The NY Jets have been one of the NFL's worst drafting franchises in recent history. Even discounting the likes of Kyle Brady, Lam Jones, and Blair Thomas, just the last 15 years have been a true masterpiece of poor drafting.
Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus recently released an article detailing the worst draft pick from every NFL team over the last 15 years. Despite countless options to choose from, Renner surprisingly chose Mark Sanchez as the Jets' representative.
Contrary to popular belief (here's looking at you, Twitter), this was not the opinion shared by any of us here at The Jet Press. Not the person writing this. Not any of our writers (at least those who I have spoken to). Not Mr. and Mrs. The Jet Press. Not even my wife.
Even my wife is aware that Sanchez, while far from perfect, shouldn't even be in consideration for this unfortunate title. Or maybe she doesn't know Mark Sanchez from Mark Gastineau.
Regardless, the point stands.
The NY Jets have had many, many worse draft picks than Mark Sanchez.
There are various ways to tackle this discussion. But first, let's start by dissecting the argument that Renner makes, because it does have some validity. As in, he didn't just make it up out of thin air.
Below is Renner's argument in favor (or rather, against) Sanchez.
"There’s a lot of good content to choose from for the Jets here, with Dee Milliner, Sam Darnold and Vernon Gholston all making strong cases. Darnold was obviously the highest-drafted, but they subsequently got a nice little return from the Panthers for him, so it’s hard to say it’s to ding the value too hard. Sanchez, however, took a lot of draft capital to secure via trade and quite easily cost one of the best rosters in the NFL a chance at a Super Bowl."- Michael Renner
The two points the author makes are that the Jets gave up "a lot of" draft capital to trade up for Sanchez and that his shortcomings as a quarterback essentially wasted the Super Bowl window the organization had.
There are elements of truth to both, but each argument ignores context.
The Jets did trade up to secure Sanchez moving up 12 spots from No. 17 to No. 5 overall. By today's standards, such a trade would have cost multiple first-round picks at a bare minimum.
But in 2009, the Jets traded away their first and second-round picks as well as three players — Kenyon Coleman, Abram Elam, and Brett Ratliff. Even at the time, that was considered incredible value.
The Cleveland Browns, the team who traded back, didn't get much out of their return package. Coleman was a fine veteran run stopper, but he played just two seasons in Cleveland.
Elam was another quality veteran who lasted just two years with the Browns. And Ratliff, a former undrafted free agent, never played a snap in the NFL.
Even with Sanchez's lack of long-term success, it's hard to say the Jets didn't win the trade.
That all but dispels the "a lot of draft capital" argument. Even by 2009 standards, the deal the Jets got was a steal of the highest magnitude. And when all was said and done, they came away as the winners of the trade.
The NY Jets made a worse quarterback selection eight years later.
Moreover, consider what the Jets surrendered for Sam Darnold, another failed quarterback draftee, in 2018. The Jets sent three second-round picks to the Indianapolis Colts to move up three spots for the man they hoped would be their franchise savior.
After a few trades, that deal ultimately resulted in the Colts drafting guard Quenton Nelson, tackle Braden Smith, defensive end Kemoko Turay, running back Jordan Wilkins, and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin.
Nelson is arguably the best guard in football. Smith is an above-average starting right tackle and just turned 25. Ya-Sin has started 21 career games to mixed results. And Wilkins and Turay are both rotational players at their respective positions.
The Jets not only gave up more draft capital to select Darnold, but they used a higher draft pick on him. In fact, the only quarterback in Jets history (prior to Zach Wilson) to be selected earlier was Joe Namath.
Perhaps it's too early to write Sam Darnold off as a player. But it's not too early to write off the disaster of a draft pick that this was for Gang Green.
Yes, his career was sabotaged by a terrible supporting cast. But that doesn't change the horrendous return on investment the Jets got on that pick, even when you consider the package the Jets got in the Carolina trade earlier this offseason.
