ESM EXCLUSIVE: Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Morten Andersen

Andersen, the former leading scorer in the NFL, spoke with ESM about his specialist exploits and the role sports can play upon its return.

Morten Andersen achieved a lot over a football that lasted nearly 30 years. He was denied a Super Bowl ring, but his ledger features nearly everything else a kicker can accomplish at the professional level.

Among the accolades are a pair of All-Decade Team nominations, six All-Pro invites, seven more to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, and two All-American nods during his early 1980s college days at Michigan State. To date, no player has appeared in more NFL games than Andersen. He formerly held the record for the most points in NFL history, though Adam Vinatieri stole that one away in October 2018. Andersen nonetheless beat Vinatieri to the Hall of Fame. His Hall call made him the second placekicker to enter Canton’s hallowed gates.

Even in retirement, Andersen, who spent the 2001 season with the New York Giants, is still updating his resume. He was recently informed by friends and family that he emerged as an answer on the game show Jeopardy!. The Copenhagen native was told he was part of a category labeled “Great Danes”.

“I was one of the answers…it was cool,” the Hall-of-Famer says with a laugh. “My phone blew up about a month ago. I don’t watch Jeopardy! on the regular, but my friends apparently do. They took screenshots and told me, ‘dude, you’re on Jeopardy! right now.”

Newfound syndicated glory was just one of the many topics Andersen covered in an exclusive sit-down with ESM…

(This interview was made possible with help from NJ Online Gambling)

Q: What do you recall about your time with the 2001 New York Giants, who played their games in the midst of September 11’s aftermath? 

A: It was a weird time with 9/11. I had literally just won the job from Brad Daluiso at the very beginning of the season. I had one preseason game against Baltimore. The following week, we opened the season in Denver on Monday Night Football September 10. Of course, the next day, all hell broke loose and we all know what happened then. So it was a weird time. My wife and two-year son Sebastian was supposed to come down on that Tuesday to look for a house. I was just staying in a hotel at the time and everything got locked down.

It was a very powerful time to be a Giant, to understand how sports really, eventually, galvanizes people, really pulls people together. I think New Yorkers, people were searching some sense of normalcy. I think, in some way, that fell on us to provide that peace after so much devastation.

That was great to be a part of. We had some great characters like Michael Strahan, Tiki Barber, Kerry Collins. We had a good football team. It was the year after the Giants lost to Baltimore in the Super Bowl. I enjoyed (head coach) Jim Fassel, I really enjoyed the big stage. I think that’s one thing I take away from the New York Football Giants, besides really great ownership with (Wellington) Mara and (Steve) Tisch, was the fact that it was the biggest stage in the world. We were practicing in East Rutherford, looking over at Manhattan going ‘holy crap…this is a big as it gets’.

Q: On the theme of sports being a great normalizer, do you think they can play a similar role when this current crisis ends?

A: Yes, I think there are a lot of parallels. Right now, it seems like there’s a lot of doom and gloom. It feels like an entertainment cemetery, where it’s a desert. There’s nothing out there to engage us in a normal fashion. We actually have to think about what to do every day now. It can become a bit of a Groundhog Day situation.

I think sports will bring everybody together and signal to us that things are back to normal. We can follow our favorite teams again. We can now make a friendly wager with our buddies, we can get out there and engage again, get to social media and start bantering, restart your fantasy football leagues, all those things that signal that we’re back to business as usual.

That’s what I hope happens. I think (sports) are going to come back more strong than they were before. I think people now, in these months where this void has been hemming, I think we’re all realizing, if you’re a sports fan anyway, how much you miss it, how much you miss that daily interaction. Not only with your buddies, but with your favorite team, following your favorite players, and engaging not only on social media, but just watching the games. Interacting with families, with the barbecues, with all the getting together.

All of these things are Americana we’re missing right now. It hurts. We’re suffering, I feel. (But) I feel that we’ll be back to it.

Q: With the lack of live sports, have you partaken in the airing of classic games…like the 1999 NFC title game?

A: That was a huge game! The Falcons recently streamed it through their social media services. I think it was well-viewed. I’m not sure how many, but it was a significant number. That was a huge moment for me and for the team, because it was the first time we were able to go to the Super Bowl.

I also saw the Saints-Falcons game after (Hurricane) Katrina a couple of weeks ago. That was my first game in a public park after 20 months unemployed. I had been out of football for 20 months and that was my game back with the Falcons against my old team, the Saints.

If there’s one thing that’s interesting through this coronavirus time, it’s that we get to see these historic games, these old games, some of which I was a part of. It kind of dates me! But we get to see other great players, some of the Niners games, the Giants games, it’s been fun to watch some of the games from the 80s, from the 90s. Some of the games you forgot who played. You can sit back and, if you want to TiVo it, you can fast forward through the slow time. It’s cool, it’s a good idea. They’re doing it in all the sports. I’ve been watching replays of the Rio Olympics, which is fun to watch. I love the Olympics. Old Masters highlights. I’ve always watched a three-hour Seve Ballesteros documentary. His whole story is fascinating to me.

Q: As a European native, how can the NFL continue to increase its footprint in the continent in a constructive way?

A: They’re doing it right now with GamePass and their partners. GamePass is significant because of the way the younger generation engages and watches sports. I’m 59, so I’m a linear media guy. I like to watch television. Give me a big screen, high-def with surround sound all day long. My kids, on the other hand, are 15 and 20 years old. They don’t engage that way. They’re on their platforms. They’re on their phones, their iPads, and that’s how they get their news, entertainment, and sports, which is not the way I grew up.

Having a team in, say, London would be a huge step forward. Getting a European team somewhere where you can still play games in the US would be a challenge, but having a viable NFL franchise in London would be a huge step.

