New York Jets Countdown to Draft Day: The Best No. 11 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. Our series concludes with none than the No. 11 pick, the Jets first selection once things get underway in the virtual arena. Our final installment is particularly special, so we rounded things off at the 11 best picks in the 11th slot…

1950: OL/DT Leo Nomellini, San Francisco

Nomellini was born in Tuscany before immigrating to Minnesota as an infant. He would go on to star with the University of Minnesota’s Golden Gophers, earning All-American honors twice before becoming the first NFL Draft selection of the San Francisco 49ers upon their transfer from the All-America Football Conference. Two-way exploits awaited Nomellini in the NFL. He wound up playing 14-years in the league, with ten of those seasons ending in Pro Bowl visits and six All-Pro nominations. Post-football, Nomellini also worked as a professional wrestler, as seen above. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969.

1952: RB/WR/DB Frank Gifford, NY Giants

Gifford’s eight career Pro Bowls were earned through three different positions. His story is one of the more inspiring in NFL history. A hard hit from Philadelphia’s Chuck Bednarik forced him into an early retirement in 1960. But, after nearly 18 months on the mend, he returned to NFL action and won the Comeback Player of the Year Award. Other accolades include 1956’s MVP and a spot on the 1950s All-Decade team. Gifford reached Canton in 1977 and later served as an analyst on Monday Night Football.

1953: DE Doug Atkins, Cleveland

Decades before the sack became an official stat, Atkins was striking fear into the hearts of quarterbacks everywhere during a career spent primarily with the Chicago Bears. Many contemporary NFL Network viewers were introduced to Atkins last season when he was named to the NFL’s 100th Anniversary team. He also appeared on the 1960s edition of the All-Decade team. He used his track and field prowess, particularly that in the high jump, to invade opposing backfields. Appropriately, the final play of his NFL career was a sack, with Pittsburgh throw Dick Shiner being the victim. Atkins got his invitation to Canton in 1982.

1964: WR Paul Warfield, Cleveland

Yet another Canton invitee, Warfield continues to hold the NFL record for yards per reception amongst players with at least 300 receptions (20.1). Warfield accomplished plenty during a six-year tenure Cleveland tenure, he’s perhaps best-known for his exploits with the Miami Dolphins. So great was Warfield’s reputation (he reached eight Pro Bowls and seven All-Pro squads) that President Richard Nixon personally suggested a play to Miami head coach Don Shula during their 1972 Super Bowl appearance against Dallas. The Dolphins lost that game, but Warfield wound up being their leading receiver during the ensuing route to perfection. 

1988: WR Michael Irvin, Dallas

Irvin was a metroplex trivia answer long before he took the field at Texas Stadium. He was the last first round pick of the holy Dallas decision-making trinity of Tex Schramm, Gil Brandt, and Tom Landry. The Miami alum was granted starting duties immediately and was also bestowed the numeral 88, becoming the first Cowboy to wear the number since Drew Pearson’s 1983 retirement. Schramm predicted that the drafting of Irvin would “speed (Dallas’) return to the living” after a string of losing seasons. Irvin did that and then some, forming the legendary “Triplets” group with fellow first-rounders Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. Dallas won three Super Bowls and Irvin and his 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns landed him in the Hall of Fame.

2002: DE Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis

New York serendipity was not to be for Freeney, a Syracuse alum who grew up idolizing Lawrence Taylor. Instead, he went to a Colts squad desperate to surround Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, and Marvin Harrison with a competent defense. Freeney almost accomplished the task on his own. The first nine of 47 career forced fumbles came in his rookie season, the debut of an 11-year career with the Colts. That championship finally came in 2007, when the Colts topped Chicago. Freeney is eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2022.

2004: QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh

The 11th pick of the 2004 draft yielded one of the historic selections of the quarterback class. After the chaos of the Eli Manning-Phillip Rivers situation, Roethlisberger went to the Steelers. He usurped the job from Tommy Maddox early in his rookie season and won his first 13 starts. One year later, Pittsburgh earned its fifth Super Bowl, and Roethlisberger would author a sixth journey during the 2008-09 season. In spite of his many accomplishments (including six Pro Bowls and topping the passing yardage list twice), controversy hasn’t eluded Roethlisberger, who was accused of sexual assault at the turn of the decade on numerous occasions.

