When it comes to the New York Jets, they do have a good amount of NFL Draft picks that would go on to be legends on the gridiron. Here are the top ten greatest draft selections of all-time for Gang Green.
The NFL Draft is a yearly event that can turn a team from pretenders to contenders in just a matter of months. The New York Jets might not have found a franchise quarterback in decades via the NFL Draft but they’ve had their fair share of above-average talent get selected that made an immediate impact at other positions.
From quarterback-hunting defensive linemen to quarterbacks that guaranteed a Super Bowl victory, the Jets over the years have had some good fortune in their draft picks. Of course, they haven’t won a Super Bowl since the late 1960s but at the end of the day, they have had players that left impressions of greatness.
Being a Jets fan practically all my life, I have many great memories of the many players that have come and unfortunately gone from the team. From the blazing speed of Leon Washington returning kickoffs and punts to the sheer dominance of John Abraham against opposing quarterbacks, these are just some of the legends that one can never forget.
Below are my picks for the top ten greatest draft selections of all-time for the Jets. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
10. Defensive End John Abraham
It wasn’t until his sophomore season that defensive end John Abraham started to make a name for himself. At the end of 2001, Abraham totaled 13 sacks, 53 tackles, and six forced fumbles.
That will go down as one of the best seasons of his prolific career that was mostly spent with the Jets. Even though Abraham did have some stints with the Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals towards the end of his career, his most memorable moments came with the Jets.
From devouring quarterbacks and instilling fear into opposing quarterbacks, Abraham was truly a force to reckon with. Every offense going up against him undoubtedly had to prepare for everything he brought to the table.
Abraham was drafted by the Jets with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. They’ve had numerous defensive ends that had glimpses of brilliance but none that were as consistently good as Abraham during his six years with the Jets.
Next: 9. Just give him the damn ball
9. Wide Receiver Keyshawn Johnson
Just give him the damn ball! Okay, fine. Many Jets fans will probably not like remembering wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson and all the tantrums he used to cause on the sideline.
One can’t knock his style of play since, in just four seasons with the Jets, he was a household name that showcased some serious skills. As a primary red-zone threat, Johnson caught 31 touchdowns with the Jets and was a very hard wide receiver to defend against.
At 6-4 and 212lbs, Johnson was often times a headache to the coaching staff and teammates. Especially so when things didn’t go his way as he made sure everyone around him with ears heard about it one way or another.
Despite the distractions, Johnson was the No. 1 pick by the Jets in the 1996 NFL Draft and immediately put the franchise on the map. It’s a shame they didn’t win a Super Bowl with their 1998 squad since that was one of Johnson’s best seasons of his career.
Next: 8. An anchor of an offensive lineman
8. Offensive Tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson
When it comes to the battle of the trenches, a good offensive line can be the difference-maker in winning or losing football games. Luckily for the Jets, they made a great decision when it came to selecting offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.
For 160 straight games from 2006, until Ferguson retired in early 2016, he didn’t miss a single game. Yes, he was there for all three NFL Playoff games the Jets were in within the past decade. Ferguson was a class act both on and off the football field and solidified the offensive tackle position for close to a decade.
It was a sad day when news broke out that Ferguson would retire just a few years ago but he’ll always be remembered as a core member of the Jets back when they had a playoff-contending team. The kind of team that was so close to making their first Super Bowl appearance in decades but fell short when it mattered most.
Ferguson had a huge part in that since he was an anchor in the trenches and always went above and beyond in everything he did on the Jets offensive line. Drafting a player with the kind of impact Ferguson had easily makes him one of the best selections in franchise history.
Next: 7. The center with an epic beard
7. Center Nick Mangold
Was something in the air when the Jets were on the clock in the 2006 NFL Draft? In the same round that they drafted Ferguson in, they also drafted center Nick Mangold with the No. 29 overall pick.
The two would become one incredible tandem for close to a decade on the Jets offensive line. Mangold was another gridiron warrior in that he never got hurt until the end of his prolific career that resulted in his eventual release. Mangold was hit with a lingering ankle injury didn’t allow him to play at a full 100 percent that he was used to throughout his tenure with the Jets.
Once it affected his play, the Jets had to make one of the toughest decisions in their history and release Mangold since he wasn’t the same player that once dominated the position. Mangold recently retired this offseason and will sign a one-day contract to retire a Jet.
Mangold will always be remembered as a true workhorse and a genuinely nice guy off the field. He’s also provided many funny moments throughout his career with the Jets thanks to his antics and well, no one ever had a better beard than Mangold on the Jets. It’s likely no one ever will in the future either.
Next: 6. One super fast kickoff/punt returner
6. Running Back Leon Washington
Blazing speed. Breaking tackles with ease and precision. Scoring a plethora of touchdowns whether he was returning a kickoff or coming out of the backfield. These are just a handful of the amazing skills running back Leon Washington had with the Jets.
Believe it or not, Washington wasn’t drafted until Round 4 of the 2006 NFL Draft and didn’t make much of an impact until his second season in the pros. Washington will forever be remembered for being a utility kind of player that made quite the impact no matter what role he was in on offense or special teams.
He was a solid running back, would make big plays as a receiving option, but truly made a name for himself as a special teams return specialist. In just four years with the Jets as a kickoff return specialist, Washington totaled 2,986 yards and four touchdowns.
