The NFL draft is just around the corner. Excitement fills the air, the beer is flowing and the pizza is out. We're ready to talk football. A history of draft picks, a history of ambition, success and failure.
Draft day for me is like Christmas, and that's not an exaggeration. I wake up just as excited with all the same hope and anticipation for what the day may hold. Fans of all 32 NFL teams will get themselves settled in front of the TV, or at the local bar. Pizza will be ordered, beer will be on tap and anything not to do with the draft will be disregarded with a snort of derision, "Don't you know it's draft day, so what if the financial market is crashing, I need to know who will be leading my team to glory."
For many fans the draft is a chance to solidify their team as a play-off contender, the last piece in what they believe to be a championship team. For others, the whole future of their franchise depends on the words that follow "With the #1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Houston Texans select...." at that moment the whole of Houston will hold their breath in anticipation, and within 20 seconds of the selection, fans will make up their mind on the player selected and the direction of the organization.
For most teams, the delight or despair is a private moment, refined to homes and bars in their respective cities. The millions watching on ESPN or the NFL Network won't see the reaction, won't judge the fans based on their perceived premature evaluation. It's natural, we all do it, but it doesn't stop us from complaining about other fans doing the same thing. When we selected Mark Sanchez I was devastated, when we selected Kyle Wilson, I lamented the lost opportunity to add real talent. However for most, these feelings are kept behind closed doors.
Conversations will roar on message boards up and down the country, the world over. He is overrated, he is underrated, he's not fast enough, all he has is speed, he's not strong enough, the competition he faced wasn't good enough. He's too short for the position, his arms are too short, he doesn't have enough leg bend, he's a penalty machine, he'll be in prison before he's in the Pro Bowl. Everyone is an expert on draft day, we'll talk about the players we were right about and conveniently ignore the players we were wrong about.
However the New York Jets are fortunately or unfortunately put into the public spotlight. We outnumber any other fan base in attendance at the draft and the reaction of our fans to any selection is broadcast to millions of homes around the country, around the World. We are by default judged based on the reaction of these fans. However the cameras will usually focus in on the negative reactions, the booing, the hissing and the general waving of arms in disgust.
We here on Gang Green Nation have a set of fans as diverse and as opinionated as any community on the internet. We all have our ideas and our opinions on who we should select and at what point. If you randomly selected 50 members from this community, there is less than a 1% chance we would all agree on the first round selection. So it's not surprising to see the Jets fans in attendance at the draft disagree whenever a selection is made. It's a natural by-product of being a fan of a team anywhere, let alone in New York.
However we can't ignore the fact the Jets have given us many reasons to complain, many reasons to boo and many reasons to come away from Radio City with a dim outlook on the future of the organization. In this article we will detail just a few selections the Jets have missed on, a few selections the Jets have nailed and a few stories about the draft in general, who could want anything more as we are just days away.
On that day there was no media coverage, names were roughly scrawled onto a blackboard and each team had 9 rounds to select players they rarely had an idea about. You see in the early 1930's the professional teams didn't have a scouting department, instead they relied on local college visits and team executives giving them the inside information. It had no glitz and no glamor and had you have offered media coverage to the local press; it probably would have been turned down. Many players turned down the chance to play in the NFL that year with only twenty-four of the eighty-one players able to agree a contract to play.
However as salaries continued to rise in the NFL, in large part thanks to Art Rooney's $15,000 salary offer to college star Byron "Whizzer" White, a player who originally had no desire to play in the NFL, a bigger impetus was put on scouting. In 1946, 10 years after the first ever draft, Eddie Kotal became the first ever scout for the Los Angeles Rams. With a professional scout in place the LA Rams experienced a period of great success playing in four championship games from the late 40's to mid 50's. In time scouts became more popular. Before scouts, a lot of teams would subscribe to local papers to get the inside scoop on the nations best and brightest.