2005: LB DeMarcus Ware, Dallas

Controversy initially reigned when the Cowboys took Ware out of Troy with the 11th pick, passing San Diego-bound Shawne Merriman. While Merriman had a decent, if all too brief, career, Ware turned himself into a legend. After nine years in Dallas (in which he built a sizable lead on the team’s sack list), Ware moved onto Denver, where he captured an elusive Super Bowl title. He tallied five tackles, including two sacks, in the 24-10 win over Carolina.

2007: LB Patrick Willis, San Francisco 

Unfortunately, injuries ended Willis’ career in 2014 before it could truly get going, but he made the most out of what he had. He led the league in tackles twice, and also put up 53 pass defenses and 16 forced fumbles. His career ended with a Pro Bowl appearance in all but his final season (which was cut short due to the fateful toe injury that led him to a premature departure) and he was able to reach the NFL’s All-2010s team, despite playing only three full seasons in the decade.

2011: DE J.J. Watt, Houston

The face of the NFL almost always appears to be a quarterback, and this current state of the league doesn’t appear to afford an exception with Patrick Mahomes looking like the most likely candidate. Watt, however, is doing what we can to turn favor over to the defense. His impressive resume, earned despite dealing with numerous injuries, speaks for itself (three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, 95.5 sacks), but Watt has also made an impact off the field with numerous charitable endeavors, notably raising over $37 million to help his loyalists from the Houston area recover from Hurrican Harvey.

2012: DT Dontari Poe, Kansas City

In 2012, the Kansas Chiefs found the quarterback they were looking for. Patrick who? It’s actually Poe, who owns a perfect career passer rating of 158.3 thanks to his Christmas Eve toss in 2016 that went for a score. He hasn’t been so bad on defense either, putting up 278 tackles and 20.5 sacks over eight seasons so far. The 2013 All-Pro nominee and two-time Pro Bowler recently inked a two-year deal with the Cowboys.

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. 68 picks in NFL Draft History

tom tupa throwing a pass in a recent game against the patriots

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 looks back on the greatest picks chosen in their respective positions. We continue with 68th pick, one acquired from the Leonard Williams proceedings…

1985: LB Jack Del Rio, New Orleans

After a three-year absence, the two-time Del Rio is back in the NFL as the defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins. He got his start as a player as a third-round pick of the Saints. Del Rio had a roller-coaster career as a play, including a bizarre incident where he assaulted former Chiefs receiver and scout Otis Taylor during the 1987 players’ strike. He had mistaken Taylor for a replacement player in a matter that was settled out of court. Del Rio would later reach the Pro Bowl as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.

1988: QB/P Tom Tupa, Phoenix 

Tupa entered the league as a quarterback, but instead went on to become one of its most reliable punters. He would make history as a 1994 Cleveland Brown by converting the first two-point conversion in NFL history on a botched extra point. In 1999, Tupa earned a special place in Jets lore. During their Week 1 tilt against New England, Tupa, designated an emergency quarterback, stepped in when Vinny Testaverde went down with an injury. In his first pass since 1999, Tupa found Keyshawn Johnson for a 25-yard touchdown. He’d later hook up with Fred Baxter for a seven-yard score in the second half to cap off one of the best backup quarterback performances in Jets history. That season ended with Tupa earned All-Pro honors…as a punter.

1991: WR Jake Reed, Minnesota

The pick used to select Reed was part of Minnesota’s haul from the historically massive Hershel Walker trade. His career got off to a slow start, but he would go on to post four consecutive seasons of earning at least 1,000 yards. Cris Carter duplicated the feat, and the pair became the NFL’s first teammates to amass that tally over four straight years. Locals around these parts perhaps best know Reed for the touchdown that played a part in the Vikings’ come-from-behind victory in the 1997 NFC wild card playoffs.

