New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan has oftentimes been criticized for his poor draft history. Here’s a list of some of the worst in his tenure with the team.
It has become one of his biggest criticisms and remains the primary reason many hoped he would be kicked to the curb at the end of this past season. Put simply, general manager Mike Maccagnan has not drafted well during his time with the New York Jets.
Maccagnan has overseen four drafts while with the Jets and will conduct his fifth with the organization this April. The fifth-year executive has had his share of hits, particularly in the first round of past drafts, but his inability to land contributing players in the mid-rounds has hindered the progress of the franchise.
Whether it has been reaching on underdeveloped players early in the draft or taking chances on older, low-ceiling prospects, Maccagnan’s drafts have lacked contributions from more than a handful of players.
None of his drafts have been complete failures with at least one hit in each class. But none of them have stood out with no more than two-to-three solid contributors in any of the classes.
Despite his background in collegiate scouting, Maccagnan has missed more than he’s hit and the Jets will be hoping that he could turn that around in this year’s NFL Draft. But for now, let’s take a look at some of his most infamous draft shortcomings.
5. DL Nathan Shepherd – 3rd Round, 2018
Perhaps it’s a bit premature to put Nathan Shepherd on this list given that he’s only played one season. But the timing of the selection and the high draft pick used on him makes it reasonable.
Shepherd was selected as an early third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft after a strong performance in last year’s Senior Bowl. With a plethora of needs and just three picks in the top five rounds, it seemed likely that the Jets would look to target a position of need with this pick.
Instead, they took a flier on a 24-year-old interior defensive lineman out of Division II Fort Hays State.
While he entered training camp with a ton of hype surrounding him, Shepherd failed to make any sort of an impact in his first NFL season. The rookie finished with just 15 tackles in 16 games posting more than one tackle in just one game all season.
The remainder of his game logs looked more like binary code than football stat lines. Just ones and zeros.
Shepherd projects as a rotational defensive lineman for the Jets going forward, although he may be given a chance at a starting role again in 2019 with Henry Anderson unlikely to return to the team. Regardless, Shepherd will already be 26-years-old by the second week of the season capping his potential.
Not exactly what you’re looking for from a top-75 draft pick.
Next: 4. Lorenzo Mauldin
4. OLB Lorenzo Mauldin – 3rd Round, 2015
The 2015 draft was Maccagnan’s first as Jets general manager and it was likely his worst class. Edge rusher Lorenzo Mauldin is a large part of the reason for this.
Drafted to be the heir-apparent to the retiring Calvin Pace, Mauldin played just two years in a Jets uniform before being released following the 2018 preseason. Injuries played a part in Mauldin’s shortcomings suffering injuries in both of his first two seasons before a back injury put him on the shelf for all of 2017.
The Louisville product was drafted in the third round with the No. 82 overall draft selection meaning that the Jets expected some sort of immediate impact from the rookie. Although he did manage to pick up a respectable four sacks in his first year, Mauldin would only record 2.5 more in his career.
Since his Jets release, Mauldin has been unable to catch on with another NFL team despite numerous tryouts. Perhaps he could try his luck in the newly formed Alliance of American Football as he tries to jumpstart his once-promising NFL career.
But all that remains now is the remnants of one of Maccagnan’s biggest draft misses.
Next: 3. ArDarius Stewart
3. WR ArDarius Stewart – 3rd Round, 2017
Maccagnan’s string of underwhelming third-round picks continues here with likely the most disappointing of the group.
The Jets drafted ArDarius Stewart in the third round of the 2017 draft to help be a part of the team’s young crop of receivers. Robby Anderson had shown promise in 2016 and Quincy Enunwa was fresh off a breakout campaign. To continue the youth movement, the team added Stewart and California receiver Chad Hansen in back-to-back rounds to hopefully solidify a young receiver core as a legitimate strength.
Unfortunately, just one year later both were looking for work elsewhere.
Stewart edges out Hansen on this list for the fact that he was taken a whole 63 picks prior and that he was actually outperformed by the latter, if only slightly. The Alabama product finished his Jets career with just six grabs for 82 yards mostly playing special teams in his only season with the team.
In fact, Stewart touched the ball more times on wide receiver reverses (seven carries) and kick returns (nine returns) than he did actually catching the football.
Much like the aforementioned Shepherd, Stewart was 24-years-old before the end of his rookie season making this pick head-scratching at the time. Especially with more intriguing prospects like Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, and Dede Westbrook still on the board.
These are the types of picks that have tarnished Maccagnan’s resume and when given the context around the selection, it’s not hard to see why.
Next: 2. Devin Smith
2. WR Devin Smith – 2nd Round, 2015
This one stings to put on here as wide receiver Devin Smith was never really given much of a chance to succeed in the NFL. But when you’re a top-40 selection and gone from the team after just two active seasons, there’s no way around the inevitable “bust label.”
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Smith could never seem to catch a break during his time with the Jets suffering multiple torn ACL’s in the same knee limiting him to just 14 career games. The speedy deep threat was drafted to be the field-stretcher the Jets had been lacking to that point but he was never able to string together any consistent stretch of games due to his injuries.
The Ohio State product finished his Jets career with just 10 catches for 135 yards and a touchdown serving as just another entry in the long line of failed Jets second-round picks. While it’s unfair to blame this one solely on Maccagnan given that Smith had no injury history to speak of at Ohio State, the pick was ultimately one of his worst from a production standpoint.
Receivers such as Stefon Diggs, Tyler Lockett, and Jamison Crowder would be selected later in the draft making this pick all the more disappointing. Smith recently signed on with the Dallas Cowboys in an attempt to rejuvenate his career. Hopefully, he’ll be able to get things turned around with a change of scenery and a clean slate.
But Smith stands as one of the Jets worst picks in recent memory and a major blemish on Maccagnan’s legacy.
Next: 1. Christian Hackenberg
1. QB Christian Hackenberg – 2nd Round, 2016
You knew this would be number one. Everyone did.
Without a doubt, the pick that Maccagnan gets the most flack for still to this day is the selection of Christian Hackenberg in the second round of the 2016 draft.
And make no mistake about it, it’s all well-deserved.
Hackenberg was a mess at Penn State playing in some of the darkest days for the program following the sanctions placed on them by the NCAA in 2012. He had the look of a premier quarterback and the arm talent to get it done but required significant development in college to be considered a legitimate top NFL draft pick.
Unfortunately, Hackenberg only regressed throughout his college career to the point where many analysts projected him as a late Day 3 pick as opposed to the first-rounder many thought he would have been. Regardless, the Jets made the controversial decision to draft him with their second-round pick in 2016.
The move was met with widespread criticism and it wasn’t made better by the fact that the team opted to carry him as their fourth-string quarterback for much of his rookie season. Despite remaining on the roster for two years, Hackenberg never actually stepped foot on the field for an actual regular season game before being shipped away to the Oakland Raiders a little under a year ago.
The former Penn State standout now resides on the Memphis Express in the Alliance of American Football where he has struggled mightily so far.
At the end of the day, Hackenberg was a massive reach of a pick for a quarterback who needed development but never really seemed to actually develop. He sat firmly on the bench for two years before being traded away never to see actual NFL action. That timeline sounds like that of an undrafted quarterback, not one selected with the 51st overall pick in the draft.
It wasn’t that Hackenberg was bad, because he was very bad. It’s that everyone knew how bad he was except for seemingly Maccagnan and the Jets.
And unfortunately, everyone else was proven right after two dreadfully wasted seasons.