All-Time Lists

New York Jets: Top 5 drafts of all-time

By Mark Kelly
Apr 15, 2016, 5:00 AM EDT
Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view of the podium on stage before the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view of the podium on stage before the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
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new york jets
new york jets

Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view of the podium on stage before the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets since joining the AFL in 1960, haven’t had the greatest history of selecting top draft picks but some classes were incredible. Here are the top five drafts of all-time for Gang Green.

As we approach the NFL Draft, I’ve compiled a list of the top five drafts in team history. 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 (Joe Namath), so its not like I had a plethora of great drafts to chose from.

Related Story: 2016 NFL Mock Draft: New York Jets select Emmanuel Ogbah

Remember that the Jets for the most part haven’t had stability when it comes to their previous leadership regimes. Owners have made some bad decisions when it comes to selecting competent general managers that know how to draft efficiently. The kind of draft masterminds that build to field a competing team for the following season as well as build for the future.

Without further ado, here are the top five drafts of all-time for the Jets.

Next: 5. 1978 NFL Draft

Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view of the stage before the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view of the stage before the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view of the stage before the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

5. 1978 NFL Draft

For the second straight season, the Jets drafted 4th overall in the draft, and for the second 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 tight end Mickey Shuler out of Penn State. Shuler went on to become perhaps the greatest tight end 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 touchdowns 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 eight seasons with the Jets, appearing in 95 games (90 starts) while recording the 9th most interceptions 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 touchdowns.

Pat Ryan was the 281st pick and the Jets 11th round choice. Ryan, a quarterback out of Tennessee, spent 12 seasons as the Jets backup quarterback. He made 19 starts in his time with Jets, going 11-8 while throwing for 31 touchdowns and was always the perfect complement to any starting quarterback with his mobility and strong arm. Ryan will be best remembered for relieving Ken O’Brien during a tough stretch in 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 touchdown 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 double overtime, marking one of the worst losses in franchise history. Ryan finished the 1986 postseason with 4 touchdown passes, 0 interceptions, 340 passing yards and a 106.7 quarterback rating.

Next: 4. 1979 NFL Draft

2016 nfl draft
2016 nfl draft

Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view as the Tennessee Titans make their pick in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

4. 1979 NFL Draft

With their first pick of the 1979 NFL Draft, the Jets selected defensive tackle 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 “New York 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 six 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 quarterbacks 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 “quarterback sack dances” that infuriated the opposition and his teammates as well. Despite his popularity with fans, Gastineau was just oto polarizing in his time as a Jet, which is why he still has not had his number 99 retired, despite his five Pro Bowl selections and three-time All-Pro honors.

Defensive back Donald Dykes out of SE Louisiana, was the Jets 3rd round choice in 1979. Dykes played three seasons with the Jets, making 27 starts (46 games overall) and intercepting five 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 interceptions over that span.

Stan Blinka, a linebacker 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.

Next: 3. 2000 NFL Draft

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ny jets

Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view of the stage before the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

3. 2000 NFL Draft

The 2000 NFL Draft saw the Jets with an NFL record four picks in the 1st round. The Jets used their first 2 selections on defensive players, taking defensive end Shawn Ellis out of Tennessee and defensive end 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 three Pro Bowl selections (2001, 2002, 2004) and one All-Pro selection (2001) in his six seasons as a Jet, totaling 53.5 sacks over that span.

With the 18th pick of the first round, the Jets selected quarterback Chad Pennington out of Marshall. Pennington went on to post the highest quarterback rating for any Jets quarterback (88.9) during his eight seasons behind center. Pennington started 61 games (69 total) with the Jets, going 32-29 while throwing for 82 touchdowns 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 second division title in franchise history. With their 4th and final pick in the first round, the Jets selected tight end Anthony Becht out of West Virginia. Becht started 72 games in his five seasons as a Jet, recording 133 catches and 17 touchdowns.

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 touchdowns in his seven seasons. Coles 1,254 receiving yards in 2002 ranks as the fourth highest in franchise history.

Next: 2. 2006 NFL Draft

Dec 21, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets center Nick Mangold (74) wears an NYPD cap during the coin toss before a game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

2. 2006 NFL Draft

Offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson from Virginia (4th overall) and center Nick Mangold from Ohio State (29th overall) were the Jets first round selections. They have combined to miss just two 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 seven 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 wide receiver, while also returning kickoffs. Smith spent five seasons with the Jets, leading their “Wildcat” offense, running for 767 yards and 2 touchdowns, 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 touchdowns.

Next: 1. 1977 NFL Draft

Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; A general view of a New York Jets helmet and an NFL football during the game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

1. 1977 NFL Draft

The 1977 draft class was the best in team history and started rebuilding a Jets team that saw them reach the postseason four times from 1981-1986, coming within a game of the Super Bowl in 1982.

In the first round, the Jets drafted offensive tackle Marvin Powell with the 4th pick overall out of USC. Powell played nine seasons with the Jets, making five Pro Bowls and earning All-Pro honors three times. Wesley Walker was the Jets 2nd round choice, taken 33rd overall from California.

Walker was perhaps the best deep threat in team history, catching 438 receptions for 71 touchdowns in his 11 seasons as a Jet. His 71 touchdowns still rank as the second most in team history, trailing only Don Maynard’s 88. Walker made the Pro Bowl twice, while also earning All-Pro in 1978.

The 90th overall pick in the 1977 draft saw Scott Dierking, a fullback out of Purdue, name called. Dierking would go on to make 50 starts for the Jets from 1977-1983, rushing for 2,900 yards and 18 touchdowns.

The Jets sixth round pick in 1977 was perhaps the most popular player ever to don the Jets uniform, defensive tackle Joe Klecko out of Temple. Klecko made four Pro Bowls (only player to start at three different positions DE, NT and DT), while earning All-Pro honors twice in 1981 and 1985. He was also the most valuable member of the “New York Sack Exchange” which to this day has yet to be replicated.

Kevin Long, a running back out of South Carolina, was the 195th pick of the 1977 draft. Overall, Long started 33 games for the Jets from 1977-1981, finishing with 2,190 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns. The Jets next pick, an 8th rounder number 200 overall, was offensive guard Dan Alexander out of LSU.  Alexander became one of the longest tenured offensive lineman in team history, making 182 starts from 1977-1989. Only Randy Rasmussen made more with 199.

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Quarterback Matt Robinson was taken with the 227th pick out of Georgia. Robinson’s promising career came to an abrupt end when he failed to disclose a thumb injury that cost the Jets the 1979 season opener.

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