1993: G Mike Compton, Detroit

The versatile Compton played all over the offensive line and even served as the Lions’ long snapper for field goals. Years of blocking for Barry Sanders on mediocre teams finally paid off when he joined the New England Patriots in 2001. He would play on the starting offensive line for the Patriots’ original Super Bowl squad. Compton currently serves as the offensive line coach at Virginia-Wise at the Division II level.

2003: LB Lance Briggs, Chicago

The Jets are looking for some defensive depth in this draft. They would certainly be satisfied if they could someone with half of the caliber of Briggs. Not only did he develop a reputation as a hard-hitting, fundamentally sound linebacker, but he was durable to the tune of missing only four games over his first ten seasons. Briggs currently ranks second in the Bears’ lengthy history in defensive touchdowns and is also third in pass defenses (84). He also notably led both sides in tackles in Chicago’s Super Bowl visit in 2007.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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

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.

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

Happy April Fools’: The Best Trick Plays in New York Jets History

With the nation in need of a laugh, ESM counts down the best practical jokes in the history of the New York Jets.

Alas, our current situation isn’t one that can be remedied by the powers that be declaring “April Fools”. But, we could certainly use a laugh, or at least an “ooh? or an “ahh” in this day and age.

ESM is happy to pick up the slack on this, the first day of April. We present the New York Jets’ greatest examples of the trick play…football’s version of the practical joke:

1/3/87: Walker This Way

(skip to 16:34)

You’d perhaps never expect the Jets and Cleveland Browns to create one of the most memorable games in NFL postseason history. After all, the two are often regarded as the most cursed franchises in football. The Jets perhaps gave the game a fitting conclusion by blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter en route to a 23-20 loss in double overtime. Cleveland’s defense limited the Jets to less than 300 yards of offense and brought down Jets quarterbacks on nine occasions.

The Jets got the memorable game’s scoring off to a roaring start in the second quarter despite their problems on offense. Pat Ryan got things going with a toss to Freeman McNeil before the rusher tossed the ball back to him. Another Ryan toss, this one deeper and of the forward variety, landed in the arms of Wesley Walker to give the Jets the early lead. That single throw constituted nearly half of Ryan’s yardage output on the day (103 yards while splitting duties with Ken O’Brien).

10/6/91: Blair It Out

(skip to 31:44)

Four years after suffering that heartbreaking playoff defeat at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the Jets created deja vu all over again. Green trickery allowed them to break another scoreless tie in the second quarter. A throw from a running back was involved, but unlike McNeil, Blair Thomas got a chance to show off his downfield prowess.

As the Jets entered the Cleveland red zone, Thomas took a handoff from O’Brien. The Browns defense converged on Thomas, who mustered only 13 yards on eight carries during the afternoon. He more than made up for it on the 16-yard floater to Rob Moore. The sophomore receiver was left wide open in the lingering infield of the Cleveland Indians and caught the “pop-up” to give the Jets the lead. Gaining a quantum of revenge, the Jets topped the Browns 17-14.

Thomas’ toss was the only throw of his NFL career. He’s one of three Jets (along with fellow rushers McNeil and Curtis Martin) to have a  perfect “touchdown percentage”.

9/24/00: Wayne’s World

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At the turn of the century, Keyshawn Johnson was apparently not pleased with how often he was getting “the damn ball”. The Jets traded the top overall pick of the 1996 draft to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in April 2000. One of Johnson’s parting gifts was some harsh criticisms of Wayne Chrebet. The undrafted receiver was making a name for himself by becoming the quintessential NFL success story, but Johnson labeled the Hofstra alum as a “mascot” in his aforementioned autobiography.

Chrebet and the Jets didn’t have to wait long to serve Johnson’s words back to him. The schedulemaker placed the Jets’ interconference showdown with Tampa in the September portion. Both teams entered 3-0 and Johnson continued to run his mouth, saying comparing him to Chrebet was “like comparing a flashlight to a star”.

In the end, Chrebet earned the last laugh as the recipient of one of the most electrifying moments in Jets history. A Vinny Testaverde handoff to Martin seemed questionable with the clock running in the final minute, but Martin suddenly launched am 18-yard pass that landed in the bare hands of Chrebet, who snuck by defenders Damien Robinson and Brian Kelly. That score allowed the Jets to complete a quick comeback after trailing 17-6 within the final two minutes. Johnson was forced to wash down his serving of humble pie with a mere one-yard output in the 21-17 New York victory.

Martin is the only Jet in team history to a perfect passing touchdown percentage on multiple throws. His second and final toss came in a December 2001 loss to Pittsburgh.

10/23/00: An OT Sends It To OT

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Offensive lineman may be the most underrated and undervalued position in all of sports. Anonymity is perhaps the blocker’s dearest friend. Create the hole for the quarterback or rusher, and the skill player gets the credit in terms of highlights and fantasy points. Failure to do so often introduces you to fans in the grimmest of ways. Entering the box score, much less the scoring summary, is a long-shot at best.

Jets offensive tackle Jumbo Elliott found a way to it in the most memorable way on a Monday night at the Meadowlands.

The final regulation touches on the Jets’ erasure of a 30-7 deficit to the Miami Dolphins was Elliott’s three-yard touchdown catch from Testaverde on a tackle-eligible play. It certainly didn’t come easy…Elliott bobbled the ball throughout the process…but after replay deliberation, the game was allowed to continue after referee Walt Coleman approved the catch. John Hall wound up finishing the “Monday Night Miracle” with a 40-yard field goal to give the Jets a 40-37 win.

They say things are bigger on Monday night, and, in Elliott’s case, that axiom came literally. His catch (the only reception of his career) allowed him to become the heaviest player in Monday Night Football’s history to score a touchdown.

The Jets’ official social media accounts adapted the classic game into a Twitter-friendly setting earlier this week. 

10/14/12: What Might’ve Been

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Tim Tebow’s New York saga was perhaps the most attention ever devoted to a personal protector. For all the pomp and circumstance behind that chaotic year, no one in the metropolitan area seemed to truly find an established role for Tebow. His spot on the Jets’ punting unit offered the sole form of green consistency.

Tebow’s longest New York play from scrimmage came on special teams in a midseason visit from Indianapolis. The Jets led 14-6 but were forced to punt in the latter stages of the second quarter. Needing 11 yards for the first, Tebow helped the Jets earn 23. He would navigate a quickly collapsing pocket before finding linebacker Nick Bellore wide open in the middle of the pair. Colts back deep brought him down, but the Jets situated well enough to set a pre-halftime touchdown from Mark Sanchez to Jason Hill. The Jets would up crushing the Colts 35-9 after momentum was permanently shifted to their side.

11/13/16: Varsity Green

The Jets welcomed fans from a galaxy far, far away last season when they hosted their first-ever Star Wars-themed day at MetLife Stadium last fall. It was hardly the first time cinematic exploits graced the East Rutherford field.

Closing on a scoring opportunity against the Los Angeles Rams, the Jets wound up punching it in on a play similar to one displayed in the climax of the 1999 coming-of-age high school football drama Varsity Blues. A Bryce Petty pass went to Brandon Marshall, but he immediately tossed the ball over to Bilal Powell on a hook-and-ladder surprise. The perplexed Rams could do nothing stop Powell’s score that gave the Jets a lead in the second quarter. It served as a moment of lateral redemption for Marshall, whose previous attempt…could’ve gone better. 

The Jets’ fortunes were unfortunately not tied to those of the West Canaan High School Coyotes. Powell’s magic score accounted for their only points of the game in a 9-6 loss.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: The Greatest Backup QB Performances

tom tupa throwing a pass in a recent game against the patriots

With World Backup Day landing on March 31, ESM counts down the finest second-string performances in the history of the New York Jets.

March 31 has given rise to “World Backup Day”. The “holiday” was founded by Youngstown State University student Ismail Jadun and encourages backing up personal data and files on the day before April Fools’ Day.

Backup has a different meaning when it comes to NFL quarterbacks. Often looked upon as the guy in the baseball cap, the backup quarterback may one of the most underrated positions in the four major sports. You never know if and when your data could be erased in the blink of an eye. Quarterback issues are likewise unsympathetic to best-laid plans, necessitating backup and contingency in all walks of life.

The New York Jets are in desperate need of a backup quarterback to work with franchise man Sam Darnold. Their cornerstone has missed six games over the past two seasons, and the Jets have gone 0-6 in such contests. There have been other times, however, that the Jets have been better prepared….

12/1/68: The Babe

This is a story about a quarterback that won the Super Bowl with the Jets in 1968, an AFL legend that partook in Gang Green’s finest hour. Of course, the thrower in question is…Babe Parilli.

Parilli made a name for himself as the quarterback of the American Football League’s Boston Patriots. While Parilli’s 3,465 yards and 31 touchdowns during Boston’s 1964 campaign may seem almost commonplace in today’s NFL, those marks stood as Patriot records until Tom Brady broke them during his historic 2007 tour.

Since Joe Namath sometimes had trouble finishing games, Parilli was brought in as his understudy in 1968. He would come up particularly big during the final weeks of the AFL season. Parilli’s play allowed the Jets to enter the postseason with a full-wave of momentum. A Houston Oilers loss on Thanksgiving gave the Jets the East Division title, leading to Namath taking the second half off in the final three games of the regular season. In the first, Parilli led a fourth quarter come against the Miami Dolphins at Shea Stadium, throwing three touchdowns in the frame (two to Don Maynard) in a 35-17 win. He would go on to throw a pass in Super Bowl III against Baltimore while relieving an ailing Namath and wound up with a ring after the Jets won the game 16-7.

Parilli played one more year with the Jets, once again in relief of Namath. He never started a game in New York, but, notably, the Jets won each of the ten games in which he partook.

11/15/70: L.A. Woodall

Reality quickly came for the Jets after their Super Bowl title. They earned another division title in 1969 but the bottom fell out in 1970 to the tune of a 4-10 record. Namath’s injuries (as well as a threatened retirement) had reached a breaking point by then, forcing them to find insurance in the form of second-round pick Al Woodall.

The Duke alumn mostly struggled as a Jets quarterback and was out of football by 1974. He did, however, earn one shining New York moment during a November visit to Los Angeles to battle the Rams. The Jets entered with a 1-7 mark but wound up shocking the City of Angels to the tune of a 31-20 victory. Woodall’s 261 yards and three touchdown passes wound up being his career-best and his efforts just might’ve cost Los Angeles a playoff spot. The Rams finished their season 9-4-1, one game behind San Francisco for the NFC West crown and a half-game behind Detroit for the NFC’s wild card.

Woodall was able to extend his 15 minutes of NFL fame as the win over Los Angeles began a three-game win streak. The other bookend of that streak was a 20-10 win over defending NFC champion Minnesota two weeks later.

9/12/99: Give ’em the Tup

After a surprise appearance in the AFC title game, expectations were high for the century-ending New York Jets. However, hopes of a return trip were immediately dashed at the onset of the season, when Vinny Testaverde went down without contact, suffering a torn Achilles during a Week 1 visit from the New England Patriots. For the Week 1 divisional tilt, head coach Bill Parcells made the unusual move of naming punter Tom Tupa the primary backup. Tupa was a college quarterback at Maryland, but he hadn’t thrown on a full-time basis in seven years. The choice put Parcells in an awkward spot: if Tupa was lifted from the game for emergency quarterback Rick Mirer prior to the fourth quarter, he could not come back in. To the shock of many at Giants Stadium…including the New England defense…Tupa’s first play from scrimmage resulted in a 25-yard touchdown pass to Keyshawn Johnson, one that gave the Jets the lead back.

From there on out, Parcells’ will to keep Tupa under center was tested by a relentless New England pass rush. Tupa was sacked three times and lost a fumble that was recovered by Willie McGinest in the end zone. But just as Mirer momentum was brewing, Tupa seemed to sway Parcells back his way every time. He would end up throwing another touchdown pass (this one from seven yards out to Fred Baxter) and had the Jets well in the ball game, which stood at a 27-22 New England lead entering the final quarter.

