This won’t be a surprise to many football fans, but the New York Jets don’t have the best track record in the NFL Draft. The last three drafts have certainly been promising, as the Jets have added cornerstone pieces on defense, and across multiple offensive positions. It’s safe to say that over the last twenty years, the Jets have had their fair share of blunders, making this list a bit more difficult to put together.
Jets’ Worst First Round Picks: Dis-Honorable Mentions
The Short Term Jets
There are players that didn’t make this top five because they went on to have solid careers with other franchises and only played for the Jets for a few seasons. The already retired player that fits this mold is Jonathan Vilma. Vilma was an extremely productive member of the Jets in his three seasons with Gang Green, but he’s best known for taking home a Super Bowl ring with the New Orleans Saints.
The current players that fit this are Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold. The team either soured their relationship with the player or deemed them broken (even though the team put nothing around the player for support) and moved on. Both Adams and Darnold showed flashes with the Jets but look to continue strong NFL careers in other markets.
The Late First Rounders
These few picks were definitely bad picks. However, they were so late in the first round that the value of the pick was much lower than those in the top five of the list. Specifically, the Jets took Anthony Becht, Dustin Keller, who had a solid, but short-lived NFL career, and Kyle Wilson in the first round.
Becht was traded up for and selected 27th overall in 2000. He had a strong year or two but was off of the Jets by 2004. Keller was picked 30th overall in 2008. He was one of the most productive Jets’ receivers in the time that he played with the team, but he retired due to injury after just five years. Finally, Wilson was picked 29th overall in 2010. He was a decent nickel corner behind Darelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. He played through his five-year contract with the Jets before moving on to the Saints and eventually retiring.
Jets Worst First-Round Draft Picks: #5 Calvin Pryor
Calvin Pryor was not the absolute worst player on the field. He was an athletically gifted strong safety who played well at the line and was serviceable in coverage. He wasn’t even drafted that high, going 18th overall. The defensive backs who were drafted after him are what make the pick so bad in hindsight.
Pryor was not the first defensive back taken in 2014. However, he was the first safety. Just three picks later, the Green Bay Packers took Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Although Clinton-Dix isn’t currently on a roster, he made a Pro-Bowl appearance just two seasons after getting drafted and helped the Packers make deep playoff runs.
Although they aren’t safeties, both Jason Verrett and Bradley Roby, two very good NFL corners, were also taken later in the first round of Pryor’s draft class. Verrett has dealt with injuries early in his career but remains a good option at the position. Roby has had his fair share of off-field issues during his career but has played well enough to land with the Houston Texans.
Jets Worst First-Round Draft Picks: #4 Quinton Coples
Quinton Coples is in a similar box as Pryor. He wasn’t the worst player by any means, but the players that played the same position who were drafted after Coples in the first round have been much better than him. Coples was chosen with the number 16 overall pick in the 2012 Draft.
Coples was drafted as a defensive end but made the transition to outside linebacker once he hit the league. While he impressed in college, Coples didn’t put up the expected production at the professional level, lasting just four seasons in the NFL. Meanwhile, three of the league’s best linebackers/edge rushers were drafted after him.
At 18, the then-San Diego Chargers selected Melvin Ingram. He went on to become a fantastic NFL edge rusher, earning multiple Pro Bowl appearances. From within the division, the New England Patriots selected two pivotal defensive pieces. They took edge rusher, Chandler Jones, with the 21st pick and linebacker Dont’a Hightower at 25. They both went on to win a Super Bowl with the Patriots and have put together stellar careers.
Jets Worst First-Round Draft Picks: #3 Dee Milliner
Now we’re getting into just straight-up bad draft picks. These top three players ended up being drafted much too high and instead of players who panned out to be better in the NFL. Dee Milliner was a cornerback drafted number nine overall out of Alabama.
Even with the reputation that follows Alabama players in general, Milliner never looked like a fit in the league, until late in his rookie season. He was consistently injured, leading to the Jets declining his fifth-year option and Milliner’s retirement in 2016. Milliner was disappointing and looking back, it’s a shame that the Jets didn’t pick up one of the many talented defensive backs that entered the NFL in 2013.
It would be fairly difficult to go through both the list of players the Jets passed up and their accolades. In the first round alone, Eric Reid, Desmond Trufant, and Xavier Rhodes were drafted well after Milliner. To make matters worse, Darius Slay was drafted early in the second round. Those four players have been sent to eight combined Pro Bowls, and all still play in the NFL.
Jets Worst First-Round Draft Picks: #2 Vernon Gholston
The third worst pick was bad; the top two take that to another level. Vernon Gholston is widely regarded as one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history. And for good reason.
The Jets picked Gholston with the sixth pick in the 2008 Draft. The Ohio State product played three seasons with the Jets. In those three years, he started just five games and didn’t record a sack. The 2008 draft didn’t feature much first-round talent from defensive ends, but there are some players that the Jets missed out on.
A trio of very strong NFL defensive backs came out of the first round in 2008. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made his name as an athletic corner and was a staple on two NFL teams. Aqib Talib made his name as an aggressive, in-your-face corner who got under opponents’ skin. Finally, Mike Jenkins earned Pro Bowl honors as a sophomore but wasn’t able to capture that magic for an extended period of time.
Jets Worst First-Round Draft Picks: #1 Dewayne Robertson
And coming in as the Jets’ worst first-round pick since 2000 is Dewayne Robertson! The defensive lineman was traded up for and picked fourth overall by the Jets in 2003. With those in mind, the expectations for Robertson were extremely high.
Roberston wasn’t a bad player. He started all 16 games as a rookie and only missed time due to injury. However the amount of draft capital that went into drafting him make him a bust. After just four seasons with the Jets, Roberston was traded to the Denver Broncos where he played just one season before being cut.
The big miss early makes a later first-round success by another team burn even worse. The biggest from the 2003 draft was Troy Polamalu. The 2022 Hall of Fame inductee was drafted by the Steelers with the 16th pick: twelve selections after the Jets took Robertson.
If there’s anything we can take away from this, it’s two things. Firstly, the draft is a crapshoot. As much as scouts and analysts watch these young players and predict how they’ll perform at the next level, no one really knows who’s going to pan out. Secondly, the Jets’ recent drafts have looked a lot better than these from the last 20 years.
Thanks for reading my article on the worst New York Jets’ First-round draft picks since 2000! Follow me on Twitter @kinggeorge94 for more NFL news and notes, and follow @OT_Heroics for all things sports!