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FLORHAM PARK, NJ – They once drafted a defensive tackle that did not have cartilage in one knee.
They chose a cornerback who had spent more time on surgery than The Good Doctor.
They chose a tight end that never got more than 27 passes in a college season and a wide receiver / court star who had played in a wishbone offense.
And they were all selected in the top 10.
The New York Jets have an eerie history with top-10 picks, a series of head scrapers and faux blue-chippers who never reached expectations and disappeared to the big green eater. Even some of the so-called good choices, which were applauded by fans and experts, were washed out.
They should be better, considering they have had a lot of practice.
In the common-draft era, which began in 1967, the Jets have selected 26 players in the top 10, tied with the Detroit Lions for the third-most, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals have 28 pieces.
Aside from trades, the Jets will move into a three-way draw for the first time on April 28th. They own the fourth and tenth picks in the draft, the latter acquired from the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for safety Jamal Adams in 2020. It is their first time in franchise history with two top-10 picks.
To date, their 26 picks have produced just one player with multiple All-Pro seasons (tackle Marvin Powell) and only one Pro Football Hall of Famer (running John Riggins) whose best years were post-Jets. If you’re wondering Joe Namath, a Hall of Fame quarterback, he was drafted in 1965 when the NFL and AFL held separate drafts.
You think it would be hard to screw up, but it happens.
“It’s been an accident,” said ESPN draft analyst Jordan Reid. “They’ve had some good ones here lately. I think [quarterback] Zack [Wilson] will be fine. [Defensive tackle] quinnen [Williams] comes with; he just needs to stay healthy. It gets better, but there was a hard stretch there. I remember some of those guys. It was just a string of accidents. “
In theory, the Jets should get two future stars at No. 4 and 10, but we all know that the draft does not work that way. A look back at the Jets’ top 10s, from Riggins (1971) to Wilson (2021):
Biggest buster: Cornerback Dee Milliner (2013) and edge rusher Vernon Gholston (2008) are above the audience – or below, depending on how you look at it.
Gholston, for three NFL seasons, failed to record a single sack. In the 2010 season finale, a match that did not matter because the Jets had won a playoff spot, the coaches designed specific games for Gholston so he could get the elusive firing. Not even a custom game plan worked.
Milliner was highly regarded for his coverage, but there was some concern because he underwent surgery five times in Alabama. In his first training camp, he was admittedly injured. As a 25-year-old, his career was over. No election in the first round of 2013 played fewer games than Milliner (21).
Highest buh on the draft day: While the audience in New York shouts “We want Sapp!” In 1995, the Jets amazed everyone by making tight-end Kyle Brady, who was greeted on stage with a chorus of buh. They passed on the defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who would continue to have a Hall of Fame career. At the time, the Jets felt that Sapp was too risky due to off-field issues.
“I admit I was as mystified as the fans were,” Brady told ESPN seven years ago in a story about his experience with Draft Day.
Brady, who had only modest receipts in Penn State, played 13 years and earned about $ 30 million. A great career, admittedly, but no gold jacket.
Reckless climbing: The Jets made three big trades to get into the top 10, two of which turned out to be big mistakes. In 1980, they sprang up for wide receiver Johnny “Lam” Jones, an Olympic sprint champion who developed a chronic case of yips. They had been targeting tackle Anthony Munoz but turned due to concerns about his surgically repaired knee. It did not prevent him from becoming a Hall of Famer with the Bengals.
In 2003, the Jets made a similarly brave move to get defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson. They ignored a potential knee problem (see, no cartilage!) Because they felt he was good enough to be Sapp 2.0. Not even close.
The third trade, in 2009, was for quarterback Mark Sanchez, who won four playoff games (all away) before his career ran out. Unlike the previous two trades, this one did not cost them two choices in the first round. They thought they had their franchise quarterback … until they did not.
Sneaky good choices: Powell (1977) is never mentioned among the Jets’ greats, but he deserves to be included in that conversation with three first-team All-Pro picks on his resume.
“I would not have been the player I was without Marvin Powell,” said legendary Jets-passer rider Mark Gastineau. “We made each other better every day in practice.”
Another insidiously good choice was tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson (2006), who did not miss a fight or training for 10 years. He was their Cal Ripken Jr.
First team All-Pro: One-time recipients of the honor were Adams (2017), linebacker James Farrior (1997), wide receiver Al Toon (1985) and running backs Riggins and Freeman McNeil (1981). It should be noted that Farrior and Riggins achieved the recognition with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington, respectively. Toon’s promising career was shortened by concussion, one of the saddest chapters in Jets history.
A gold jacket: Riggins, known as a wild kid from the 70s, was an instant star for the Jets. He was a Pro Bowl player and the team’s MVP in 1975, but a contract dispute led to his release and he signed with Washington. If you want to track the Jets’ history of giving up on good players, start here.
Most popular school: They selected enough players from USC to start a Trojan alumni club – six. Aside from Powell and Sanchez, there were quarterback Sam Darnold (2018), defensive Leonard Williams (2015), wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson (1996) and tackle Dave Cadigan (1988), whose careers got off to a tough start. In his first game, he was run over by New England Patriots star Andre Tippett, who may have left braces on Cadigan’s chest. Later in his career, the former Trojan made headlines for threatening a reporter in the locker room. Fight on, indeed!
“what if” draft: In 1990, the late Dick Steinberg fell in love with running back Blair Thomas. After watching Thomas win the Senior Bowl MVP, GM told a reporter that day in Mobile, Alabama, “Even my grandmother could tell you he was the best player on the field.” Important Note: Linebacker Junior Seau and defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, both juniors, were does not on the field.
Thomas, who was drafted as number two overall, never knocked out. The next two names on Steinberg’s draft board, Seau and Kennedy, went on to Hall of Fame careers with the San Diego Chargers and Seahawks, respectively. Grandma should have scouted the underclassmen.
Hold for long life: Most matches played by a top-10 selection – Farrior 230, Brady 197 and Riggins 175. All three played more matches with teams other than the Jets.
Busiest GM: Mike Maccagnan lived in the top 10 – four picks in five drafts as the Jets’ GM. Yes, they lost a lot to get in those positions. He had his share of draft misses, but his top picks weren’t that bad. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (2019), Adams and Leonard Williams are productive players in the league, with Darnold the only question mark.
The Jets were ecstatic about getting Darnold. When he unexpectedly fell to No. 3, a team official in the dizzying wooden room turned to Maccagnan and said, “You have a horseshoe in your ass.”
Eventually, luck was washed away by reality – a familiar theme.