New York Jets Countdown to Draft Day: The Best No. 79 picks in NFL Draft History

As draft day approaches, ESM continues to look back on the best players chosen in the New York Jets’ current draft slots.

The New York Jets currently own eight draft picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, which begins on Thursday night in a virtual setting (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC/NFL Network).

To commemorate the path to the draft, ESM counts down the greatest picks chosen in the Jets’ respective positions. We’re into the day two portion, as we look back at the best picks taken at No. 79, the latter of their third-round choices.

1958: DB Johnny Sample, Baltimore

Ironically, one of the contributors to the AFL’s ultimate triumph began his professional career as an NFL draft pick. Sample would play his final three seasons of his career with the Jets of the AFL, earning 17 interceptions in that span. His swan song helped change the face of pro football, partaking in a shutdown effort of his former employers’ offense. The Jets triumphed 16-7 over the Colts in Super Bowl III.

1966: RB Walt Garrison, Dallas

Garrison’s toughness made him a legend in Cowboys lore. Notably, he played the 1971 NFC title game with a broken collarbone and wound up with the de facto game-winning score in the Dallas’ 17-10 win over the 49ers to go to their first Super Bowl. The Cowboys fell short against Baltimore, but Garrison would later lead the next season’s team in receptions en route to the team’s first championship.

1971: DE Lyle Alzado, Denver

A Brooklyn native, Alzado first made a name for himself at Lawrence High School on Long Island. Despite playing in NAIA obscurity at (now-defunct) Yankton College, Alzado drew a fourth-round invite from the Broncos. He would go on to become one of the most fearsome defensive presciences in the league, known for a quick temper and furious style of play. Three All-Pro teams awaited him and he also won the 1977 AFC Player of the Year from UPI. After his 1985 retirement, Alzado developed an acting career, and later became one of the first athletes to publicly address his steroid use. Tragically, Alzado passed away in 1992 after a battle with a brain tumor.

1976: WR Henry Marshall, Kansas City

Bad teams and offensive philosophies prevented Marshall from becoming a major name outside of Kansas City, but he did make an impression on the Chiefs’ history books. He currently ranks fourth in the team ledger in both receptions (416) and yardage (6,545), earned over a dozen-year career played entirely at Arrowhead.

1977: RB Wendell Tyler, LA Rams

This Shreveport native was California dreaming after a strong career at UCLA. He first partook in six seasons with the Rams (leading the league with a 5.1 average carry in 1979) before hooking up with San Francisco. Sharing reps with Roger Craig, Tyler ran for a career-high 1,262 yards en route to the 49ers’ triumph in Super Bowl XIX.

1979: RB William Andrews, Atlanta

The unfortunate case of Andrews is one of the finest “what might have been” stories in NFL history. Over his first three seasons, he put up 5,132 yards from scrimmage, including a league-leading 2,036 in 1981. The only reason a streak of four-digit rushing yard seasons was stopped at four was because of the strike that shortened the 1982 campaign. He returned to form with a career-best 1,567 a year later. Alas, a devastating knee injury suffered during the 1984 preseason ended one of the more show-stopping short careers in league history. Andrews ranked 24th in all-time rushing yards upon his 1986 retirement.

1993: DT Gilbert Brown, Minnesota

Brown failed to make the Vikings’ roster out of training camp, but he left an impression on one of their biggest rivals. Immediately picked up by the Packers, he became a Green Bay fan favorite thanks to his massive size but reliable quickness, as well as a celebratory dance known as “The Gravedigger”. In the illustrious history of the Packers, only Brett Favre, Mason Crosby, and Aaron Rogers have partaken in more playoff games than Brown.

2001: T Kareem McKenzie, NY Jets

The Trenton native McKenzie returned to being a New Jersey football staple after his four years at Penn State were up. He would pave the way for running backs like Curtis Martin and Tiki Barber to make history, as each set franchise records during McKenzie’s tenures with both the Jets (2001-04) and Giants (2005-11). McKenzie would also earn a pair of rings with the Giants, contributing to both wins over New England.

2005: G Evan Mathis, Carolina

Football is literally in Mathis’ blood, as his uncle was former five-time Pro Bowler and fellow Alabama alum Bob Baumhower. After his original years with the Panthers and later Cincinnati, Mathis was named Pro Football Focus’ top offensive guard in three consecutive seasons (2011-13) while donning the colors of the Philadelphia Eagles. He would later help the Denver Broncos win Super Bowl 50 over his former southern comrades.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags