roster that includes Garrett Wilson and Mike Williams, who is recovering from ACL surgery and won't be ready until the start of the regular season. Corley brings a different dimension -- the YAC attack. In 2023, the Jets' wide receivers had the second-fewest YAC (543), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"He calls himself the 'YAC King,' and he's deserving of that." Douglas said, "He plays with violence and anger. You can do a lot of different things with him."

The Jets are expected to utilize Corley in many instances, No matter what.