Re-Grading New York Jets' Past 5 Drafts

Ryan AlfieriCorrespondent IIIApril 21, 2014

Re-Grading New York Jets' Past 5 Drafts

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    Frank Franklin II

    Much like their on-field success, the New York Jets' success on draft day has been anything but consistent.

    Which is hardly a coincidence.

    The team's on-field success in 2009 and 2010 is a direct result of their stellar 2007 and 2006 drafts, just like their decline in 2011 to 2012 is a reflection of their misfirings in the 2009 and 2010 drafts. 

    The previous regime under former general manager Mike Tannenbaum favored quality over quantity, making aggressive moves up the draft board to acquire targeted players at the expense of depth. While this did bring in players like Darrelle Revis and Dustin Keller in his earlier drafts, the team was not able to recover from a string of thinned-out draft classes.

    Since the disastrous 2010 season, their luck on draft day has started to make a turn for the better with the selection of three stellar defensive linemen in the first round, resulting in a bounce-back season in 2013. 

    Now, the Jets must learn from their mistakes as they devise their draft philosophy going forward.

     

    Advanced statistics provided by Pro Football Focus.

2009

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    RoundPlayerPositionSchool
    1Mark SanchezQBUSC
    3Shonn GreeneRBIowa
    6Matt SlausonGNebraska

    What could have been a monumental draft in Jets history will go down as one of their worst.

    The disappointing fate of Mark Sanchez will forever define this year's draft. While he had his share of early successes with two-straight AFC Championship appearances, Sanchez never panned out as the modern version of Joe Namath the Jets were hoping they were getting when they traded up to select him fifth overall.

    The selection of Sanchez hurt the Jets in more ways than one. Not only did he set the franchise back several years because of his inconsistent (and sometimes downright poor) play—the draft picks and players the Jets gave up to acquire Sanchez only added insult to injury.

    In the Jets' defense, the 2009 draft was a minefield of talent, particularly at the top of the draft. Of all of the first seven draft picks, only one (Matthew Stafford, who was taken first overall) is a starter on his original team.

    Meanwhile, the Jets did get a good amount of production out of Shonn Greene, who propelled his way into the starting lineup for roughly two seasons after a stellar postseason in 2009. However, his effectiveness waned with time before he left in free agent to the Tennessee Titans without a fight.

    Ironically enough, the Jets' sixth-round pick, Matt Slauson, turned out to be the best selection in the draft. Slauson started at guard for the Jets from 2010 to 2012 before signing a new long-term deal with the Bears this offseason.

     

    Grade: F

2010

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    Mel Evans
    RoundPlayerPositionSchool
    1Kyle WilsonCBBoise State
    2Vladimir DucasseGUMass
    4Joe McKnightRBUSC
    5John ConnerFBKentucky

     

    The Jets' follow-up to their disastrous 2009 draft was hardly an improvement. Of the four players they walked away with, only one (Kyle Wilson) is still on the roster.

    Wilson has finally emerged as a viable slot cornerback after four seasons, but more was expected out of a former first-round pick who had the benefit of playing alongside Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. He has also disappointed tremendously as a punt returner. 

    Vladimir Ducasse will go down as the ugly representation of this class (in more ways than one). The second-round selection from Mike Tannenbaum's alma mater was never able to hold on to a starting job for more than a month. Ducasse left for the Minnesota Vikings in free agency. 

    The Jets used their fourth-round pick on a Leon Washington replacement, Joe McKnight. After a rough start to training camp that was captured by Hard Knocks, McKnight eventually developed into one of the best kick-returners in the NFL, although he never won a meaningful role with the regular offense.

    Unlike McKnight, John "The Terminator" Conner was a Hard Knocks star for all of the right reasons, gaining a reputation for delivering devastating blocks. However, he was slow to adapt to the mental aspects of the game, and an MCL sprain in October of 2012 led to his release. 

    While this draft is only slightly more useful than the 2009 group because Kyle Wilson is still on the team, this draft was another big reason why the roster deteriorated so quickly in the following two seasons. Coming away with just four players and one useful player (who took plenty of time to develop) is simply insufficient.

     

    Grade: D

2011

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    Mel Evans
    RoundPlayerPositionSchool
    1Muhammad WilkersonDETemple
    3Kenrick EllisDTHampton
    4Bilal PowellRBLouisville
    5Jeremy KerleyWRTCU
    7Greg McElroyQBAlabama
    7Scotty McKnightWRColorado


    The Tannenbaum administration rebounded nicely in 2011 with their best draft since 2007.

