The Jets passed on the guy who ran for more yards than any back in NFL history in the first round of the 1990 NFL Draft. They took a guy instead who had 2,009 rushing yards in four seasons with the team. That guys with 2,009 rushing yards was Blair Thomas, who set a trend of Penn State running backs going down as first round busts like Ki-Jana Carter and Curtis Enis. It took Larry Johnson to redeem Franco Harris' alma mater.
Emmitt Smith, who the Jets passed on, is the all-time NFL rushing champion. He won three Super Bowl rings. He went to eight Pro Bowls. He was First Team All Pro four times. He won four rushing titles. He was an MVP and a Super Bowl MVP.
Could Smith have done all of those things with a suspect offensive line and supporting cast instead of the stable of studs he was surrounded with in Dallas? Maybe not, but it is telling that Smith produced taking a pounding as he was in the top two in touches in the league five straight years during his prime. His most memorable performance was playing with a separated shoulder in the final week of the 1993 season. He ran for 168 yards as he willed the Cowboys to an overtime win over the Giants with the NFC's top seed and a badly needed bye on the line. Had Dallas been forced to play Wild Card weekend and on the road a week later, they would likely not have won their second Super Bowl of the 1990's.
Thomas, meanwhile missed thirteen games in his four seasons with the Jets. He also had five rushing touchdowns as a Jet to Smith's career 164. Blair never ran for more than 724 yards in one season. He was considered the ultimate Jets bust for a decade until the top man on our list came along.
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