However, with the emergency caveats removed, Parcells fully entrusted the offense to Mirer. The Jets took the lead thanks to a pick-six from Brian Cox, but Mirer wound up throwing two interceptions, including one on the Jets’ final drive, that allowed the Patriots to escape East Rutherford with a 30-28 win. Tupa finished the game 6-of-10 for 165 yards and two scores.

EAST RUTHERFORD, UNITED STATES: New York Jets’ quarterback Ray Lucas (L) is chased out of the pocket by the Miami Dolphins’ Rich Owens (R) in the second quarter of their game at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey 12 December, 1999. AFP PHOTO/ Henny Ray ABRAMS (Photo credit should read HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP via Getty Images)

12/12/99: Feeling 22

There’s a reason you won’t see any antics from Mirer on this list. Parcells chose him to take over for Testaverde, but that faith was not rewarded. Mirer posted a mere 66.6 passer ratings over six starts, during which they went 2-4. With the team sitting at 2-6 and the playoffs an afterthought, Parcells turned the offensive reigns over to Ray Lucas.  The Harrison, NJ native was in the midst of building a respectable career as a backup after starring at Rutgers. Parcells gave him his first NFL chance, as the Tuna brought in the undrafted Lucas in as a backup quarterback during New England’s Super Bowl run in 1996. Lucas was one of several Parcells-related transfers to New York when the latter took the Jets’ job a year later.

Under Lucas, the Jets were able to gain back respectability, especially over an exhilarating December. The former Scarlet Knight led the Jets to three consecutive fourth quarter comebacks, starting with the erasure of a 13-6 deficit at The Meadowlands against the Dolphins. Lucas helped the Jets put up 22 unanswered points as they scored on each of their three full offensive possessions in the third. Two throws found their way to Johnson for scores, allowing the Jets to earn a 28-20 win over a Dolphins team contending for a playoff spot.

Lucas posted a 6-3 record as the Jets starter en route to an 8-8 campaign. He would earn another fourth quarter comeback win when the Jets visited Miami two weeks later, creating a sandwich yet another last-frame victory in Dallas.

12/2/12: Raising Arizona

This is the story about a Jets quarterback that came from the hallowed football ground of Tuscaloosa, Alabama and led Gang Green to a crucial victory.

The hero in this tale is, of course, Greg McElroy.

In December 2012, the Jets and Arizona Cardinals met in a game that set quarterbacking back decades. In NFL football, a quarterback could throw the ball an infinite number of times into the ground and still emerge with a comparatively sizable passer rating of 39.6. Somehow, starting quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Ryan Lindley both failed to beat 30. Neither eclipsed the century mark in yardage and combined to complete 20-of-52 passes. Arizona managed to earn just five first downs, but somehow nursed a slim 3-0 lead for a majority of the game.

With the Sanchez era in its dying acts, the Jets mercifully removed him for McElroy in the second half. The insertion of the former national champion and seventh-round pick drew cheers from a bored MetLife Stadium crowd. His statline was simple…a mere 5-of-7 for 29 yards…but he did what Sanchez could not: score. McElroy found tight end Jeff Cumberland for a one-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, which was somehow enough to earn the Jets a 7-6 win and keep their playoff hopes alive for another week.

When the Jets were eliminated a week later, McElroy earned his first, and what became his only, career start. He was sacked 11 times in a loss to the San Diego Chargers, suffering concussion symptoms. He never partook in another regular season down in the NFL.

11/9/14: Vick Over Pitt

The 2014 New York Jets hoped to showcase the No. 7 of the future in Geno Smith.

They did get to show off a certain man with the numeral…albeit one from the past.

Michael Vick’s penultimate season with the Jets, albeit in the unfamiliar number of one. Vick was called upon to replace a struggling Smith with the Jets reeling at 1-6. The third and final game of his starting tenure produced a rare victory, as the Jets upset the 6-3 Pittsburgh Steelers by a 20-13 final at MetLife Stadium. Two touchdown passes from Vick, including a 67-yard bomb to T.J. Graham, allowed the Jets to jump out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. Vick also made history during the game by becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to break the rushing plateau of 6,000 yards.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags