In my earlier post, I rated the 1977 draft as the best in Jets team history. For a franchise that starting playing in 1960, the Jets number of questionable draft choices over the years have been legendary.
However, starting with last seasons draft that saw 5 draft choices starting by mid-season and all 7 picks hopeful to make the roster this season, John Idzik is hoping to change that with his draft strategy that saw him take part of building a winner in Seattle.
Keeping with the theme of Jets draft history, I’ve compiled a list of the top five drafts in team history. Does Idzik’s 2013 draft make the cut? With only one season gone by, even one that did produce 5 starters, it’s too soon to tell, but here are some other drafts that he can hope to join as the most successful in franchise history.
Number 5 – 1978
For the 2nd straight season the Jets drafted 4th overall in the NFL Draft, and for the 2nd straight season they used that pick on an offensive tackle, this time selecting Chris Ward, a 2-time consensus All-American out of Ohio State. Like Marvin Powell, the Jets first round pick in 1977, Ward was a staple on one of the best offensive lines in the NFL in the late 70s-early 80s. Ward appeared in 87 games for the Jets (all starts) from 1978-1983. In the 3rd round the Jets drafted TE Mickey Shuler out of Penn State. Shuler went on to become perhaps the greatest TE in team history, appearing in 160 games for the Jets (102 starts) from 1978-1989. Shuler recorded 438 catches for 4,819 yards and 37 TD in his 12 seasons as a Jet, making the Pro Bowl twice (1986 and 1988).
Defensive back Bobby Jackson was taken 140th overall in the 6th round out of Florida State. Jackson spent 8 seasons with the Jets, appearing in 95 games (90 starts) while recording the 9th most INT in franchise history (21). Wide Receiver Derrick Gaffney was taken 197th overall in the 8th round by the Jets and spent parts of 8 seasons in the green and white. Gaffney appeared in 100 games (68 starts) for the Jets from 1978-1987, recording 156 receptions for 2,613 yards and 7 TD.
Pat Ryan was the 281st pick and the Jets 11th round choice in the 1978 NFL Draft. Ryan, a QB out of Tennessee, spent 12 seasons as the Jets backup QB. He made 19 starts in his time with Jets, going 11-8 while throwing for 31 TD and was always the perfect complement to any starting QB with his mobility and strong arm. Ryan will be best remembered for relieving Ken O’Brien during a tough stretch in the 1986, and leading the Jets to a 35-15 Wild Card win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The next week in the Divisional Round at Cleveland, Ryan was injured in the second quarter after throwing a 42-yd TD to Wesley Walker. Without Ryan, the Jets were unable to consistently move the ball as Ken O’Brien was ineffective and the Jets fell to the Browns 23-20 in 2 OT, marking one of the worst losses in franchise history. Ryan finished the 1986 postseason with 4 TD passes, 0 INT for 340 yards and a 106.7 QB rating.
Number 4 – 1979
With their first pick of the 1979 NFL Draft, the Jets selected DT Marty Lyons out of Alabama 14th overall. Lyons appeared in 147 games (135 starts) for the Jets from 1979-1989, becoming one of the most consistent defensive players in team history. Lyons was a member of the “Sack Exchange” that saw the Jets total 66 sacks in the 1981 season*, helping the Jets reach the playoffs for the first time since 1969. Officially, Lyons finished with 29 sacks, but that does not take in the 6 sacks Lyons collected in the 1981 season.
Fellow “Sack Exchange” member Mark Gastineau was the Jets 2nd round choice, number 41 overall out of Arizona State. Known for his lighting speed, Gastineau terrorized opposing QB during his 10 seasons as a Jet, finishing “officially” with 74 sacks (does not count his unofficial 1981 total of 20). Gastineau was one of the most disliked players in the NFL for his taunting “QB sack dances” that infuriated the opposition and his teammates as well. Despite his popularity with fans, Gastineau was just to polarizing in his time as a Jet, which is why he still has not had his number 99 retired, despite his 5 Pro Bowl selections and 3-time All-Pro honors.
Defensive back Donald Dykes out of SE Louisiana, was the Jets 3rd round choice in 1979. Dykes played 3 seasons with the Jets, making 27 starts (46 games overall) and intercepting 5 passes. Fellow defensive back Johnny Lynn out of UCLA was selected 98th overall by the Jets in the 4th round. Lynn was a staple in the defensive backfield, making 48 starts (97 games overall) for the Jets from 1979-1986, totaling 17 INT over that span. Stan Blinka, a LB out of Sam Houston State, was the Jets 5th round pick (125th overall). Blinka started 56 straight games from 1979-1982, leading the team in tackles during his rookie season. Blinka was traded by the Jets to Denver after the 1983 season, where a knee injury ended his career prematurely.
Number 3 – 2000
The 2000 NFL Draft saw the Jets with an NFL record 4 picks in the 1st round. The Jets used their first 2 selections on defensive players, taking DE Shawn Ellis out of Tennessee and DE John Abraham out of South Carolina with the 12th and 13th overall picks. Ellis made 156 starts in his 11 seasons with the Jets, recording 72.5 sacks (second highest total in team history) and being a two-time Pro Bowl selection (2003 and 2009). Abraham earned 3 Pro Bowl selections (2001, 2002, 2004) and one All-Pro selection (2001) in his 6 seasons as a Jet, totaling 53.5 sacks over that span.
With the 18th pick of the first round, the Jets selected QB Chad Pennington out of Marshall. Pennington went on to post the highest QB rating for any Jets QB (88.9) during his 8 seasons behind center. Pennington started 61 games (69 total) with the Jets, going 32-29 while throwing for 82 TD and over 13,700 yards. Pennington’s best season came in 2002, when he led the Jets to a 8-4 record in his 12 starts, helping the Jets win just their 2nd division title in franchise history. With their 4th and final pick in the first round, the Jets selected TE Anthony Becht out of West Virginia. Becht started 72 games in his 5 seasons as a Jet, recording 133 catches and 17 TD.
Wide Receiver Laveranues Coles was the Jets 78th overall pick in the 3rd round. Coles had two tours of duty with the Jets, combining for 459 receptions and 37 TD in his 7 seasons. Coles 1,254 receiving yards in 2002 ranks as the fourth highest in franchise history.
Number 2 – 2006
Tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson from Virginia (4th overall) and Center Nick Mangold from Ohio State (29th overall) were the Jets first round selections. Both are entering their 9th season with the team, and have combined to miss just 2 of their combined 256 games (all starts) over that span. Ferguson is a three-time Pro Bowl selection (2009-11), while Mangold has been named to the Pro Bowl five times (2008-11, 2013) and an All-Pro twice (2009-10).
Safety Eric Smith out of Michigan State was taken with the 97th overall pick. Smith spent 7 seasons with the Jets, making 36 starts and appearing in 96 games. The Jets drafted another Smith, Brad, with the 103 pick of the draft. A quarterback during his years at Missouri, Smith converted to WR, while also returning kickoffs. Smith spent 5 seasons with the Jets, leading their “Wildcat” offense, running for 767 yards and 2 TD, while recording 64 receptions for 557 yards.
Running back Leon Washington was the 117th overall pick and one of the most explosive offensive players in team history before a knee injury ended his Jets career in 2009. Washington was not re-signed and finished his Jets career with 1,782 yards rushing, 969 yards receiving, 2,916 return yards and 19 total TDs.
*- the NFL did not officially count sacks as a statistic until the 1982 season.