We are now up to the fourth round in our rankings of Jets draft choices over the past decade. As always, there are young players on this list whose spot has the potential to change radically. This simply rates contributions to date.
1. Kerry Rhodes, 2005
The 2005 Draft was one of the strangest for the Jets in recent memory. Out of the first two rounds they got Doug Jolley, Mike Nugent, and Justin Miller. A start like that sounds like the makings of an all-time terrible class. Then in the third and fourth rounds, they ended up getting really good players. Sione Pouha went in the third, and Rhodes was the pick in the fourth. Rhodes started from day one. He provided the Jets with high level play at free safety and had Pro Bowl level years in 2006 and 2007. When Rex Ryan was brought in, there were hopes Kerry could take his game to the next level and play something of a poor man's Ed Reed role in the defense. It was not meant to be. Rhodes had a down year, earning himself a midseason benched. He did come on strong after that. He had a great game in a road Playoff win against the Chargers. It was not enough for the Jets to retain him, though, as his clashes with Rex Ryan led to a trade to Arizona over the offseason. Both sides might have wanted to move on without each other, but nobody ended up winning that trade. To this day the Jets have still not replaced Rhodes, and Kerry never played on a winning team for the rest of his career.
2. Leon Washington, 2006
The Jets have not had many game-breaking players in recent memory. Johnson was one of them. At 5'8" and 210 pounds, he might not have been big, but he was elusive in space as a runner and a receiver. He also was one of the best kickoff return men in the league during his time with the Jets. A 64 yard catch and run on a screen pass Christmas Night 2006 in Miami helped put the Jets into the Playoffs that year. Washington's career ended with a bitter contract dispute followed by a gruesome leg injury. I think it's fair to say that the Jets won the Herman Edwards trade by cashing in the pick they got for the coach to select Washington.
3. Brad Smith, 2006
A converted college quarterback, Smith never blossomed as a wide receiver. A 32 catch second year provided some fleeting hope that he might, but this was never meant to be. Smith did provide value in a lot of small areas, though. He took over as a return man after Washington's injury and did a top notch job. He was an excellent member of kick coverage teams. He was also a versatile offensive weapon. The Jets used his deceptive speed on gadget and Wildcat plays. His history as a quarterback added an extra dimension since he was a threat to throw the ball.
4. Dwight Lowery, 2008
Lowery had an up and down career with the Jets. He was versatile and had moments playing outside at cornerback, in the slot, and at safety. Safety was where he played best as injuries to the defensive backfield kicked him back there late in 2010. The Jets inexplicably traded him on the eve of the 2011 regular season, leaving Eric Smith as a starter. Not to make Lowery into Ed Reed, but the Jets definitely missed him. He's still in the league.
5. Bilal Powell, 2011
Powell has stuck around mainly because there isn't anything he does terribly. This makes him solid depth. He's even a passable second back in a rotation. The problem is he also doesn't do anything particularly well. Almost every part of his game is somewhere between average and slightly below average. This is why his career average per carry is subpar, and he has never ran for even a modest 700 yards.
6. Joe McKnight, 2010
McKnight was supposed to replace Washington. While he did find a role as a productive kick returner for a couple of years, he never convinced the coaching staff to trust him in an offensive role. There were all kinds of rumblings about coaching having issues with him, and there was some bizarre behavior that started with him showing up to rookie minicamp out of shape. McKnight was cut in the 2013 preseason.
7. Dakota Dozier, 2014
Nobody knows what the Jets have in Dozier right now. He has some potential, but he was not part of the teams plans as a rookie.
8. Shaq Evans, 2014
The same can be said of Evans. He missed all of his rookie year with an injury. He rates a lower than Dozier just because there were reports he was struggling mightily early in training camp and might have not made the team had he not been put on IR.
9. Jalen Saunders, 2014
Let's just say this one didn't work out. If you're looking for a Mount Rushmore of worst Jets picks of the past decade, there is a good chance Saunders' face is up there with Gholston, Hill, and Ducasse. The 104th pick felt early for a player who was likely going to be limited to a return role. A pick that early certainly should last longer than three games before being cut. Cut after three games Saunders was, though. In three games, he fumbled two punts and averaged 4.3 yards per return. From his first preseason game, he showed a tendency to run backwards after receiving a punt. I know it's easy to second guess Draft picks, but it's tough to take when the Jets passed on a player Martavis Bryant, who plays the same position and posted 8 touchdowns as a rookie for Saunders.