When you travel from New York to San Diego, it’s a six-hour flight. London’s also a shorter flight than, say, Miami to Seattle. So, you have the time zone, it’s a five-hour difference. The NFL’s smart, so there’s a way to stage games where you two away games, two home games, where the (London) team wouldn’t fly back-and-forth, but ‘stay’.

I would love to see it. I loved NFL Europe. I actually did some games for Fox for about a month. I stayed in Amsterdam, following the Admirals. I also did a Hamburg game, a Cologne game. I thought that league was great. A lot of great players, Kurt Warner, Adam Vinatieri, James Harrison, came out of it. You can go on, and on, and on about the talent that was given the opportunity that they otherwise would’ve never had.

Q: Could the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas move to Las Vegas help, particularly be attracting British tourists? 

A: I think it’s going to be great and sold out every single game. The Raiders were stuck in Oakland and the deal with the city could not be worked out for the stadium. Every stadium now needs luxury suites, large LED screens, amenities, parking and a general positive feeling about playing or spectating – and I don’t think you had that in Oakland.

“It was authentic for the fans and the Raiders are an iconic franchise with an iconic logo. But the truth is it was a small stadium in a bad neighborhood. Half of the pitch was dirt, half of grass. You could only put 50,000 people in there and it wasn’t sold out at all when I played there.

Vegas is going to be much more dynamic, they already had a huge store in the airport when I went through there in October. You’re going to a global city now from a commercial standpoint so it’ll be an amazing opportunity for the Raiders to grow their fanbase with all the Brits and Europeans coming in.

Q: In current NFL affairs, how the Patriots go about replacing Tom Brady?

A: I didn’t see Tampa coming at all, it’s a head-scratcher I think he has a place in Florida, but it really surprised me. I thought it was going to be the Chargers in their new stadium or the Raiders, although I knew Tom didn’t deep down want to go to Vegas. It’s too flashy for him.

“While he’s not the player he once was, this whole thing shows that the sport is a business. That you can be the greatest quarterback of all time, without question, and you still don’t get to finish the team you won all those Super Bowls with – it is mind-boggling to me. It’s not about the money, he doesn’t need the $30m that’s for sure!

“Belichick and Kraft must have told him that they wanted to go younger and cheaper in the QB position. And Tom knows his skills have diminished, he is 42 and time stops for no one. Maybe he thought change is good, even at the end of his career.

Maybe Tua Tagovailoa falls to them in the draft, but there are 32 teams, with many needing a good quarterback. I don’t think Cam Newton or Jameis Winston is fitting in with Belichick. Joe Flacco got cut and is out there so he may be a good option and he might get a look if they go for the experience they are known for. But there may just not be enough free agent quality so they will have to start over and hope Belichick continues his knack for developing young guys.

The Patriots will still be good, but they won’t be the same old Pats any more. While they’re in a bad division with the mediocre Dolphins and the terrible Jets, I think the Bills may win the division this year. But every team has to rebuild at some point and the Pats have been at the top for so long.

Q: How Brady can rejuvenate the Buccaneers and be a mentor to some great young players?

A: I think this move can rejuvenate Brady…not that he needs it, he is in good shape. But it’s just that different environment. Remember, Tampa has some really good receivers which Brady can unlock.

You also have the notion that Jameis Winston, who is still really young, could improve if Brady came in. He could really impart some wisdom on how to be a good pro if he wanted to, as long as they don’t ship Winston off to New England!

Same goes for Mike Evans. He and Winston still need to mature especially with some off-the-field stuff, and Brady could help them to do that as a father figure and bring an air of professionalism to the whole franchise.

I’m not sure Brady makes the Bucs contenders, given the Saints are in their division, and they are better than Tampa even with Brady there. A lot of people think Brady is washed up and doesn’t have the mobility anymore. He also has to learn with a totally new team. But for me, he can only be a positive influence.

Q: What were your thoughts on the DeAndre Hopkins trade? 

A: I am lost for words. The Texans have just wholesaled their squad and, in trading DeAndre Hopkins, must have done one of the stupidest pieces of business in NFL history, it’s crazy.

Take the Stefan Diggs trade from the Vikings to the Bills. The Vikings got way more for their player who is nowhere near as good as Hopkins compared to what the Texans got. It’s ludicrous.

This could get Bill O’Brien fired down there. Everybody is going ‘what is this guy thinking?’ They’ve traded away their best player for a second-round pick. It defies all logic, unless it was a personality issue…although I’ve never heard a bad word said about DeAndre Hopkins who is meant to be a great team player.

Of the big free agent moves recently, including Brady and Rivers, for me, Hopkins will make the biggest impact by his absence in Houston. He is easily one of the top three receivers in the league and he will be a difference-maker.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets Countdown to Draft Day: The Best No. 48 picks in NFL Draft History

As draft day approaches, ESM looks 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 their respective positions. The penultimate installment deals with the Jets’ second pick of the draft, coming at No. 48…

1980: C Dwight Stephenson, Miami

It was hard to draw praise from Bear Bryant, but the notoriously stoic Alabama football coach called Stephenson “a man among children”. It took him little time to win starting duties with the Dolphins and he later became the anchor for a line that allowed the fewest sacks in football for six straight seasons. Stephenson’s career was cut short due to a devastating knee injury suffered in a 1987 tilt against the Jets, but he nonetheless earned Hall of Fame honors in 1998. Other honors include 1985’s NFL Man of the Year Award for his community service and the fact that Pro Football Focus bestows the Dwight Stephenson Award to the blocker they deem best, regardless of position.

1981: DE Howie Long, LA Raiders 

Thanks to the antics of Jay Wright, we’re used to seeing Villanova athletes early in drafts…albeit on the basketball circuit. Long’s selection from the Division I-AA Wildcats was quickly well justified, as he went on to bring home eight Pro Bowl nods and the Super Bowl XVIII title, where he and the Raiders’ defense held the lauded Washington run game to 90 yards on 32 carries. After a brief acting career as an action film star (headlining the 1998 film Firestarter), Long made a name for himself as a part of Fox’s NFL coverage.

