Ghost of Idzik’s past draft picks still haunts Jets
By William Bologna
Former General Manager John Idzik’s draft selections in ’13-’14 still haunt the New York Jets today, as they have little to show for each class.
John Idzik was the general manager of the New York Jets from 2013-2014 before being fired and replaced by the current general manager, Mike Maccagnan. Now that Calvin Pryor is a Cleveland Brown, only four out of Idzik’s 19 draft picks remain with the team. Because of this, the Jets have struggled to build a young core, growing dependent on veterans with a ticking clock. But now, the Jets cut their losses and are now ready to move forward under the new regime.
Idzik’s biggest draft-day blunder occurred with his first pick. In 2013, the Jets drafted Dee Milliner 9th overall. The Jets were hoping that Milliner could fill the shoes of Darrelle Revis as a lock-down corner. The Jets cut Milliner in September 2016 after he failed to pan out. Because he has yet to find a new team, his NFL career is most likely over.
In the same draft, Idzik drafted Geno Smith in the second round. Smith was successful in college with West Virginia, though many doubted his ability to succeed in the pros. It turns out the doubters were right, as Smith threw for 28 touchdowns and 36 interceptions in 33 games. Smith is no longer with the team and is currently a New York Giant, though his future with Big Blue is anything but certain.
The Jets could have added far more firepower to their offense by drafting Le’Veon Bell in this spot. The Steelers selected Bell only nine picks later. Instead, the Jets signed an aging Chris Johnson.
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Another Idzik selection was Ik Enemkpali, who robbed Geno of his opportunity to start in 2015 by breaking his jaw.
The Jets cut Enemkpali shortly after, though it is safe to assume that Smith’s play would’ve been enough to lose him the starting job.
In 2014, the Jets made bad pick after bad pick. The Jets drafted safety Calvin Pryor 18th overall. The Jets traded Pryor to the Cleveland Browns because he failed to reach his potential along with attitude issues. Only three picks later, the Packers selected Pro Bowl safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, whom the Jets could’ve drafted instead.
In the second round, the Jets whiffed on tight end, Jace Amaro. The Jets hoped that Amaro, who is 6’6″, could become a great red-zone weapon. This was never the case as he’s only caught two touchdowns in his entire NFL career. A few players taken shortly after Amaro include Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, and Jimmy Garoppolo. Any of these guys would’ve added far more value to the Jets offense than Amaro.
In the 4th round, the Jets missed again, selecting wide receivers Jalen Saunders and Shaquelle Evans. Neither player ever amounted to anything at the pro level. The next receiver that was taken after Saunders and Evans? Martavis Bryant. Granted, Bryant has his fair share of issues, he missed the entire 2016 season due to a suspension. Although, he still would’ve added more value than Saunders or Evans.
What’s left of the 2013-2014 classes?
Now, the Jets do have something to show for Idzik’s draft classes, but not much. The Jets selected Sheldon Richardson 13th overall in 2013. Richardson has been a force on that defense since he’s gotten into the league. In fact, he won the 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Unfortunately for the Jets, Richardson has earned a reputation as a trouble maker. He’s been on the trade block for a while, but the Jets can’t seem to find anything of value in return for him, mostly due to maturity concerns. Although, Richardson is still a tremendous talent and one of the best players on the team. The Jets will be hoping that Richardson can show them some maturity in 2017 so that he can be part of the team’s future.
In 2014, Idzik made his best (and only) value pick at 209 overall by drafting Quincy Enunwa in the sixth round. Enunwa emerged as one of the Jets top receivers last year and is now poised for a breakout season in 2017. Although, Enunwa’s Jets career has been shaky. In fact, Jets cut Enunwa in September 2014, though he signed with the practice squad only a day later.
In the case of Enunwa, Idzik is not to thank for the numbers he posted last season. After not recording a single stat as a rookie, Enunwa earned some playing time and made a few plays in his second season in 2015. After an impressive 2016, Enunwa ready for an even bigger role in 2017. Hard work and dedication is to thank for Enunwa’s transition from bench player to starter.
Another decent selection was drafting Brian Winters in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Winters may not be a superstar guard like Zack Martin of the Dallas Cowboys, but he’s established himself as a starting-quality guard for the Jets. Winters has performed well enough that the Jets could commit to him long-term, as he signed a 4-year contract extension in January.
The only other Idzik selection remaining on the roster is guard Dakota Dozier, though he’s never been anything more than a backup for the Jets.
Building through the draft proven to be the best strategy
It is clear that nowadays, the best way to build a championship team is through the draft. The Jets have made past attempts at building a winning team purely through free agency and trades, though that is why the Jets are in their current state right now.
If you look at some of the NFL’s premier teams, you’ll notice that the majority of their talent came from draft picks. Take the Seattle Seahawks for example. Seattle drafted their core players such as Russell Wilson, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner.
Another example is AFC East rival the New England Patriots. Belichick and the Patriots drafted and groomed many core players like Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, James White, Malcolm Butler and Dont’a Hightower.
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Look at successful teams like Oakland, Dallas, and Atlanta. Each of these teams built through the draft. Now, the Jets have finally caught on and have adapted a “build through the draft” mentality. Although, the current state of the New York Jets is an example of how bad drafting can deter a team for years to come, as the ghost of Idzik’s past appears to still be lurking throughout MetLife Stadium, continuing to haunt the Jets in 2017.