12 Biggest Draft Mistakes in New York Jets History

Rocco ConstantinoContributor IApril 10, 2012

12 Biggest Draft Mistakes in New York Jets History

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    To learn everything you need to know about the relationship between the NFL draft and the New York Jets, all you have to do is watch this legendary clip of Jets draft blunders over the years.

    The Jets have certainly had their share of success in the draft, but their overall draft history leaves a lot to be desired to say the least.

    They have made shrewd moves like trading up to nab Darrelle Revis, finding Joe Klecko in the sixth round and drafting Joe Fields in the 14th round.  

    But more often than not, the Jets wind up with egg on their face and their fans up in arms come draft day.

    The NFL draft is anything but a sure thing, and every team has its share of blunders, busts and embarrassments.  

    Whether it's because the draft is held in New York, allowing Jets fans to have a strong presence there, or the fact that expanding draft television coverage coincided with some of the Jets worst draft blunders, the Jets have a strong reputation as draft buffoons.

    Here's a look at 12 of the biggest mistakes the franchise has made on draft day in their history:

Drafting Kyle Brady Instead of Warren Sapp

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    Some draft busts can be labeled so with the benefit of looking back in hindsight.

    Ryan Leaf and Tony Mandarich are considered two of the biggest busts of all time, but when they were picked, few argued with their selections.

    The case of the Jets selecting Kyle Brady does not fall into that category.

    The Jets had the ninth pick in the 1995 NFL draft, and after a disappointing 1994 season that culminated in the firing of Pete Carroll, the team was faced with a lot of holes on the roster.

    With Johnny Mitchell and Fred Baxter on the roster, tight end was not one of them.

    Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman projected that the Jets would select Warren Sapp, but a separate Sports Illustrated article a month earlier by S.L. Price conceded that Sapp was a consensus top-five pick.

    However, rumors of a failed drug test at the NFL Combine caused some question about the draft status of the reigning NCAA Defensive Player of  the Year.

    As the first round progressed, names like Steve McNair, Tony Boselli, Kerry Collins and Mike Mamula came off the board.  Jets fans in attendance were getting antsy as the Seahwaks stood at pick eight and were surely considering Sapp as a choice.

    The Seahawks chose Joey Galloway and immediately chants for Sapp echoed throughout the Paramount Theater in Madison Square Garden as the Jets were on the clock.

    As the clock wound down, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue ambled up to the podium, announced the selection of Kyle Brady.

    That was the first big move in the new Rich Kotite era.  

    Fans should have known right at that point that a dark era was dawning. 

Passing on Dan Marino and Jerry Rice

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    The NFL draft is obviously full of so many "what could have been" hypothetical situations, but the Jets probably came closer to having an immortal combination on offense than most realize.

    In 1983, the Richard Todd era was coming to a merciful end as his eight-year quest to follow up Joe Namath was ending without a trip to the Super Bowl.  

    With the quarterback position clearly set for a change and an unusually high number of quarterbacks regarded as first-round material, the Jets had the golden opportunity to address that area of need in the draft.  

    While John Elway was clearly the top quarterback coming into the draft, at one point Dan Marino was just as highly regarded.  However, Marino's production dropped off during his senior year at Pitt and questions about his character arose.

    Those factors caused Marino to plummet in the NFL draft, and with the Jets picking at spot No. 24 that year, Marino fell right into their laps.  

    However, the Jets decided to go with a quarterback from Division II Cal-Davis named Ken O'Brien instead.

    As everybody knows, the Dolphins scooped up Marino three picks later, and despite the scathing objections to the pick by Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman, that Marino guy turned out to be a decent pick for the Dolphins.

    Now that the Ken O'Brien era was underway in New York, the Jets really needed to get their young quarterback a legitimate target at wide receiver.

    During the 1983 season, the Jets' top two leading wide receivers were Wesley Walker and Johnny Lam Jones, who combined for just 72 catches and 1093 yards.  

    Walker was a great Jet, but was 29 years old at the time and it was apparent that Jones was never going to materialize as an NFL player.

    The 1985 NFL draft had three wide receivers who were considered sure-fire first-round picks, and the Jets were surely in the market for one.

    The three receivers were Al Toon, Eddie Brown and Jerry Rice.

    Picking at No. 10, the Jets went with Toon.

    Brown was picked by the Bengals at No. 13 and Rice went to the 49ers at No. 16.

    While there were obviously plenty of teams who passed on both Marino and Rice, what makes it harder to take for Jets fans is that they clearly had needs at those positions and the close proximity to which Marino and Rice were picked after O'Brien and Toon.