1990: DB LeRoy Butler, Green Bay

Butler accomplished plenty during a career spent entirely with the Packers. He missed just four games over his first ten seasons and reached four Pro Bowls. His most permanent legacy, however, is his status as the originator of the Lambeau Leap. Butler’s touchdown scored in a 1993 blowout win over the Raiders officially began the Packers’ 1990s heyday, clinching the first of six straight playoff trips. He would play a huge part in helping the Packers bring the Vince Lombardi Trophy back home to Wisconsin in 1997, earning a sack of Drew Bledsoe in the 35-21 triumph over the Patriots.

2001: T Matt Light, New England

One of the longest-tenured members of the New England dynasty at the turn of the century was Light, who became one of Tom Brady’s most trusted protectors. He donned the Flying Elvis helmet for 11 seasons, reaching three Pro Bowls and winning three Super Bowls. Light had previously provided protection for another future Hall of Fame quarterback, Drew Brees, when the two shared time at Purdue.

2013: RB Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh

The current Jets running back heard his name called during the darkest of times for rushers; despite going 48th overall, Bell was actually the second running back selected (Giovanni Bernard went to Cincinnati 11 picks prior). His ugly divorce with the Steelers notwithstanding, he made it a ridiculously worthwhile investment. In just five seasons, Bell placed himself among the ranks of Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis with 7,996 yards from scrimmage to go with 88 total touchdowns. He was able to play that into a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets last offseason.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets Countdown to Draft Day: The Best No. 120 picks in NFL History

As draft day approaches, ESM looks 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 their respective positions. We carry on with the 120th choice, which is currently slated as the Jets’ final pick in the proceedings…

1969: DT Earl Edwards, San Francisco

Edwards was drafted not from college, but from the CFL. His exploits may have been overshadowed by the antics of Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain and downplayed by the sack’s lack of recognition as a stat. He nonetheless went on to become a fearsome pass rusher over an 11-year career that also took him to Cleveland, Buffalo, and Green Bay.

1978: CB Terry Jackson, NY Giants

Jackson literally made an immediate impression on New York football. In his first NFL game, a Giants visit to Tampa Bay, Jackson took back a Doug Williams interception back for a touchdown in a 19-13 win on opening weekend. Jackson, in fact, earned an interception in each of his first four games en route to seven in his rookie campaign. He ended an eight-season career with a total of 28 interceptions.

1993: RB Adrian Murrell, NY Jets

In the dark days of the Rich Kotite era, Murrell was one of the Jets’ rare bright spots. While East Rutherford burned to the flames of a 1-15 record, Murrell finished with a career-best 1,249 rushing yards, good for seventh in the league. Immediately behind him were Emmitt Smith and his eventual successor Curtis Martin. Murrell would again reach four digits under Bill Parcells’ watch in 1997 before heading west to Arizona.

2003: CB Asante Samuel, New England

Samuel is perhaps best known for his historic drop on the New York Giants’ final drive of Super Bowl XLII, but that’s doing the four-time Pro Bowler a great disservice. Two other Super Bowl rings do reside on his fingers and he has scored four touchdowns in the postseason. He also led the league in interceptions twice, most recently in 2009 with Philadelphia.

2010: DT Geno Atkins, Cincinnati

Things have been par for the grim course in Cincinnati, but Atkins has been one of the rare consistently silver linings. The Georgia alum has already established himself as one of the most illustrious players in Bengals history. His dominant decade was commemorated with an invitation to the All-Decade team.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets Countdown to Draft Day: The Best No. 158 picks in NFL Draft History

New York Jets

As draft day approaches, ESM looks 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 their respective positions. We continue with 158th pick, which is currently slated as the Jets’ first day three pick…

1939: G Clyde Shugart, Washington

Shugart first made a name for himself as one of the best linemen in his native Iowa. He was one of the NFL’s first “iron men”, never missing a game over five seasons of action. The former Iowa State Cyclone partook in three NFL Championship Games (winning one in 1942) and two Pro Bowls.

1985: TE Jay Novacek, St. Louis

After setting an NCAA record for the best average gain per reception by a tight end at Wyoming, Novacek was chosen by both the NFL’s Cardinals and the Houston Gamblers of the USFL. Injuries prevented him from making a major impact after the team moved to Phoenix, but he soon became a vital part of the Dallas Cowboys’ 1990s championship squads. He’d go on to reach five consecutive Pro Bowls and won three Super Bowls. Dallas was 6-0 in postseason games that featured a Novacek touchdown reception.

1989: TE Howard Cross, NY Giants

An Alabama alum, Cross not only played 13 seasons with the Giants but partook in all but one of the 208 regular season games played in that span. That sheer number in a Giants jersey (207 games) trails only Michael Strahan. Cross would partake in two blue Super Bowls, winning the 25th edition in 1991. He now serves as a sideline reporter for the Giants’ radio broadcasts on WFAN.

1995: DT Norman Hand, Miami

After four years between Miami and San Diego, Hand made a bit of a name for himself on the New Orleans Saints’ defensive line for three seasons. Part of a group known as the “Heavy Lunch Bunch”, Hand helped guide the Saints to their first postseason win over the Rams in 2000. A known enactor of a celebration dance known as the “Big Wiggle”, Hand spent nine seasons in the NFL, his last with the Giants in 2004. Tragically, the Queens native passed away in 2010 at the age of 37.

