Yesterday I wrote a post listing Jets first round picks over the past decade. It belatedly dawned on me that ranking the picks from the past decade would make for nice discussion. With that in mind, here are my rankings for Jets first round picks over the past ten years. Keep in mind that some of the players early in their careers have the potential to move on this list. This is only judging their contributions to date.
1. Darrelle Revis, 2007
Revis is the best Jet in a very long time. He is on a Hall of Fame career trajectory. Early in his career, he blossomed into the top cornerback in the NFL. The Jets built successful defenses around his immense talent. The ability to eliminate elite receivers with one quarterback allowed Rex Ryan a ton of flexibility with his defensive calls. Even though other factors were at play, the biggest difference in the immense dropoff of the Jets pass defense in recent years was Revis' departure. It's nice to have him back.
2. Nick Mangold, 2006
Mangold has been a starter from day one. Since he entered the league, he has either been the top center or in the discussion. He has also been very durable. Nick has twice as many Pro Bowl teams (6) as missed starts (3).
3. Muhammad Wilkerson, 2011
Despite his 10 sacks in 2013, Wilkerson's role doesn't lend itself to gaudy stats. A lot of his value comes from doing the dirty work, eating up blockers, and redirecting ball carriers. Mo is a rare talent, though. There aren't many players in the NFL who can regularly win assignments lining up everywhere from over the ball to outside in a 4-3 look. His versatility is not pleasant for other teams trying to figure out how to stop a player who regularly wins his assignments.
4. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, 2006
He isn't flashy, and he never reached the heights of Joe Thomas and Jake Long, the first tackles off the board in the two years after the Jets took Brick. I think the selection of Ferguson in 2006 was a very successful one, though. He has started every game for nine years. At his peak, he was one of the top five or ten tackles in the league. Seldom has left tackle ever felt like a giant weakness since he arrived with the Jets.
5. Sheldon Richardson, 2013
Richardson has the most room to grow on the list. It wouldn't be surprising if he made it up to number two on a rating of these players one day. He's an incredible athlete with a nonstop motor.
6. Dustin Keller, 2008
Keller was an adequate player, but he was kind of a disappointment. The Jets likely knew they were getting a pure receiving tight end when they moved back into the first round of the 2008 Draft to take Dustin. He wasn't a liability as a receiver. It just always felt like the whole was less than the sum of the parts with him. He had great athletic ability, but he seldom asserted his will. He didn't make the tough catches. He wasn't dynamic after the catch. He wasn't a red zone factor. Even his 65 catch, 815 yard 2011 season felt like it had a lot of empty calories in it. Given how little he provided as a blocker, Dustin needed to become a top end receiver at his position. It did not happen. Sadly, Keller's career is probably over after a devastating knee injury in the 2013 preseason.
7. Quinton Coples, 2012
When the Jets took Sheldon Richardson, Coples was left without a spot. The team tried to make him into an edge rusher. Coples hasn't been a disaster there, but he hasn't been an impact guy either. He's a brute strength player, not the kind of explosive athlete you usually see on the edge.
8. Mark Sanchez, 2009
I am basing my rating purely on what these players provided the Jets. If we were going based on positive or negative impact, Sanchez might rate last. In many ways the team still has not recovered from Mark's failure to become the long-term answer at quarterback and the domino effect that created. Sanchez was never that good with the Jets. Early in his career he just provided enough flashes of promise to make many of us believe. It didn't hurt that he played his best ball at the end of the year those first two seasons, seemingly putting things together and making the next step when the stakes were biggest. Even halfway through his third year, it was easy to argue he was on the right track. Things fell apart at the end of that season, and they continued through the end of his Jets tenure.
9. Calvin Pryor, 2014
Pryor makes it this high because he is only one year into his career. He has talent and time to grow. His rookie year was rough, though. The Jets were hoping for an impact safety. Pryor didn't make impact plays. Worse, he was frequently missing an assignment as the deep guy that turned bad plays into catastrophic plays.
10. Kyle Wilson, 2010
When Wilson fell to the end of the first round in 2010, Jets fans had dreams of Revis locking down one half of the field and Revis the other for a long time. Kyle never became more than a depth player, though, due to his extreme lack of ball skills.
11. Dee Milliner, 2013
It isn't over for Milliner. He still has a chance to turn things around. It is difficult to imagine a more catastrophic start to his career, though. As a rookie, he was one of the least effective cornerbacks in football. Teams made a point to go after him to much success. He barely got on the field his second year due to multiple serious injuries.
12. Vernon Gholston, 2008
Gholston isn't just a bust in Jets lore. He is one of the biggest busts in NFL history. It is almost unfathomable that he did not record one sack in three seasons. Just by pure luck, one would think another defensive lineman would have at some point forced a quarterback to scramble right to Gholston. It isn't like Gholston was purely a product of the Combine either. He was the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year his final season at Ohio State. He even beat Jake Long for a sack.