"Everybody in the world knew Eddie Kotal... When you walked into Eddie Kotal's office, it looked like a library. Everybody else drafted from magazine articles, notebooks. Nobody seemed organized like the Los Angeles Rams."Sid Gillman, LA Rams coach 1955-59
The NFL draft became more competitive in 1960 with the introduction of the AFL into the mix. Many players chosen in the first round of the 1960 NFL draft elected to join the AFL, including the first overall selection and former Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon. The AFL and NFL maintained separate drafts until the merger in 1967. Interestingly, in the NFL teams had the right to first choice on regional prospects. So each team was assigned a broad geographical region around their home city, which was to encourage local players to sign with local teams.
In 1976 we saw the introduction of Mr. Irrelevant, the name attached to the last player to get selected during the draft, the moniker and celebration is the brainchild of Paul Salata a former USC wide receiver. However don't feel sorry for the last selection, he is taken out to California for a week of celebration, presented with a trophy (although the trophy shows a player fumbling), all culminating in a banquet in his honour.
Recently Ryan Succop became the starting kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs after being the last selection in the 2009 draft.
"Parts of the team got way more attention than the rest of the team, and I thought that everyone should be considered equal. I wanted to do something that gave recognition to the underdog, the guy [who] tries just as hard or harder, but never is recognized for it. Irrelevant Week is a celebration of the underdog."-Paul Salata
The Jets have only ever selected one "Mr. Irrelevant," defensive tackle Fred Zirkie in 1969, which was selection #442 in round 17.
In 1980 the draft became more recognizable to the draft we see today. ESPN asked permission to broadcast the draft live on television. The man behind the idea was Chet Simmons. The draft was televised from that day to this day, switching to a Weekend draft in 1988 and then back to encompass weekdays in 2010. The NFL Network started broadcasting their own draft coverage in 2006, which has given us the current set up.
The first draft the Jets were involved in was the 1961 affair, which was actually held over the telephone in 1960. Remember at this point the AFL and NFL took part in separate drafts. The Jets first ever selection was Tom Brown, an offensive guard from Minnesota, selected 5th overall. However Despite being drafted by the Titans (Jets) and the Baltimore Colts, Brown elected to play his football in Canada with the BC Lions from 1961-1967.
The draft has become a marquee event in the calendar and decisions that once cost the franchise next to nothing, now could cost you millions of dollars. However the risk also rests with the players themselves. As much as we like to pretend that these athletes are purely amateur in college, I think we all know they get, lets say, certain perks. So when deciding to leave college, they need to ensure that they are leaving at the right moment to maximize their potential earnings.
In 1994 the NFL draft Advisory Board was created, to help college athletes understand where their stock lay and how much demand there was for their services. It was also set up to counteract deceitful agents. A lot of players would be told by agents competing for their business that they would be drafted far higher than they were. They were promised salaries beyond their wildest dreams. In reality, many underclassman who declared for the draft in the early years went completely undrafted.
The Advisory Board is made up of NFL general managers and personal executives as well as NFL scouting directors. They give a fair and impartial judgement and allow the player to make his mind up based on the information provided.
Once they have made the decision to enter the NFL draft and submit their paperwork they are ineligible to then return to college football. They will of course then partake in the scouting dance. Starting mainly with the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. The first scouting combine then called the National Invitational Camp (NIC) was held in Florida in 1982. The suggestion for a centralized scouting event was first put forward by Dallas Cowboys general manager and President Tex Schramm.
At first the event was only for members of the National Football Scouting Inc, teams who were not members would need to take part in rival events hosted across the country. Otherwise, they would need to continue arranging individual visits like they had done before 1982. However after everyone joined the same association all camps were bundled into one big event, the scouting combine as we know it. It has been held annually in Indianapolis since 1987.
We could spend a lot of time looking through the historical data, picking out each selection. However that would be more tedious than ESPN waxing lyrical about the Tom Brady Bill Belichick bromance. So I've concentrated my efforts on a classic top 5 series. Which selections do we wish we had back, and which selections would we run to the podium all over again?
"My first four years with the Jets, I was used in various capacities and in different ways. With Cough Coughlin, I finally had the opportunity to be a true multifaceted tight end... He gave me my greatest opportunity as a football player."- Kyle Brady
Now I can't put into words how bad this selection was. When Troy opened their gates to a Trojan Horse, that was a bad decision. When Dick Rowe at Decca Records had the chance to sign the Beatles in 1962 and declined, that was a bad decision. Introducing Jar-Jar Binks to the Star Wars Universe, that was a bad decision. However all of them would look at the Jets and scoff at their selection of Kyle Brady. Why was it such a bad decision? Firstly, Warren Sapp, the fans wanted him, the media wanted him and he was selected 3 picks later than Brady. Secondly the Jets already had a good tight end in Johnny Mitchell who was coming off a 58 catch season. Thirdly, Brady wasn't even very good at Penn State. He caught just 5 touchdowns his final three years. There are a number of reasons why this was the worst selection in Jets draft history, above I have outlined just three.
This is becoming more painful the more I write, this selection had dumb tattooed on the forehead from the get-go. Yes Vick was coming off a very good season at Texas, but he wasn't a blocker. The Jets already had a crowded back-field with Freeman McNeil and Johnny Hector who had combined for well over 2,000 yards the year before. Where were we planning to play him? McNeil and Hector were both still young. They had years left and we select Roger Vick, in the words of Keyshawn "C'm On Man"! Vick last four years in the league, three with the Jets and while he wasn't terrible because we still got production out of him, it was just a surprise and bonehead selection based on who we already had.
This one still hurts, it's still fresh. Gholston was billed as the next great pass rusher, he was ferocious at Ohio State, a constant menace with a good motor. I really wanted him to succeed, but the light never quite switched on for Verny. In 2007 he broke the sacks record for a season at Ohio State. However in three seasons for the Jets, he failed to tally a single sack. It got to a point where it was embarrassing for him and us. He was a work-out warrior who had several flaws in his game, however we fell for it hook, line and sinker. He tallied 42 tackles in three years and hasn't played football since 2010. I think it is safe to say he was one of the biggest draft busts of all time. Jerod Mayo, Ryan Clady, DRC and Brandon Albert were taken after Vernon. Shame! I wonder what he's doing with himself these days.
The speedster, this is what happens when you fall in love with speed rather than overall talent. Art Monk from Syracuse was the more polished receiver, however Jones was the burner. In our best Al Davis impersonation we went with the Texas man. He played 5 years, brought in 138 receptions and 13 touchdowns before leaving football. Art Monk played 16 years, one for the Jets, tallied 940 receptions for over 12,000 yards, 68 touchdowns and his name now resides in Canton. Do you think we made a little bit of a mistake there? We needed a wide receiver and we simply took the wrong one, it's excruciating to think we could have had Sapp and Monk on this team. Oh well, on to the next one.
Oh dear, that's all I can say. Another running back makes the list and another player from Penn State. Thomas did last for 7 years in the NFL and had 7 total touchdowns, for a running back selected 2nd overall, you can't get much worse. Well actually it's about to get much worse, like with Jones we needed a running back, we just selected the wrong one. Who was taken later in this draft? Emmitt Smith, the hall of famer. Shannon Sharpe was also in the 1990 draft as was Cortez Kennedy a HOF defensive tackle who the Seahawks snapped up. Put very bluntly, the Jets royally screwed this one. Blair was never going to be the work horse, but for some reason we fell in love with him.