2013: TE Luke Willson, Seattle

A Canadian import, the Ontario-born Willson was not only chosen in both the NFL and CFL drafts, but he was also signed to the Toronto Blue Jays’ system. He opted for a future in Seattle and went on to become a staple in the Seahawks’ offense during their mid-decade heyday. His most notable Seattle highlight to date is his role as the recipient of Russell Wilson’s miracle two-point conversion lob in the 2015 NFC Championship Game win over Green Bay. Willson would go on to spend brief periods in Detroit and Oakland before returning to Seattle in 2019.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets Countdown to Draft Day: The Best No. 191 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 start with 191st pick, set to be the penultimate pick of the Jets’ draft proceedings…

1939: G/T Aldo Forte, Chicago

A Montana alum, Forte spent five seasons between Chicago, Green Bay, and Detroit and reached two NFL All-Star Games. Forte would then spend 15 years as the Lions’ offensive line coach, working with three NFL championship teams.

1969: RB Larry Brown, Washington

Washington was known for its passing exploits with Sonny Jurgenson, but Brown made a strong career for himself in DC. He immediately made an impression on then-Redskins head coach Vince Lombardi, who helped Brown overcome a hearing impediment and solve his fumble issues. Injuries would cut Brown’s career short, but he reached four consecutive Pro Bowls and was later invited to Washington’s Ring of Fame. Though overshadowed by perfection in Miami, Brown earned the 1972 NFL MVP Award with a league-best 1,689 yards from scrimmage. To date, no Redskins player has worn Brown’s No. 43 since his retirement in 1976.

1971: CB Mike Sensibaugh, Kansas City

Another player whose finest season was overshadowed by the Dolphins’ run at perfection, Sensibaugh earned eight interceptions during his sophomore season in 1972. It was hardly any shock to those who remembered his exploits at Ohio State. Sensibaugh remains the program’s all-time leader in interceptions (22).

1976: DE Carl Hairston, Philadelphia

Before Reggie White, there was Hairston, a pro football mainstay for over three decades. Hairston tallied 47.5 sacks in his career, a number impeded by the sack only becoming an official stat in 1982. After a career spent with the Eagles, Bengals, and Cardinals, Hairston began a lengthy career as a coach. He partook in Philadelphia’s Super Bowl loss to Oakland in 1981, but finally earned his elusive ring 18 years later as the defensive line coach for the St. Louis Rams, working alongside head coach and former Eagles boss Dick Vermeil.

1992: TE Dave Moore, Miami

A Morristown, NJ native, Moore was a man of many talents over 15 NFL seasons. He missed out on making Miami’s 1992 roster, but he would go on to enjoy two lengthy tenures with Tampa Bay (1992-2001, 2004-06).  His exploits at long snapper were perhaps best known, ones that earned him an invitation to the 2006 Pro Bowl, his final NFL game.

1999: TE/LS James Dearth, Cleveland

The Division II star from Tarleton State spent two years with the rebooted Browns before joining up with the Jets. He would go on to become a special teams staple for the next nine seasons, and even came up big on the receiving end during a 2001 tilt against Cincinnati. Dearth scored the only touchdown of his NFL career on a one-yard pass from Vinny Testaverde, part a fourth-quarter comeback from 14-3 down. The Jets won the game 15-14.

2011: C Jason Kelce, Philadelphia

Kelce’s size was critiqued during the 2011 draft process, but he wound up becoming one of the biggest contributors to Philadelphia’s championship run during the 2018 season. The cherry on top in the Eagles’ Super Bowl Sunday was Kelce’s profanity-laden speech in support of his teammates and staff during the championship parade. Kelce has also reached the last three top All-Pro squads.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets Countdown to Draft Day: The Best No. 211 picks in NFL History

As draft day approaches, ESM looks 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 their respective positions. We start with 211th pick, which is currently slated as the Jets’ final pick in the proceedings….

1957: DE LaVerne Torczon, Cleveland

Torczon was an 18th round pick of the Browns, but is better known for his American Football League exploits. In fact, he spent four seasons with the Jets’ franchise, the first coming during their New York Titans incarnation. His most notable campaign came in 1961, when he made the inaugural AFL All-Star Game as a member of the Buffalo Bills.

1964: DB Cornell Gordon, San Francisco

Another defender that opted for the greener pastures of the AFL…namely those of the Jets. Gordon was in fact on the Jets’ roster for their historic victory in Super Bowl III. He tallied nine interceptions over five New York seasons, including two in the trek to Miami.

1979: P Max Runager, Philadelphia

Runager partook in three Super Bowls, including one with the team that drafted him (the Eagles fell 27-10 to Oakland in Super Bowl XV). He moved onto San Francisco in 1984 and returned to the Big Game twice. These next two trips were far more profitable, as they respectively topped Miami and Cincinnati in the 19th and 23rd showdowns. He did, however, make an unwanted bit of NFL history when he was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for flopping during a 1984 game against the Eagles. Tragically, Runager passed away in June 2017.

1992: QB Kent Graham, NY Giants

A Giants quarterbacks wearing No. 10 ending a seemingly unstoppable trek toward perfection? That’s Ken Graham, of course. The Ohio State alum would play five years over two stints with New York’s blue team. Graham made the 1972 Dolphins proud in December 1998. His 37-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer in the final gave Big Blue a 20-16 win over John Elway’s 13-0 squad from Denver.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCAQsEwyCcg

2003: WR David Tyree, NY Giants

Yet another perfection stopper, Tyree was originally chosen for his special teams prowess. The Livingston, NJ native and Montclair High School alum blocked six punts at Syracuse prior to his Giants selection. He later went on to reach the 2005 Pro Bowl as a specialist. Though never earning more than 19 catches in a season, he earned perhaps two of the biggest catches in Super Bowl history in the 42nd edition against the 18-0 New England Patriots. Prior to his renowned helmet catch, Tyree caught Eli Manning’s first scoring throw, a five-yard strike earlier in the fourth quarter.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets #MockDraftMonday: April 20, 2020

ESM’s New York Jets experts present their final seven-round mock drafts as a big trio of days for Gang Green approaches.