    After just two seasons, Muhammad Wilkerson has already established himself as one of the premier defensive lineman in football. Not only has his production been tremendous (10.5 sacks in 2013 as a 3-4 defensive end), he is emerging as a team leader in the locker room at the young age of 24.

    The follow-up picks of Kenrick Ellis and Bilal Powell have paid dividends as well. While Ellis has battled injuries, he has been effective when called upon, grading out as the fourth-best defender on the Jets last season (according to Pro Football Focus).

    Meanwhile, Powell was the Jets' top runner for the first half of 2013, and finished with a solid 4.0 yards per carry.

    What put this class over the top in terms of value was Jeremy Kerley. The Jets turned their fifth-round pick into their most productive receiver over the past two seasons, as Kerley as established himself as one of the better slot receivers in the NFL.

    The following two picks were more forgettable, although Greg McElroy provided some value as a depth quarterback. Scotty McKnight was more or less a waste of a pick, as the Jets did Sanchez a favor by giving his childhood friend a spot on the team for a year.

    No draft is perfect, but there is no doubt that this was a massive improvement over the previous two drafts. This group, particularly Wilkerson, Kerley and Powell, are a part of a foundation that the Jets are building their new team around.

     

    Grade: A-

2012

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    USA TODAY Sports
    RoundPlayerPositionSchool
    1Quinton CoplesDENorth Carolina
    2Stephen HillWRGeorgia Tech
    3Demario DavisILBArkansas State
    6Josh BushSWake Forest
    6Terrance GanawayRBBaylor
    6Robert GriffinGBaylor
    7Antonio AllenSSouth Carolina
    7Jordan WhiteWRWestern Michigan

     

    It may still be a bit early to make a final ruling on the 2012 class, but this group has had mixed results after two seasons in the league.

    Quinton Coples flashed brilliance in his rookie season, notching 5.5 sacks in limited action. Preseason ankle surgery slowed him down as in his sophomore season, but he will only get better from this point at his new position at outside linebacker. 

    The Jets laded two more stud defensive players in Demario Davis and Antonio Allen. Davis secured his spot as Bart Scott's replacement by the middle of the 2012 season and has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities. Allen, on the other hand, has flashed brilliance as a man-to-man coverage specialist, being the antidote to some of the top opposing tight ends.

    The rest of the class has been forgettable at best. 

    Stephen Hill is one more disappearing act away from the "bust" label, despite getting ever opportunity to seize a starting job. Neither Baylor product, Terrance Ganaway or Robert Griffin made it through their first training camp and Josh Bush has been relegated to special teams duty. Jordan White played in just three games (mostly because of the Jets' desperation for receiver help).

    The Jets did get a handful of blue-chip defensive players that have a lot of potential, but their decision to trade up for Stephen Hill weighs down the overall grade of this group. 

     

    Grade: B-

2013

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    USA TODAY Sports
    RoundPlayerPositionSchool
    1Dee MillinerCBAlabama
    1Sheldon RichardsonDEMissouri
    2Geno SmithQBWest Virginia
    3Brian WintersGKent State
    5Oday AboushiOTVirginia
    6William CampbellDT/GMichigan
    7Tommy BohanonFBWake Forest

     

    Armed with an extra first-round pick from the Darrelle Revis trade, then-new general manager John Idzik made the most out of his first three picks.

    Nabbing two defensive players in the first round was hardly a popular choice, but no one was questioning Idzik's decision to take Sheldon Richardson after he was crowned Defensive Rookie of the Year. In fact, if the draft were to be redone, Richardson may very well go first overall.

    Dee Milliner's rookie season did not go as swimmingly as Richardson, as he was benched on three separate occasions. However, the Jets can take solace in the fact that he improved greatly in the final month of the season, playing like the shutdown corner everyone anticipated him to become. 

    What will ultimately define this draft will be the success or failure of Geno Smith. After a very up-and-down rookie season, Smith can either take Sanchez's route to obscurity or become the franchise quarterback the team has not had in nearly a decade.

    If Smith becomes the latter, this draft will go down as one of the all-time great drafts in Jets history.

    The rest of the draft did not have nearly as much sizzle. Brian Winters struggled for most of the season at left guard but like Milliner, he had a strong season finale. Tommy Bohanon proved useful as the team's starting fullback while William Campbell and Oday Aboushi spend the entire season on the inactive list. 

    It is impossible to judge a draft class after one season, but the Jets have to be excited about the potential of most of these players.

     

    Grade: A-