It would be very easy to get very down about our prospects heading into the 2014 NFL draft. However it's not all bad, every team has their draft blunders, you just hear about ours a lot more. So to add some cheer back in the room, it's time to look at five of our best selections. These picks represented value, they all had talent and they all made a good contribution to the New York Jets as we know them. So sit back and relax and enjoy the smug realization that we have absolutely nailed some selections over the course of our history:
"It was really neat that we were feared as much as we were, we were an awesome group. Mark and I were the catalysts, but without Marty and Abdul stuffing the run, we couldn't have put the fear in the QB.-Joe Klecko
What can you say about Klecko, named to the Pro Bowl at three different positions, a member of the New York Sack Exchange, a member of the New York Jets Ring of Honor, his #73 jersey has been retired. He led the league in sacks for rookies his first year, and he had an amazing 20.5 sacks in 1981 to lead the league. Did I mention that he was a 6th round selection? Well he was, so that's where the value comes in. Offensive lineman hated playing against him because of his speed and strength, he had the speed to play defensive end and the strength to play defensive tackle and nose tackle. He excelled at all positions, which is probably why he was voted to the pro bowl at all three. He will forever be a Jets legend and that's why I have him right here on this list.
Namath ushered in the Modern quarterback with his gunslinger ways. At the end of his career he could barely move on his dodgy knees, but he just moved back to take plays from shotgun and continued to distribute the ball around the field. However he is here for one reason and one reason alone. He guaranteed we would win a championship, despite being heavy underdogs, and we did it. He gave us the most prized moment in our history, and that's why he's found his way here. He is a Jets legend and he always will be. Nearly 50 years on, he is still the face of the franchise and his play-boy ways endeared him to the fan base.
The Jets moved up for Revis and it was one of the finest decisions they have ever made. Revis quickly became the best cornerback in football and shut down half the field. His blanket coverage allowed the defence to do so much in terms of coverage schemes. He allowed very few completions and ever fewer touchdowns. The fans loved him, he had New York at his feet and the ego of both the player and the team ensured the relationship ended in a messy split. Revis is now with one of our most heated rivals and for many fans this is too much to bear. We loved having you here Darrelle but the greed and move to a rival just won't do.
For a second round selection, Mark represented just fantastic value. He ended his career with 107 ½ sacks in 10 seasons. He ended with 22 sacks in a season and had 4 sacks in a single game. He leads the Jets all time record with his 107 ½ sacks and he was a very important member of the New York Sack Exchange. His famous sack dance was outlawed by the NFL in 1984 as unsportsmanlike conduct following a scuffle the year before with OT Jackie Slater of the LA Rams. Unfortunately Gastineau retired 7 weeks into the 1988 season. It was said that his fiancée was suffering from cancer of the uterus, however many New York tabloids were reluctant to believe this. Mark tried a comeback in the CFL but was released after only 4 games following an injury.
I really could have gone a number of ways with this one. I thought about Toon or Roggins, maybe even Mangold. However right now, Wilkerson is on his way to becoming one of the most dominant players in the NFL, and one of the most dominant defensive lineman we've seen in Green since the exchange. He's gone from 3 sacks as a rookie to 5 in 2012 and 10.5 in 2013. I fully expect him to keep going and he'll get his stats. He has absolutely everything you would want from a lineman and he is as strong as an ox. Now he has help on the line with Richardson, 2014 could be very fun to watch the Sons of Anarchy!
How successful have the Jets been drafting in the first round? Of the 58 selections they have made in the first round, two have gone on to be inducted into the Hall Of Fame. Joe Namath who they drafted in 1965 and John Riggins who they drafted in 1971. However the longevity of their first round selections is good, of the 58 first round selections, 32 of them have played at least 5 years with the Jets.
There we have it Jets fans, my draft picks from Jets history. Feel free to add your favourites in the comments below. On Thursday the 8th of May, myself and Scott Salmon will be going live to talk about your Jets, the NFL draft and everything it entails. We may not have the highlight reels of the NFL Network, we may not have the hair pieces of Mel Kiper and the ESPN crew. However we will be looking at the draft through the eyes of the New York Jets, and as fans, could you want any more?