The date of a full-on return has yet to be placed. But live sports are slowly working their way back into our lives. Friday saw the WNBA Draft staged in a virtual setting. NASCAR’s nationally televised virtual races returned over the weekend.

Football fans will get their fix starting on Thursday night, as the NFL Draft will likewise conduct their selection proceedings in a virtual arena (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC/NFL Network).

How will things shake out for the New York Jets? ESM’s experts weigh in and prognosticate in their final 2020 mock drafts…

Geoff Magliocchetti

1st Round (11th overall): OT Jedrick Willis, Alabama
2nd Round (48th overall): WR Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
3rd Round (68th overall): CB Jaylon Johnson, Utah
3rd Round (79th overall): S Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois
4th Round (120th overall): EDGE Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
5th Round (158th overall): WR Joe Reed, Virginia
6th Round (191st overall): RB Patrick Taylor Jr., Memphis
6th Round (211th overall): K Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia

The debate between a receiver and an offensive lineman has been more tightly contested battle amongst New Yorkers than the preference of Seinfeld or Friends as their favorite local 90s sitcom. But the Jets are in the enviable position NBC was placed in during that lucrative era: they’re placed in a situation where there is an endless supply of talent in the category.

Premiere picks are dedicated to filling both of these needs. Willis was the darling of the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, earning strong praise for his strength and athleticism. A deep receiver class would also yield the talents of Aiyuk, who tore apart the man coverage of the Pac-12 and developed a strong reputation as an earner of yards after the catch. Defensive needs are taken care of with the middle picks. Johnson and Chinn add depth in the secondary, while Willekes (18 sacks over the last two seasons) will raise the pressure on a division that will feature competitions against the multi-talented Josh Allen (and, possibly, Tua Tagovailoa if the Patriots or Dolphins opt to find their franchise quarterbacks).

This day three set would allow the Jets to not only address another offensive need, finding a spell option for Le’Veon Bell. The powerful Taylor could become a goal-line and short-yardage steal, especially if teams are still wary about an ankle injury that cost him a portion of his senior season. But day three could also afford the Jets an opportunity to bolster their special teams. The Georgia staple Blankenship could finally end the post-Jason Myers kicking carousel, while Reed could be the answer to Andre Roberts’ departure. Reed can also serve as a slot receiver, having earned 14 touchdown receptions over the last season seasons.

Dylan Price

1st Round (11th overall): OT Jedrick Willis, Alabama
2nd Round (48th overall): WR Michael Pittman Jr., USC
3rd Round (68th overall): CB Damon Arnette, Ohio State
3rd Round (79th overall): EDGE Jonathan Greenard, Florida
4th Round (120th overall): DT Larrell Murchison, NC State
5th Round (158th overall): OL Michael Onwenu, Michigan
6th Round (191st overall): WR John Hightower, Boise State
6th Round (211th overall): K Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia

Wills is the only pick that has remained consistent in this final mock draft, Wills becomes the anchor of the future. Pittman has familiarity with Darnold and could be the next steal from USC like JuJu Smith Schuester. Arnette is a talented outside corner who can be the next good OSU corner.

Greenard and Murchison have received a lot of interest from the Jets and would be ideal targets here to add defensive depth. Onwenu and Hightower provide size and speed respectively. Both could develop into could pieces but will begin as depth guys. Rodrigo Blankenship becomes the kicker for the future and rounds out a solid class for Joe Douglas.

Brendan Carpenter

1st Round (11th overall): OT Mekhi Becton, Louisville
2nd Round (48th overall): WR Jalen Reagor, TCU
3rd Round (68th overall): EDGE Bradlee Anae, Utah
3rd Round (79th overall): WR Bryan Edwards, South Carolina
4th Round (120th overall): CB Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame
5th Round (158th overall): DE Jonathan Greenard, Florida
6th Round (191st overall): LB Mohamed Berry, Nebraska
6th Round (211th overall): K Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia

Taking a receiver with the first pick is tempting, but the Jets instead choose to sure up their offensive line. At 6’7″ and 364 pounds, Becton is a monster on the line. A flagged drug test at the combine has raised some questions and may make him available outside the top-10. I have gone back-and-forth between Reagor and Tee Higgins in the second, but I don’t see Higgins lasting to this pick. The Jets sure up their line in the first round and get Darnold a fresh target here. After acquiring the third pick from the Giants in the Leonard Williams trade, the Jets could look to add a new pass rusher. In 14 starts this past season, Anae recorded 13 sacks. His knack for finding the quarterback is the deciding factor here.

Edwards, at 6’3″ and 212 pounds, would be a solid target for Darnold. However, there are question marks. He missed his final two games with a knee injury and broke his foot while training for the combine. After taking Reagor in the second round, Edwards is another addition that could have decent upside. Cornerback is also a position of need for Gang Green. With Jeff Okudah most likely going in the top-five in the draft, there is no need to reach for one after that. Getting Pride Jr. in the third round would satisfy a need the Jets desperately need to address. He would slide in to play alongside Pierre Desir and Brian Poole in the secondary. He falls back past the original round three pick I had him at, so the Jets get their guy, just later.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

NFL: Draft Top Five Running Back Rankings

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

With the NFL Draft rapidly approaching, over the next few days I plan on breaking down the best and brightest talents in this years class. The RB position has a few big names, mostly, the draft has some very unique late round guys. Of all those guys who are the top ones?

1. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Pro Comparison: Melvin Gordon Jr.

Jonathan Taylor is the top back in this class. He was the best running back in college football last year. Taylor is THE do it all back in the class. He’s got everything you want in a running back and then some. He’s got high IQ, good elusiveness, good leadership. He’s an excellent back and could really be one of the safest playmakers in the draft overall. Taylor would have an expected value of being at a level similar to Gordon. If he lives up to his potential and then some, he can outplay this comp. Taylor is a can’t miss pick at running back.

2. JK Dobbins, Ohio State

Pro Comparison: Le’Veon Bell

Dobbins is far and away my favorite back in this class. He’s a fierce runner, patient, elusive and has phenomenal vision. Dobbins is a do it all back. He’s got potential to be a lead back very shortly. Dobbins has such a patient and violent running tactic that Bell is a great comparison for him. Dobbins would be very high on my board if I was a GM based on tape, which leads me to wonder why he’s not as highly rated by the general media.

3. D’Andre Swift, Georgia

Pro Comparison: Alvin Kamara

Swift is well, swift. He’s a really elusive back who excels in open space. He’s got a game breaking ability with the ball in his hands. He’s good catching the ball out of the backfield. He’s also very good in open space. Swift would be a great back in a lot of offenses immediately. There’s not a lot of questions with him. How his game will translate to the next level shouldn’t be a question because Georgia is a running back factory. Swift reminds me of Kamara because of his success in open space.

4. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU

Pro Comparison: Ray Rice

Helaire is maybe my 2nd favorite back in this class. Helaire flashed signs of his full potential last year in an offense where Joe Burrow stole the headlines. Helaire is a really good back and he can be a lead back in an offense at some point soon. Every LSU staffer and teammate has given him rave reviews, they’ve even said he’s still capable of much more. Helaire and his running style reminds me heavily of vintage Ray Rice. Helaire has a lot of potential and I’m excited to see him at the next level. The only question marks revolve around whether or not he can truly fulfill that potential or if he just succeeded because of the talent of his quarterback.

5. LaMical Perine, Florida

Pro Comparison: Tj Yeldon

Perine is a very strong running back. He dominated the bench press and flashed strength. He does lack that incredible burst. Perine is more of a do it all back capable of grinding out yardage. Perine is very similar to Tj Yeldon in the sense of being able to pick up 1st downs as a grind out yardage back. Perine can be a very productive back out of a committee. Perine has a lot of questions, the biggest being if he can develop into a more elusive back. If not than he’ll be an above around ground and pound back at best. 

NFL Draft Top 5 QB Rankings

New York Giants, Patrick Queen

With the NFL Draft rapidly approaching, over the next few days, I plan on breaking down the best and brightest talents in this year’s class. The QB position has a lot of name value at the top of the class, but with concerns for each guy, who is the best in the class!

1. Joe Burrow LSU

Pro Comparison: Tony Romo

Joe Burrow is the Heisman winning perineal number one selection. Burrow is a talented, charismatic, franchise cornerstone. Burrow put up absolute video game numbers last season with 60 touchdowns and only 6 INTs. Burrow is destined to lead the Bengals, however, the Ohio kid will have his hands full. The stigma around the Bengals, weather and the young unproven coach could all play a part in Burrow’s downfall. Burrow needs to stay humble and stay grounded, and not let mistakes dwell on him. His injury at Ohio State led him to LSU. He played poorly at first. Then, Joe Brady, his hard work and Ed Orgeron led Burrow here. Now, all he’s going to have is his work ethic at the next level. If Burrow can stay grounded, he’s going to be a good Quarterback, if not there is just potential. Tony Romo always had an exciting feel, just like Burrow.

2. Tua Tagovialoa Alabama

Pro Comparison: Russell Wilson

Tua is the opposite of Burrow. He is charismatic and incredibly talented, but the comparisons end there. Tua gained notoriety from his clutch championship debut. He’s a leader and a game-changing talent. Tua is a star. I admittedly like Tua better than Burrow. However, Burrow is the much safer pick. Tua has a very sketchy injury history with his ankle and knee problems. Tua is a beast and has proven himself against elite SEC talent, but injuries and his mobile skill set may not translate to the next level as well as Burrow’s skill set. Russell Wilson is a leader, and mobile, Tua is both of those things, making them an easy comp.

3. Justin Herbert Oregon

Pro Comparison: Blaine Gabbert

Herbert is the most pro-ready of these three guys. Burrow is going to have a big adjustment period, Tua has injury questions and transition questions as well. Herbert is a clean-cut, comfortable prospect. Herbert is an excellent pocket passer, with a unique skillset and he’s an absolute gunslinger. His throws have great velocity. He also throws one of the cleanest and balls in this class and he impressed me with his mid-range accuracy. Herbert is a good QB, in the right spot, he could be a very good starter. The Blaine Gabbert comparison seems fair to me. He’s a safe prospect, who could be a great backup if all else fails, but if with the right coaches to bring along his development, it could be much better than Gabbert.

4. Jordan Love Utah State

Pro Comparison: Josh Allen

Love is incredibly intriguing. He’s got an absolute cannon for an arm. He had a very good season a year ago, but last season was very average. His Sophmore year, he had 32 touchdowns, last year he had 20. The talent drops off is to blame, because Love had no true viable weapons. Love is a small school prospect with question marks just like Josh Allen was, he’s got a great deep ball and is very mobile. Love is a good QB, he has a lot of potentials and if all goes well, he could be the best in the class, if he struggles, he’ll be a forgotten prospect.

5. Jalen Hurts Oklahoma

Pro Comparison: Dak Prescott

Hurts is a very solid QB prospect. He needs at least a year of development before taking over as a starter. However, he could develop into something special in the right system. Hurts is a leader with a team-first attitude. Hurts can kill you with his legs and his arm. The fact Tagovailoa took his job, and he struggled at times at both Bama and Oklahoma, is worrisome. In the ideal system, Hurts could be the next Dak Prescott. He can be a gem on Day 2, or a solid backup like RG3 someday.