    Toon was inducted into the Jets' Ring of Honor last season, and O'Brien had his share of great moments for the team, but Jets fans still wonder "what if?"—picturing Dan Marino throwing to Jerry Rice while wearing green and white.

    No. 3

Drafting Johnny Mitchell

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    Johnny Mitchell was a giant, unproductive pain-in-the-neck who never should have been drafted in the first place.  

    Mitchell did have some decent moments, but never remained active for a full 16-game season.  

    Over his four-year career, he played for Bruce Coslet, Pete Carroll and Rich Kotite, and the Jets compiled a record of 21-34 during that time.

    Mitchell was as much of a team-killer as a tight end could be, often battling with respected veteran quarterback Boomer Esiason.  

    In an article in the New York Daily News in 1995, Esiason and Mitchell talked about their rocky relationship.

    "For the first time in my two years here, I yelled at somebody on the field," Esiason said. "I've never felt demeaning my teammates was something they needed in the heat of battle, but I just lashed out at Johnny on the field. I mean, I ripped him."

    Esiason also said that at a home game during the 1994 season, his wife heard Mitchell's family and friends talking trash about the veteran quarterback.  

    "(He said) some very unkind things about me.  I never took them to Johnny, because I know how dopey friends and family can be. . . . But our relationship got infected."

    To make matters worse, the Jets passed on Pro-Bowlers like Chester McGlockton, Dale Carter and Robert Porcher to draft Mitchell, who entered the draft early after a sophomore season in which he was a third-team All-American. 

Passing on Hall of Famers to Select Dave Cadigan and Terry Williams

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    When Dave Cadigan was picked by the Jets at No. 8 in the 1988 NFL draft, it wasn't considered the worst selection in the world at the time.  

    Sure, Jets draft director Mike Hickey probably should have raised some red flags when he found out that Cadigan tested positive for steroids during the NFL Combine, but I guess the Jets decided to look the other way.

    Cadigan was a first-team All-American at USC in 1987 and was the second offensive lineman selected in the draft.

    What makes the pick of Cadigan, and then subsequently Terry Williams in the second round, was that four Hall of Famers were selected just after both of those picks.

    Three picks after Cadigan was picked by the Jets, the Cowboys selected Michael Irvin.  Not long after that, Randall McDaniel, who, like Cadigan, played guard, was picked by the Vikings.

    In fact, eight of the next 11 players picked were Pro Bowlers.

    In round two the Jets fared much worse.

    The Jets selected Terry Williams, a cornerback from Bethune-Cookman, who played just 11 games over two seasons.

    In doing so, the Jets passed on Thurman Thomas and Dermontti Dawson, both now enshrined in Canton.

Drafting Vernon Gholston

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    As with Dave Cadigan, the selection of Vernon Gholston wasn't any kind of huge reach or shocker at the time—it was his performance afterwards that sealed his fate as one of the biggest draft busts in recent NFL history.

    Gholston was highly regarded out of Ohio State and, in this draft preview from Yahoo sports, was compared to Terrell Suggs and projected to fall to the Jets, drafting sixth overall.

    However, once the games started, Gholston appeared impossibly clueless out on the football field.

    His reign of awfulness lasted for the entirety of his brief, three-year Jets career, and upon being cut by Rex Ryan in 2011, Michael David Smith from NBC Sports postulated that Gholston was the biggest draft bust at defensive end in NFL history. 

    The article pointed out that Gholston was the only defensive end to be drafted in the top 10, yet never record a single sack.

    To realize just how bad Gholston was, in 2010 Gholston impacted just nine plays all season.

    Rex Ryan would have done better pulling a pretzel vendor out of the stands and hoping ball carriers would trip over him by accident.

    In Ryan's book Play Like You Mean It, he addressed Gholston and what he thought of him coming into the 2008 NFL draft.

    Ryan wrote:

    "He's a good athlete and a smart guy, but I thought he was a phony. We had him come to Baltimore, and I just didn't believe in him.  I even told [former Jets coach Eric] Mangini not to draft him." 

    Mangini should have taken Ryan's advice to say the least.

Missing out on 11 Pro Bowl Defensive Players in 2003

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    Some of the Jets draft blunders have been born out of pure stupidity, however in 2003, they seemed to just have a year of bad luck.

    Early in the draft, the Jets traded two first-round picks plus a fourth-rounder to the Bears, in order to move up to No. 4 in the draft.

