As we head to the Draft, let's think back for a moment and look at the Jets' recent history. Below is a ranking in reverse order of the first round picks the Jets have made in the past ten years. The Jets did not pick in the first round in 2005 and made a pair of first round selections in both 2006 and 2008 so there have been eleven first round selections in the past ten years.
11. Vernon Gholston 2008
Say what you will about the other players on this list. Everybody else at least contributed something positive to the Jets at one point or another. Gholston never did squat for this team. There really isn't anybody he can blame aside from himself. He got a chance under two defensive minded head coaches. He played multiple roles at multiple positions in multiple schemes. He never amounted to anything. He got chances with other teams and couldn't make it out of the preseason. Gholston isn't just the biggest bust in Jets history. He's one of the biggest busts in the history of the NFL Draft.
10. Dewayne Robertson 2003
Robertson came into the NFL with unfair expectations. People made comparisons to Warren Sapp that were so ridiculous that it's amazing they didn't come from Rex Ryan. I always felt a bit bad for Robertson. All indications were that he was a good guy who worked hard. He just wasn't very effective for most of his run with the Jets. Part of the problem was a bone on bone knee condition that helped wreck his career. I wonder how he might have turned out if not for the condition. He had a very good sophomore season in 2004 playing the three technique and played nose tackle at a high level down the stretch in 2006. By 2008 his knee was so wrecked that the Bengals called off a trade after they got a look at it. Robertson was probably never going to live up to those crazy Sapp expectations, but he might have been a quality player if not for the knee. It didn't help that the Jets traded two first round picks to move into the top five to take him.
9. Mark Sanchez 2009
Sanchez had some good moments with the Jets. I think after he leaves the team, and time moves away, Jets fans will remember the four Playoff wins and the fourth quarter comebacks as much as they remember the buttfumble. With all of that said, he has never been even an average quarterback in four NFL seasons. When you take a quarterback in the top five and four years later your quarterback situation can be described as desperate, it was a very poor pick. Sure the Jets had team success in his early years, but they probably could have had at least as much success with around two-thirds of the quarterbacks in the league.
8. Kyle Wilson 2010
This is probably the line between calamity and players who belong in the NFL but were simply overdrafted. Wilson came into the league with a lot of hype. Some smart people said he was the best cornerback in 2010 class and had him going in the top ten. There were a few outlandish Darrelle Revis comparisons, amplified by the fact Wilson ended up on the team that had selected Revis three years earlier. Wilson has been a lightning rod. Some people think he is a disaster at cornerback. Even his supporters would admit he is no better than a good nickel and adequate number two. You want more in a first rounder. Wilson also brought a lot of hype as a punt returner, but his NFL return career has been so undistinguished that he is now an afterthought on special teams for the Jets.
7. Dustin Keller 2008
Keller was a capable receiving target for the Jets from the tight end position. When he was picked, the team was hoping for so much more. Part of Keller's problem has been that he is arguably the worst blocking tight end in football. If you are so bad at one of the essentially functions of your position, you really need to be elite at the other functions to make up for it. Despite being fast and athletic, Keller never turned into the kind of player you can run a quality passing attack through. He just left too many catches on the field.
6. Quinton Coples 2012
I'm going to go with potential impact over known mediocrity. Coples' rookie year was solid but unspectacular. As his playing time increased, though, at the end of the season, he started to come on and show flashes of developing into an impact player. Time will tell how good he will become.
5. Muhammad Wilkerson 2011
So far Wilkerson has one season of impact and one solid season under his belt. He seems to be on an upward trajectory and could become one of the most disruptive 3-4 defensive ends/4-3 defensive tackles in the league.
4. Jonathan Vilma 2004
The official company line is that Vilma was a standout his first two years in Herman Edwards' 4-3 defense but couldn't handle the transition to Eric Mangini's 3-4. I say the Jets botched this situation. Yes, Vilma was a better fit in a 4-3. He was more of a sideline to sideline linebacker than a guy who could shed blocks. That doesn't explain why Eric Mangini force fed a 3-4 defense with personnel better suited to a 4-3, Vilma not the least of which. I also don't think they ever gave Vilma a fair chance in the new scheme. He wasn't surrounded by anything good. I think it could have worked quite well if he was surrounded by guys who could eat up blockers like Kris Jenkins and David Harris and allowed to roam, attack the carrier, and play coverage. Instead of giving this a shot, the Jets shipped him to New Orelans for 20 cents on the dollar. Vilma went on to win a championship and was probably the most important player for the Saints in that Super Bowl not named Drew Brees or Chris Reis (who recovered the onside kick). What Peyton Manning does better than anybody is examine your defense and change to a play that will exploit your weakness. When Manning did that against the Saints, Vilma consistently changed the defensive play, which allowed the Saints to hold the Colts in check. I don't think Mike Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini get enough heat for this.
3. D'Brickashaw Ferguson 2006
Ferguson has been up and down. He's had years where he's been very ineffective like 2007 and 2011. He's also had years where he's been arguably a top five left tackle or at least close to it. You might want more out of the fourth pick in the Draft, but Ferguson has been good enough to justify the pick.
2. Nick Mangold 2006
Mangold stepped in from day one and has anchored an offensive line that has been a big Jets strength for most of his tenure. He has played at a top level and regularly handled some of the most difficult assignments in football. Some say you don't take a center in the first round. Mangold proves that it can be a good idea provided he is this productive.
1. Darrelle Revis 2007
The superlatives are justified. Revis is the best cornerback since Deion Sanders. It's not even very debatable either. He is on pace to retire as perhaps one of the five greatest to ever play the position. He was the best player on a top ranked defenses that dragged the Jets on two deep postseason runs. He makes an average defense good and a good defense great. Over the coming days and weeks, we will find out whether he will finish his prime with and go into the Hall of Fame as a Jet.