Honorable Mention: Anthony Gordon

To clarify, Gordon is not my number six guy, that would go to Eason or Fromm. Anthony Gordon deserves recognition and has shot up my draft board. He’s a developmental prospect entirely. He impressed in Mike Leach’s Air Raif offense and he could be a suitable backup at the next level. Where he shined and deserved a mention is because I think he’s a good leader who had to fill in, in a tough situation after the tragic passing of Tyler Hilinski, and he stepped up and impressed. That’s a leader and a guy who deserves a mention.

New York Jets: The All-Time Undrafted Team

With the Easter season in full swing, the New York Jets have managed to find some hidden eggs after the NFL Draft’s final name.

255 names will be called during the process of the 2020 NFL Draft, which will begin on April 23 (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC/NFL Network). After the draft, however, many more will get a long-awaited phone call. Several of these players could wind up becoming hidden Easter eggs, players that become remarkable contributors to the active roster.

The New York Jets have had a good share of these spring surprises roll in from the ranks of the undrafted. ESM is proud to immortalize those names in a commemorative starting lineup….

QB: Bill Demory (1973-74)

Jets history is extremely shallow on undrafted quarterback success. 1999’s supersub Ray Lucas nearly made the list, but his career began during Bill Parcells’ New England years. Demory is the only undrafted quarterback originally signed by the Jets to win a start for the squad, riding a 132-yard day from John Riggins while he went 1-for-7 for 11 yards in a 9-7 win over New England in 1973.

RB: Clark Gaines (1976-80)

Gaines was a man of many talents with the Jets. Not only was he known for his rushing talents, but the 17 receptions he earned during a 1980 loss to San Francisco still stands as a Jets franchise record. His 55 receptions in 1977 were good for third in the NFL. On the ground, the 724 rushing yards earned during his rookie season allowed him to reach the NFL’s All-Rookie Team alongside linebacker teammate Greg Buttle and future legends Steve Largent and Harry Carson. Gaines wound up gaining 2,552 yards over five seasons with the Jets before injuries derailed his career.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d88_Tae7N4U

WR: Wayne Chrebet (1995-2005)

One of the renowned fan favorites in modern Jets history, Chrebet was the perfect tri-state area success story. Born in Garfield, New Jersey and graduating from Hofstra University on Long Island, Chrebet’s odds were stacked against him from the literal first moment he entered the Jets’ facility. The security guard on duty thought Chrebet was too small to partake in practice, but Chrebet defied all the odds by not only making the team but leaving a lasting impact. Currently, Chrebet ranks third in team history in receiving yardage (7,365) and touchdowns (41). He continues to be a regular prescience on Jet game days and was inducted into the team Ring of Honor in 2014.

WR: Robby Anderson (2016-19)

Anderson is by far the most prolific Jets receiver since his NFL entry. He put up 3,059 yards to accompany 20 touchdowns over four New York seasons. That’s not bad at all for a guy who entered his first Jets training camp ninth on the receiver’s depth chart. A prolific preseason (13 receptions, 264 yards) was only a sign of things to come. Anderson is currently 11th amongst active receivers with 14.8 yards per reception. Alas, the receiver has left for bluer pastures, rejoining former Temple head coach Matt Rhule and quarterback P.J. Walker in Carolina.

WR: Lou Piccone (1974-76)

As a Vineland native, Piccone’s green antics wasn’t the first time he brought a New Jersey crowd to its feet. He wound up leading the NFL in kick return yards during the 1974 season. His first professional touchdown came in two seasons later on a punt return during a shutout win over Tampa Bay. Piccone’s Jets career ended shortly after, as he shifted his New York allegiance over to Buffalo.

TE: Jeff Cumberland (2010-15)

It took a while for the Jets to unlock Cumberland’s true potential, but he became a favorite target no matter who was playing quarterback for the Jets between 2012 and 2014. Cumberland was one of two players to reach four digits in yardage in that span (the other being Jeremy Kerley) and no one scored more touchdowns (10) over that three-year range. His most notable tally, a one-yard fourth quarter grab from Greg McElroy, gave the Jets a 7-6 win over Arizona in December 2012.

C: John Schmitt (1964-73)

Another Hofstra alum, Schmitt was born in Brooklyn and first graduated from Seton Hall Preparatory School in West Orange. Schmitt was named to two All-AFL teams and was the Jets’ starting center for their victory in Super Bowl III. He would finish his career with another green team during his 1974 season with the Packers.

G: Brandon Moore (2002-12)

Moore’s lasting legacy will unfairly be the titular rear end mentioned in Mark Sanchez’s infamous “Butt Fumble”. After failing to make the team at the end of 2002 training camp, Moore partook in NFL Europe (Scottish Claymores) and the Arena Football League (Carolina Cobras) before making the most out of a second opportunity with the Jets. Curtis Martin led the league in rushing during his first full year as a starter (2004) and Moore would later be invited to the 2012 Pro Bowl.

G: Kerry Jenkins (1997-2001)

Jenkins is perhaps best-known for starting on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ championship offensive line in 2002, but, prior to that, he started all 48 games over the 1999-2001 seasons.

T: Matt Willig (1993-95)

Willig wound up playing 13 years in the NFL (and was a part of the St. Louis Rams’ 1999 championship squad) but the Rose Bowl champion is perhaps better known for his film career. He most recently appeared in the Warner Bros./DC Comics collaboration Birds of Prey, four years after he had a recurring role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe television entry Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Other popular films on his filmography include The Benchwarmers, We’re the Millers, and Stretch.

T: Brent Qvale (2014-19)

Qvale recently signed with the Houston Texans, but was a serviceable depth option over five seasons. His brother Brian currently partakes in Italian basketball and is the Big South Conference’s all-time leader in blocks.