    The team had their eyes on Dewayne Robertson, a hulking defensive tackle who was a consensus top-five pick.

    Robertson had some moments of brilliance, including a seven-tackle performance in a 2004 playoff win over the Chargers, but ultimately carrying over 300 pounds on bad knees took its toll quickly on Robertson.

    His performance fizzled, and after an ill-advised scheme change by Eric Mangini doomed his production, Robertson was off the team by 2007.

    In round two, the Jets drafted Victor Hobson, who, like Robertson, had a positive impact on the defense.

    Hobson's best season came in 2006 when he registered 100 tackles and six sacks. However, also like Robertson, Hobson lasted just five seasons as a Jet and was gone after 2007.

    While both players were productive at times, what makes these picks mistakes was the fact that the Jets passed up 11 future Pro Bowl defensive players in the first two rounds to select Robertson and Hobson.

    Some of the names the Jets passed up to nab Robertson and Hobson?  How about Osi Umenyiora, Terrell Suggs, Nnamdi Asomugha and Troy Polamalu.

Drafting Blair Thomas

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    It's hard to fault the Jets for drafting Blair Thomas with the No. 2 pick overall in the 1990 NFL draft, even if Emmitt Smith was taken 15 picks later.

    Johnny Hector and Freeman McNeil were 29 and 30 years old respectively, and the Jets were in need of a complete rebuild after a 4-12 season.

    Thomas was clearly the top running back in the draft after a tremendous career at Penn State.  While Smith was the SEC Player of the Year after his junior year, concerns about his lack of speed and the health of his knee pushed him down the draft boards.

    Regardless of whether it was the right pick at the time or not, Thomas was a complete bust as an NFL player right from the start.

    Thomas held out during the preseason, signing just before the Jets' third preseason game, and only saw significant time in their final preseason game before being eased along over the first three weeks.

    In a Week 4 game against the Patriots, Thomas was finally unleashed for 20 carries and 100 yards as the Jets trounced New England 37-13.

    That was pretty much the high point of his career.

    Thomas only topped the 100-yard mark one more time as a Jet and accumulated just 2236 yards over his injury-plagued career.

The Entire 1986 and 1987 Drafts

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    Every team has its share of draft-day regrets.

    The Chiefs drafted Todd Blackledge instead of Jim Kelly or Dan Marino, the Falcons drafted Aundray Bruce first overall and everyone passed on Ton Brady multiple times.  

    Any team can have one pick here or there they regret, but to miss on an entire draft's worth of picks really takes talent.

    To completely miss on two consecutive drafts, encompassing 24 total picks, well that's why the Jets have the reputation they do.

    Fifty-seven players that were selected during the 1986 and 1987 drafts eventually went on to make the Pro Bowl, not a single one was a New York Jet.

    Jets immortals like Onzy Elam, Kirby Jackson, Tim Crawford, Doug Williams and Rogers Alexander were among the players selected, and if those don't ring a bell, they shouldn't.

    To make matters worse, those weren't throw-away picks late in the draft, those were all players picked between rounds two and five.

    The crowning achievements of the 1986 and 1987 drafts were first-round selections Roger Vick and Mike Haight...but more on them later.

Using Their First Pick on Kicker Mike Nugent

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    The 2005 draft wasn't a bad one for the Jets by any means.  They picked up Justin Miller in the second round, Sione Pouha in the third round, Kerry Rhodes in the fourth.  

    Even sixth-round pick Joel Dreessen went on to some success, albeit for the Houston Texans.

    But it wouldn't be the Jets if there wasn't at least one draft blunder.

    The problem with the Jets' draft here is two-fold.

    First, they inexplicably traded their first-round pick in a deal for tight end Doug Jolley.

    Roddy White, Heath Miller and Logan Mankins were three of the players picked directly after where the Jets would have been picking had they not dealt the pick.

    The real mistake, though, was the direction they went with their first second-round pick.

    The 2004 Jets were coming off a successful 10-6 season that ended in disaster when Doug Brien missed two potential game-winning field goals that would have sent the Jets to the AFC Championship game.  

    While Jets fans were ready to run Brien out of town with burning torches, they most likely weren't ready to spend their first pick on a kicker.

    But with Vincent Jackson, Frank Gore and Justin Tuck all still on the board, the Jets jumped right in and picked Mike Nugent.

Drafting Johnny Lam Jones Instead of Art Monk or Anthony Munoz

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    When you spend the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft on a wide receiver, you might want to make sure he can actually catch the ball consistently.  

    There was no question whatsoever about Johnny Lam Jones' speed, as he won a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics as a member of the US 4x100 relay team.

    But when it came to football, Jones was a question mark at best.

    Jones was an All-Southwest Conference performer at the University of Texas, where he spent time between running back and wide receiver.

    He was unable to make a successful leap to the NFL though for many reasons.  

    Jones struggled to catch the ball consistently at receiver and his sprinter's body failed to take the vigor of an NFL schedule. 

    Jones stuck around for five seasons, but after performance issues, health problems and substance abuse, no NFL team wanted to give him another shot once his Jets career was done.  

    What makes the pick even more hurtful was that with the very next pick, the Bengals picked Anthony Munoz, who some consider the best offensive tackle of all time.

    The Jets allegedly passed on Munoz because of health concerns, as well as the fact that they were looking for a complementary receiver for Wesley Walker.

    If they wanted that, they would have been much better off selecting Art Monk, who went 15 selections later to the Redskins.

    Sadly, Jones' life took a downturn after his NFL career as he continued to battle substance abuse, became homeless and as of 2005, was battling a serious form of cancer.

Drafting Chris Ward

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    Although Chris Ward isn't usually listed among the biggest draft busts in Jets history, he probably should be at or near the top of the list.  

    Not only was Ward's selection awful, it prevented a hypothetical chain of events that could have helped the Jets land two Hall of Famers.

    In 1977, the Jets had the fourth pick overall and selected offensive tackle Marvin Powell, an excellent selection, as Powell made multiple Pro Bowls.

    When 1978 came around, the Jets found themselves picking at No. 4 again in a draft that ended up being pretty fruitful for most teams.

    The first three picks of the 1978 draft were Earl Campbell, Art Still and Wes Chandler, all Pro Bowl players.

    Six of the next seven players selected didn't exactly carve out a name for themselves in the league.

    The one exception in that group was James Lofton.  

    The Jets at the time had Wesley Walker, who had just come off a good rookie season, as their top receiver.  

    They certainly could have used a second receiver at the time considering that the wide receiver who had the second-most catches behind Walker was Richard Caster, who caught a grand total of 10 passes in 1977.

    Had the Jets selected Lofton (who went two picks later to the Packers) there wouldn't have been a need to select Johnny Lam Jones the next season, thus increasing the odds they could have picked Anthony Munoz.

    Potentially, the Jets could have had an offensive core of Marvin Powell, Wesley Walker, Anthony Munoz and James Lofton as they began their New York Sack Exchange era.  Instead, they got Walker, Powell, Chris Ward and Johnny Lam Jones.

    Ward played six less-than-stellar seasons with the Jets and after a brief stop off with the Saints, was out of the NFL.  

Drafting Roger Vick and Mike Haight

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    Want a reason why the Jets had just one winning season for a decade during the late '80s and early '90s?  

    Take a close look at the 1987 and 1988 NFL drafts.  

    Not only were their entire drafts beyond hideous, as they did not draft one impact player out of 24 picks, but their two first-round selections were among the worst the team has ever had.

    That's saying a lot considering the Jets' draft history.

    The Jets were slated to pick 22nd overall in 1986 after going 10-6 the year before.  The team didn't have many holes, as they had their skill positions set along with an overall strong defense.

    They decided to try to bolster their offensive line by selecting Mike Haight out of Iowa.

    Fortifying the offensive line was not a bad decision, as Ken O'Brien typically took a beating during his career, but Haight was a reach who simply never worked out.

    He had some health problems and was easily bullied by bigger defensive linemen during his six-year Jets career.

    What makes this pick a little easier to take is that there really weren't many other impact players the Jets could have selected instead.

    The Roger Vick selection, however, is a different story. 

    To say the least, picking a fullback in the first round is generally not a road map towards building a successful team.

    As Mel Kiper previewed the Jets first-round selection in 1987, he pointed out that Haight was a reach the year before and will not pan out in the NFL.  He even went as far to say the "pick has to be (Harris) Barton" as the card was coming up to the podium.

    Obviously, that wasn't the case.

    Vick was off the Jets after three seasons while Barton went on to a Pro Bowl career with the 49ers.

    Bruce Armstrong, another Pro Bowl tackle, was selected immediately after Barton, and to make matters worse, Kiper pointed out that if the Jets really wanted a fullback, they could have picked up someone named Christian Okoye.

    Okoye never made it to the Jets' pick in round two anyway, and if they picked him in round one it would have been a reach, but you get the picture.