Barring any shocking trades, the New York Jets will have multiple first-round picks for the ninth time in franchise history.
For the ninth time in franchise history, the New York Jets fill out at least two draft cards during first-round action at the NFL Draft…barring any unforeseen developments, of course. New York holds the second overall pick in this year’s draft (one all but confirmed to be used on their next franchise quarterback), while they also hold the 23rd overall choice obtained from Seattle in last offseason’s Jamal Adams deal. The process is currently on pace to repeat itself next year.
How did the Jets and those picks of years gone by fare? ESM takes a trip down draft memory lane…
- QB Joe Namath, Alabama (1st)
- RB Tom Nowatzke, Indiana (4th)
Namath was the subject of an AFL-NFL bidding war and was drafted by both leagues in November 1964. True to his larger-than-life form, Namath made some high-roller requests from his NFL employers, the St. Louis Cardinals (who chose him 12th overall). When the Cardinals made a request of their own (asking him to sign immediately, which would render Namath ineligible for the upcoming Orange Bowl against Texas), Namath turned them down and joined the Jets. He’d take his advantage against the NFL in the best way possible, the legendary Super Bowl III triumph that changed the course of professional football.
The Jets had Denver’s pick in that same draft and took Nowatzke, a Big Ten rushing champion out of Bloomington. Nowatzke was the opposite of Namath, turning down the AFL to play in the NFL, chosen 11th by the Detroit Lions. He moved onto the Baltimore Colts, the Jets’ Super Bowl III victims, in 1970 and wound up scoring the team’s lone touchdown in their Big Game triumph over Dallas two years after Namath’s guarantee. After the Jets chose Nowatzke, the Kansas City Chiefs chose future Hall of Fame Gale Sayers…who likewise turned down the AFL.
- WR/TE Jerome Barkum, Jackson State (9th)
- LB Mike Taylor, Michigan (20th)
Barkum quietly built one of the longest and successful receiving tenures in Jets history as both a receiver and a tight end. He notably reached a Pro Bowl in his second NFL season and stands as one of only four Jets to catch at least 40 touchdowns in green (Don Maynard, Wesley Walker, and Wayne Chrebet are the others). Barkum also ranks eighth in career yardage (4,789) and ninth in receptions (326).
Taylor’s tenure wasn’t so prosperous. The consensus All-American lasted only two seasons in the NFL, opting to join the short-lived World Football League’s Detroit Wings after that.
- CB Russell Carter, SMU (10th)
- DE Ron Faurot, Arkansas (15th)
Carter, another All-American nominee, had a strong start to his NFL career, earning four interceptions in his debut year. He notably earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors during Week 15 action in December, earning two sacks and an interception in a win over Buffalo. Alas, Carter never earned another NFL interception and lasted only four seasons in New York before partaking in two years with the Los Angeles Raiders to end his career. Making the Carter dropout all the more painful by the fact that Wilbur Marshall went to Chicago at No. 11. Marshall would join the Jets for his final season in 1995…after reaching three Pro Bowls and earning both a Super Bowl title and the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Year title.
Meanwhile, Faurot, acquired with a pick from New Orleans in exchange for former franchise quarterback Richard Todd, saw his career derailed by injuries and was released before the midway mark of his sophomore season.
- TE Kyle Brady, Penn State (9th)
- DE Hugh Douglas, Central State (16th)
It’s probably not officially draft day until the networks roll the clip of horrified Jets fans booing the choice of Brady, who was chosen three picks before Warren Sapp (and Sapp’s fellow future Pro Bowlers Mark Fields and Ruben Brown). Brady never made Jets fans forget about Sapp, but he had his share of moments in green and lasted 13 seasons in the league, most of them spent with Jacksonville.
The Jets used the 16th pick acquired from Arizona (for receiver Rob Moore) to take NAIA standout Douglas. He burst onto the scene with 10 sacks and Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, but the Jets nonetheless dealt him to Philadelphia in a process that netted them four picks that became Dorian Boose, Kevin Williams, Eric Bateman, and Casey Dailey. Douglas apparently took the deal personally and put up two All-Pro seasons in a different shade of green, notably leading the league in tackles for a loss twice.
- DE Shaun Ellis, Tennessee (12th)
- LB John Abraham, South Carolina (13th)
- QB Chad Pennington, Marshall (18th)
- TE Anthony Becht, Virginia (27th)
The cost was great…namely losing future Super Bowl champions Bill Belichick and Keyshawn Johnson…but the Jets managed to get four consistent contributors that set them up for a solid decade. Ellis and Abraham united for 126 sacks with a green oval on their helmet, while Pennington took over the franchise quarterback role by 2002, working with a reliable red zone target in Becht.
Between 2000 and 2005 (when Abraham departed for Atlanta through a trade we’ll get to in a minute), the Jets earned four winning seasons and won a pair of playoff games. Ellis would last until 2010, reaching two Pro Bowls as a Jet. Pennington earned the league’s Comeback Player of the Year honor in 2006, when he got the Jets back to the playoffs after missing a majority of the prior campaign with an injury. Alas, Pennington provided payback when the Jets ousted him for Brett Favre in 2008, joining Miami for a division title run that ran through Giants Stadium.
- T D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia (4th)
- C Nick Mangold, Ohio State (29th)
By far the most productive of the multi-first round classes, Ferguson and Mangold became cornerstones of the Jets’ offense, paving the way for the consecutive visits to the AFC title game in 2010-11.
The idea of Jets fan booing D’Brickashaw Ferguson seems downright absurd, but it was a reality upon his drafting in 2006. Fans desperate to see USC legend Matt Leinart come out to the east coast gave Ferguson a not-so-friendly welcome, but the Freeport native was able to silence his doubters 160 consecutive starts, three Pro Bowls, and a single missed snap later.
Meanwhile, Mangold arrived through a trade that sent Abraham down south and more than made up for the defender’s departure. His blocking intensity was matched only by his personality, one that continues to show itself through appearances at local sports events, namely New York Rangers games at Madison Square Garden.
- DE Vernon Gholston, Ohio State (6th)
- TE Dustin Keller, Purdue (30th)
Blessed with another multi-pick first round two years later, the Jets again attempted to mine talent out of Columbus but came up horrendously short with Gholston. He was supposed to make a major difference in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 set, namely through his edge-rushing abilities. Alas, Gholston failed to record a single sack over three seasons in green before he was unceremoniously released in 2011. Among the Pro Bowlers passed in favor of Gholston were Jerod Mayo, Ryan Clady (who played his final season with the Jets in 2016), and Jonathan Stewart.
A pick obtained from the Packers (sending over their second and fourth-round picks) was far more lucrative, even if his NFL time was unfortunately cut short. Keller was a reliable target and for four seasons before injuries took over his career.
- CB Dee Milliner, Alabama (9th)
- DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri (13th)
After a rocky rookie season, Milliner seemed to have some momentum going into his sophomore campaign with three interceptions over his final pair of games. Alas, he became another victim of the injury bug and he wound up playing only eight more NFL games over the next two seasons.
The Jets didn’t miss out on much between Milliner and their pick obtained from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Darelle Revis (Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker, and D.J Hayden each went in that span). Richardson was the eventual honoree in the 13th slot and enjoyed some good gridiron memories before legal issues caused the Jets to seek out a trade. He narrowly missed out on the Defensive Rookie of the Year award that went to Kiko Alonso and also stands as the only defender in Jets history to earn two rushing scores (briefly lining up as a fullback in certain situations). Richardson was traded to Seattle in 2017 and recently wrapped up a two-year stint in Cleveland.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags