In my third and last look at New York Jets draft history, I will analyze the top 5 players ever drafted by the Jets. By this I mean the player had to spend the majority of his career and post most of his numbers as a Jet.
Despite being around since 1960, the Jets franchise has only one current player that is in the Hall of Fame after being drafted and spending the majority of his career with the Jets, so it’s not like the Jets have a plethora of Hall of Fame players to pick from. In looking further, the Jets have drafted just one Hall of Famer since the merger in 1970, John Riggins out of Kansas in 1971. Riggins spent just four seasons with the Jets, becoming the first player in team history to rush for 1,000 yards in 1975. Riggins then left the Jets to join the Redskins, where he established himself as one of the best backs in the NFL.
5. Joe Namath, QB Alabama. 1st overall in 1965 AFL Draft – Wait, the ONLY player to ever be drafted by the Jets and be voted in the Hall of Fame after spending the majority of his career with the team, is just the 5th best player ever drafted by them? How can this be? To be honest, Namath is lucky to be on this list at all, but he has been the face of the franchise since they drafted him number 1 overall in 1965. Namath became the first QB in history to pass for 4,000 yards when he reached that total in 1967.
Looking at Namath’s overall numbers, there is no way he should be anywhere near the Hall of Fame. He threw 47 more career INT than TD and finished with a QB rating of just 65.5 (among Hall of Famers, only Bobby Layne has a lower rating for just QBs*). Namath finished with a 62-63 record (.496 win pct) as a starting QB. Among Hall of Fame QBs, only Sonny Jurgensen has a lower winning percentage (.69-73, .487). However, Namath was the starting QB in perhaps the most important football game in NFL history, as his Jets went on to defeat the mighty Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Despite not throwing a TD pass, Namath helped the Jets control the ball for most of the game (he is the only QB to win Super Bowl MVP without throwing a TD pass), but his guarantee of the Jets success in the week leading up to the game, received most of the attention. Entering the game as 17-point underdogs, the Jets defeated the Colts 16-7, becoming the first AFL team to win the Super Bowl, thus solidifying the merger.
Appearing to have the best of his NFL career still ahead of him, Namath never won another postseason game as a starting QB, but remains the most popular player to ever play for the Jets, and the only starting QB to ever lead them to a Super Bowl.
4. Matt Snell, FB Ohio State. 3rd overall pick in 1964 AFL Draft – Quick, who scored the only TD in Jets Super Bowl history? If you said Matt Snell, you would be correct. Snell rushed for 121 yards in Super Bowl III and many thought should have been MVP of the game. Snell was the first real superstar drafted by the Jets and owner Sonny Werblin, who convinced Snell to join the Jets instead of their cross-town NFL rival New York Giants. The Giants drafted Snell in the 4th round of the 1964 NFL Draft, but offered him much less money than Werblin and the Jets did. Snell chose to sign with the perceived weaker AFL, which sent shock waves around both leagues.
Snell immediately made an impact with the Jets, rushing for a career-high 948 yds and 5 TD in 1964, winning AFL Rookie of the Year. Snell retired from the Jets and NFL after the 1972 season, finishing with 4,285 rushing yds (4th highest in franchise history) and 24 TD.
3. Nick Mangold, C Ohio State. 29th overall pick in 2006 NFL Draft – After finishing 4-12 in 2005, the Jets knew they had to rebuild their offensive line in the 2006 draft. Mangold was the second of the Jets 1st round picks that season (D’Brickashaw Ferguson, a tackle out of Virginia, was taken 4th overall) drafted to achieve that goal. Mangold is currently entering his 9th season as the Jets starting center. In 2009, Mangold helped lead the way as the Jets ran for an NFL best 172 YPG. He has twice been named an NFL All-Pro (2009-10) and 5 times to the Pro Bowl team (2008-11, 2013), and his peers rank him as one of the best offensive lineman in the NFL.
2. Joe Klecko, DT Temple. 144th overall pick in 1977 NFL Draft – One of the most popular players ever drafted by the Jets, Joe Klecko became a key member of the Jets “Sack Exchange” which chased QB all over the NFL from 1979-1983. Many fellow defensive lineman, including Hall of Famer Howie Long, mention that if not for missing some games due to injury, Klecko would be in the Hall of Fame as well.
Klecko left the Jets after the 1987 season, finishing his NFL career in 1988 with the Indianapolis Colts. A 4-time Pro Bowl selection, he is the only player in NFL history to be named a starter at 3 different positions (DE, DT and NT). Klecko was also named an All-Pro twice (1981 and 1985) and is one of just 5 players to have their number retired by the Jets.
1. Darrelle Revis, CB Pittsburgh. 14th overall pick in 2007 NFL Draft – Revis is currently entering his 8th NFL season, the first 6 having been spent with the Jets. Almost certain to become the second Hall of Famer to be drafted and spend the majority of his career with the Jets, Revis is one of the best to ever play his position. Revis career INT totals are low (only 21) because most QB chose to not even throw the ball to his side of the field. Often Revis would eliminate the best WR on the opposing team. In 2009 Revis routinely held WR to their season-low in catches and yards, players such as Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, Steve Smith, Marques Colston, Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson and Reggie Wayne.
Revis injured his ACL 2 games into the 2012 season, ending his season and unfortunately his career as a Jet. In 2013, Revis made his 5th Pro Bowl as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and was named an All-Pro 3 times in his Jets career (2009-11).
*Bob Waterfield and George Blanda have lower QB ratings, but spent career as a kicker as well.