The Sam Darnold pick turned out to be worse than the Mark Sanchez pick. This isn't comparing the players, it's comparing the return on investment.
Did Mark Sanchez waste a great NY Jets team?
Of course, this is where context is important. And Renner attempts to add context when discussing the supporting cast that Sanchez was surrounded with earlier in his career.
The 2009 and 2010 Jets legitimately had one of the best rosters in football. A premier offensive line and running game joined forces with an elite defense to provide a stable backbone for a Super Bowl run.
And on two different occasions, the Jets came just one game away from reaching the pinnacle of football for the first time since Super Bowl III. On both occasions, they failed. But placing that blame on Sanchez is revisionist history.
Mark Sanchez may have been a below-average quarterback in the regular season, but in those two postseason runs, he was the best version of himself.
In six career postseason stars, Sanchez boasts a 9-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 94.3 QB rating. Sanchez ranks 11th all-time in postseason QB rating among qualified players directly behind Drew Brees, Joe Montana, and Russell Wilson.
Sanchez isn't the reason the Jets failed to reach the Super Bowl. If anything, his performance in the playoffs helped them reach the point they did.
Both of Renner's arguments, while sound, in theory, ignore context. They ignore the package the Jets actually gave up for Sanchez (and the comparison to the Darnold trade) and they ignore his stellar postseason play.
The analytics don't support this theory either.
Let's look at things from a metrics/analytics standpoint now.
Pro Football Reference uses a metric they call Approximate Value (AV) to determine the true value of a player's career. Various stats ate taken into accounts and it's hardly a perfect measure, but it is something we could use as a point of reference.
Sanchez has a career AV of 33, most of which was accumulated during his time with the Jets. Evidently, not a player who developed into a long-term franchise quarterback, but one that was serviceable for a number of years.
For reference, Darelle Revis had an AV of 94. Nick Mangold had an AV of 67. Those are excellent figures. Sanchez's 33 isn't spectacular, but it's respectable.
A few comparable career figures from previous Jets drafts are Dwight Lowery (35), Erik Coleman (34), Brian Winters (30), and Leon Washington (30). All four of those players were quality depth pieces/starters for a number of years.
Is that what you're looking for when you draft a quarterback sixth overall? Absolutely not. But compare Sanchez to a number of other recent draft picks and a different picture is painted.
Vernon Gholston had a career AV of 8, which is quite frankly higher than it probably should be. Dee Milliner had an AV of 10. Both players were recent first-round picks who fit the criteria and were objectively worse picks than Sanchez.
Including non-first-round picks, everyone's mind should immediately shift to Christian Hackenberg. And if your definition of "worst" is something along the lines of "boneheaded pick that was always a bad idea," then Hackenberg might claim the titular honors.
Hackenberg never suited up for an NFL game and, thus, has an AV of 0. The same could be said for Jachai Polite whose AV with the Jets was a whopping 0.
You could even go down the rabbit hole of how the Hackenberg pick impacted the Jets organization. If the Jets don't draft Hackenberg, they likely target a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft — perhaps leaving them with their pick of Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes.
But then again, that means they don't land Jamal Adams and the subsequent return they received from Seattle.
Again, this is a rabbit hole you don't want to go down. And the "what if" factor is the biggest reason why we can't truly pinpoint who the worst Jets draft pick of the last 15 years really is. It all depends on how you define "worst."
But whether it's Hackenberg, Gholston, or one of the many other Jets busts of the last decade-and-a-half (Calvin Pryor, Quinton Coples, Darron Lee, etc.), it seems clear that Mark Sanchez isn't really in the conversation.
He was a below-average quarterback who started 62 career games with the Jets. And his excellent postseason play dispels the myth that he cost the Jets a Super Bowl title.
Mark Sanchez will forever be a flawed, imperfect figure in NY Jets history. That's part of his charm.
But put some respect on this man's name. He's far from the worst Jets draft pick of the last 15 years.