DL: Damon Harrison (2012-15)

Affectionately known as “Snacks”, Harrison was an NAIA All-American at William Penn, but the small Iowa college hadn’t sent anyone to the NFL since 1987. He wound up making the team in 2012 and then permanently took over the Jets’ starting defensive tackle spot after injuries rocked the lineup in his sophomore season. His NFL introduction came in an October 2013 win over New England, where his first NFL sack victimized Tom Brady. Harrison would then play two-plus seasons with the Giants before a 2018 trade sent him to Detroit. He remains a fan favorite amongst metropolitan green and blue fans alike.

DL: Mike DeVito (2007-12)

DeVito probably could’ve filled several slots on this list, as the Atlantic 10 legend was known for appearing on both sides of the ball. He made his first NFL squad by beating out veterans Bobby Hamilton and Kimo Von Oelhoffen. NBC recently replayed the game that featured the biggest moment of DeVito’s career, the 2011 opener against the Dallas Cowboys. DeVito’s sack of Tony Romo (the first full QB takedown of his NFL career) forced a fumble deep in Jets territory that kept Dallas off the scoreboard and allowed a comeback to continue. The Jets won the game 27-24.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 13: Defensive Lineman Kyle Phillips #98 of the New York Jets makes a stop call against the Dallas Cowboys in the second half at MetLife Stadium on October 13, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

DL: Kyle Phillips (2019-present)

When injuries rocked the Jets’ defense, Phillips wound up being a serviceable replacement. His first full NFL sack came in a big situation, helping New York secure a December win over playoff contenders from Pittsburgh with a sack of Devlin Hodges late in the fourth quarter. He finished the season with 39 tackles overall.

LB: Chad Cascadden (1995-99)

Cascadden was mostly used as a depth option during his five seasons in green, but contributed to the Jets’ 1998 magic in a memorable way. He helped the Jets continue a six-game winning streak to end the regular season with the 23-yard return of a Dan Marino fumble that served as the de facto game-winning touchdown in a 21-16 win in Miami. Cascadden would also tally the only multi-sack game of his career during the 1999 AFC Championship Game against Denver.

LB: Paul Crane (1966-72)

Another Super Bowl III participant, Crane’s most notable moment came in the Jets’ first game after their ultimate triumph in Miami. He intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, in the Jets’ 33-19 win over Buffalo to open up their 1969 campaign.

LB: Kevin McArthur (1986-89)

A Lamar alum, McArthur had two interceptions over a four-year Jets career. One of them came during the 1986 AFC playoffs. His 21-yard swipe of a Todd Blackledge pass went for a touchdown and was among the last of 28 unanswered points as the Jets rolled to a 35-15 win over Kansas City.

LB: Jamaal Westerman (2009-11)

A decade-plus career that spanned ten teams and two countries began collegiately at Rutgers and professionally with the Jets. Westerman immediately impressed then-head coach Rex Ryan, who predicted that Westerman would make the team in June minicamp. He immediately vindicated Ryan’s confidence with a sack in his debut, a 24-7 win over Houston to open the 2009 campaign. Another career highlight for Westerman was a two-sack output against Brady and the Patriots during a 2011 visit to Foxboro.

DB: Randy Beverly (1967-69)

One could argue that it should’ve been Beverly walking away with Super Bowl III MVP honors. The Baltimore Colts planned to pick on the inexperienced and undersized defender, but he instead haunted them with two interceptions, one of which came on the opening drive. Both interceptions also stifled Baltimore scoring chances, each occurring in the end zone. Beverly’s later career included an appearance with another New York football team, the Stars of the World Football League.

DB: Bill Baird (1963-69)

Yet another Super Bowl champ, Baird played his college ball at San Francisco State. He would go on to earn 34 interceptions over his seven NFL seasons, including eight alone during the 1964 trek. Together with Beverly and Johnny Sample, Baird would unite to allow only 181 yards between Earl Morrall and Johnny Unitas, also forcing four interceptions on the fateful evening.

DB: Dainard Paulson (1961-66)

A legacy member of the New York Titans, Paulson’s magnum opus was the 1964 season, where he put up a franchise-record 12 interceptions, which is also good for third-best in AFL/NFL history. He would follow it up with seven more a year later, reaching the AFL Pro Bowl in both years. 

OCTOBER 9, 1983 CLEVELAND, OH: Cornerback Jerry Holmes #47 of the New York Jets returns an interception during a game against the Cleveland Browns on October 9, 1983 at the Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Cleveland won 10-7. (Photo by: Ron Kuntz Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

DB: Jerry Holmes (1980-83, 86-87)

After serving as a depth option during his rookie campaign, Holmes worked his way into the Jets’ starting lineup and wound up posting 14 interceptions over five seasons as a regular. His best season (six interceptions in 1986) came after a two-year sabbatical in the United States Football League. One of those years featured three more Jersey picks as a member of the Generals. In fact, the USFL negotiated his NFL release the year before, but that did nothing to slow Nelson down. In a de facto lame duck situation (before spending his first USFL season with the Pittsburgh Maulers), Nelson helped seal an upset win over the 49ers by taking a Joe Montana pass back for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

K: John Hall (1997-2002)

Despite a successful kicking career at Wisconsin, Hall went unclaimed until the Jets came calling. He would go on to establish himself as a clutch NFL kicker. For example, he booted the famous winner in the Monday Night Miracle against Miami). Four AFC Special Teams Player of the Week Awards also awaited him throughout his career, as did a surprising 18 tackles over six Jets seasons. In a rather obscure stat, the Jets were 3-1 in the four games where Hall had multiple tackles.

P: Ben Graham (2005-08)

In 2005, Graham, formerly of Australian Rules Football, became the oldest rookie to appear on an NFL roster at 31. He also made history in New York as the first Australian player to captain an American football team. Further football history awaited him beyond his green endeavors, as he became player to partake in both an AFL Grand Final and a Super Bowl as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags