For those Jets fans who have only been around for a short time and think that because the Jets landed quarterback Sam Darnold, safety Jamal Adams, and to a degree, defensive lineman Leonard Williams in the top 10 of the draft over the past four seasons, here’s a quick reminder; picking early in the draft guarantees nothing.
Yes, Darnold looks to be the team’s first franchise quarterback in almost fifty years, Adams just got his first All Pro and Pro Bowl nods and hopes are high that Williams can get back to looking like a future Pro Bowler himself as he was an alternate a couple of seasons ago before his production slipped in recent years.
Even still, a look back a top 10 picks in Jets history is as quick reminder that even when you have a “Mangenius” making your picks, things can get ugly and go wrong in a hurry. Here’s a look at what Jets top 10 picks looked like over the past few decades before Leonard Williams, Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold came along.
2013- CB Dee Milliner (9th overall)
Failed former GM John Idzik catches a lot of heat for this pick and in all honesty, at least some of it, is unjustified. Milliner had some bumps and bruises in college that required some minor surgeries, but nothing that was bad enough to keep him off the field. Milliner was always healthy on game day at Alabama and his film and production justified the draft slot. However, once in the NFL, Milliner just couldn’t stay on the field and was out of the NFL after just a few seasons, most of which was spent on the trainer’s table.
2009- QB Mark Sanchez (5th overall)
Sanchez was carried to some memorable moments by the league’s top defense and running game, but he was a liability when he dropped back to pass. In four seasons as a Jet, Sanchez threw 68 touchdowns and 69 interceptions while completing a paltry 55% of his passes. He was handed a second contract by then GM Mike Tannenbaum to smooth things over after flirting with free agent QB Peyton Manning. Since leaving New York, Sanchez has gone from back up, to third string to street free agent.
20008- DL/LB Vernon Gholston (6th overall)
Taken in a spot where many claim all of the “can’t miss” players are taken, this pick goes down as the worst in team history in the eyes of many fans. Yes, you can say it was Johnny Lam Jones or Blair Thomas, but Gholston was the only player ever drafted by the team in the top 10 who never made a single play that he was brought in to make. Not a single sack. Not a single fumble recovery. Not a single forced fumble. Nothing. In Jones and Thomas, you could at least say they had a five or ten minute span that made you think they could play in the league. For Gholston? Nada.
2006- LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson (4th overall)
Easily the best top 10 pick over the past 30 years for the Jets. Ferguson was a pro bowl player who never missed a single snap (game or practice) due to injury. The consummate professional, Ferguson will be in the ring of honor one day. If only all top 10 picks were this good.
2003- DL Dewayne Robertson (4th overall)
Some put Robertson in Gholston territory since the team gave up assets to move up in the draft and grab him, but he played infinitely better than the Ghost. Years after being drafted with the fourth overall pick and being played out of position for much of his time under Eric Mangini, it was learned that Robertson had a degenerative hip condition. When did the team know about the bad hip? Prior to trading up to draft the 315 lb defensive lineman. And things didn’t work out? Gee, what a shocker.
1997- LB James Farrior (8th overall)
Farrior would go on to have a nice career for himself, but as a Jet, he was another bust and wasted pick. He never got a second contract from the Jets and had just one good season with Gang Green, his final year in 2001. Drafted and played out of position during his time in New York, Farrior topped 75 tackles just once and never had more than 2 sacks as a Jet.
1996- WR Keyshawn Johnson (1st overall)
You could make a case for Johnson being a hit or a miss with the first overall pick in 1996 out of USC. Yes, Johnson was a talented and productive receiver for the Jets. However, he made just as much news off the field for the Jets as he did on the field, and because of outlandish contract demands, never saw a second deal with Gang Green. If you owned a team and your GM said they were going to use the top overall pick on a guy you’d have to trade in a few seasons, would you sign up for that? Probably not.
1995- TE Kyle Brady (9th overall)
Brady would go on to have a long and somewhat productive career with some other teams, but as a Jet, he was essentially a blocking tight end who would put up a couple hundred yards a season. The type of production you should be able to get from a street free agent. We can second-guess any pick that didn’t work out, but in this case, every Jets fan in Radio City Music Hall was chanting “we want Sapp”, as in Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, whom the Jets passed on in favor of the blocking tight end. That’s rough.
1993- LB Marvin Jones (4th overall)
The man they called “Shade Tree” was plagued by injuries early on in his career but turned out to be an excellent middle linebacker for many years. Jones was a very good player on some really bad teams for a long time, but one of the best Jets top 10 picks.
1990- RB Blair Thomas (2nd overall)
Thomas will forever have a spot on the mount Rushmore of Jets draft busts. The second overall pick out of Penn State was best remembered for a game-killing fumble on Monday Night Football against the Chicago Bears. He would play justfour seasons with the Jets, scoring five touchdowns and being relegated to back up duty over his final two seasons.
1988- OL Dave Cadigan (8th overall)
Cadigan saw a second contract with the Jets but was gone after seven seasons with only four of those seven coming as a starter. He would start 16 games just once and was out of the league after just a single season with the Bengals.
So as we approach the NFL draft with the Jets owning the third overall pick, remember that not only do top ten picks not always show the production or potential of a Jamal Adams or a Sam Darnold, but many times they fail to perform at the level of Leonard Williams, who himself could go down as another bust if he fails to flourish under Gregg Williams.