One crazy stat is that if you combine every touchdown Washington scored from the multiple roles he played with the Jets, it’s 19! One can only imagine how many more he could have scored had Washington spent his entire10-year career with the Jets.
Next: 5. An incredible old-school pass rusher
5. Defensive End Mark Gastineau
I was just a few years old when I remember seeing members of the infamous “New York Sack Exchange” wreak havoc against opposing quarterbacks. Out of the group, defensive end Mark Gastineau stood out the most to me.
He was an incredible old-school pass rusher that I always rooted for to take down opposing quarterbacks and remind them who they were playing against. Gastineau had a tough-as-nails mentality and would often times create some historic sack dances everytime he took down a quarterback.
And boy, take down quarterbacks he did. Gastineau racked up 74.0 sacks in his legendary tenure with the Jets, spending his entire 10 years in the pros with the city that never sleeps.
Gastineau was drafted in Round 2 of the 1979 NFL Draft and would earn five Pro Bowls representing the Jets well in the yearly all-star event. He’ll easily go down in history as one of the best defensive ends the Jets ever had and one of their best decisions in deciding to draft him.
Next: 4. A defensive lineman that did it all
4. Defensive Lineman Joe Klecko
It’s hard to mention the “New York Sack Exchange” without mentioning defensive lineman Joe Klecko. The man that literally did everything and anything he was asked to do and then some.
Klecko is the only defensive player in NFL history to get selected to the Pro Bowl at different positions. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, Klecko made history by going to the Pro Bowl as a defensive end, defensive tackle, and a nose tackle.
The Jets took a flier on Klecko as he was drafted in Round 6 of the 1977 NFL Draft. Selecting players so late in the NFL Draft usually means it’s mostly for depth purposes or at the very least, a player to keep around to compete in training camp.
Klecko ended up being one of the greatest draft picks ever in Jets history as he ended his career with 24.0 sacks officially on his stat sheet. He accumulated many more in the late 1970s but unfortunately, at that time, sacks weren’t considered a real stat. Either way, there is no denying the impact Klecko had on the Jets and on the game of professional football.
Next: 3. A cornerback that had his own island
3. Cornerback Darrelle Revis
During his prime, Darrelle Revis was easily the best cornerback playing in the NFL. He was so proficient in covering top receiving options that he got the nickname “Revis Island” because there was no way anyone would be successful throwing his way without suffering the consequences.
Revis hauled in 25 interceptions in his eight-year career with the Jets. Known as a “cornerback for hire” across the league, Revis demanded top dollar for his services. While many didn’t like his mentality for thinking like that, he was the best of the best for a reason.
At the end of the day, Revis will go down in history as one of the greatest players to ever wear a Jets uniform and will easily make his case towards being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Selected in the 2007 NFL Draft with the No. 14 overall pick, the Jets got it right in making him their next cornerstone player on defense.
Revis was a locker room leader and delivered in clutch moments during his prime. Towards the end of his career, he lost a step due to injuries but will likely have his jersey number eventually retired by the Jets for everything he did with the organization during his better playing days.
Next: 2. A quarterback that guaranteed a Super Bowl victory
2. Quarterback Joe Namath
I know, I know. How dare I put quarterback Joe Namath second on my list when selecting the top 10 greatest draft selections of all-time for the Jets. Here me out for a moment, please.
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Namath will forever be known as one of the greatest quarterbacks in Jets history and rightfully so. When the Jets drafted him No. 1 overall in the 1965 AFL Draft, they knew what they were getting. A gunslinger that had determination, grit, and swagger.
When Namath guaranteed the Jets would beat the powerhouse Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, everyone probably thought he was crazy. The rest is history as Namath did his part in winning the first and only championship in Jets history. For the most part, when compared to other quarterbacks the Jets would eventually have after his departure, nobody has come close to producing such results.
To me, there is one player that I’m giving the nod to only because of their importance in winning that epic Super Bowl where the Jets were the ultimate underdog. Yes, Namath will forever be a legend but to me, this particular running back will end up being the greatest draft selection of all-time by the Jets.
Next: 1. A running back that pushed the Jets into a championship
1. Running Back Matt Snell
Back then in the late 1960s of the NFL, a strong running game was needed if a team wanted to be successful. Luckily for the Jets, they selected running back Matt Snell with the No. 3 overall pick in the 1964 AFL Draft, a year before Broadway Joe.
At 6-2 and 219lbs., Snell was a power running back that was extremely hard to take down. In the biggest game of his entire nine-year career with the Jets, Snell put on a clinic against the Colts with many believing he should have won MVP of Super Bowl III over Namath.
In that championship game, Snell totaled 121 rushing yards, 30 rushes, and one touchdown. Namath was a solid game manager against the Colts but it was Snell that stole the show and was too much to handle by their defense.
There is no telling what would have happened in Super Bowl III if it wasn’t for Snell and the big impact he had in the game. If it wasn’t for him, things would have been flipped and Namath’s guarantee could have ended up being one huge joke for decades to come if they couldn’t back it up. Luckily, Snell stepped up and delivered when the Jets needed it most making him the greatest draft selection of all-time for the franchise.