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NY Jets Drafts: Least Of The East

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The Jets have struggled drafting players over the last five years.

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It is no great revelation that the New York Jets have not exactly knocked it out of the park with recent drafts.  The final Tannenbaum years followed by the Idzik years have left a bad taste in Jets fans' mouths.  But how bad was it?  To evaluate that, let's look at how each of the AFC East teams have performed in the last five drafts prior to 2015.  Why prior to 2015?  Because it's very difficult to get a handle on a draft class after just one year.  Two years is still incomplete, but a much better picture begins to emerge.  By the completion of three years you ordinarily have a very good idea how any particular draft class is going to end up.

So how do we quantify the draft performance of each team?  I wanted to give a numerical grade which was not my own subjective evaluation with my own Jets fan biases, so I turned to profootballreference.com (PFR) and their Approximate Value (AV) metric.  PFR assigns a numerical grade to every NFL player that purports to be the value of such player every year.  Some important notes are probably in order here.  AV is just some website's value metric, which may or may not agree with your own.  It has its own quirks and limitations, one of which is what I believe to be the overvaluation of bad starting quarterbacks and the undervaluation of really good starting quarterbacks.  PFR apparently operates under the assumption that any starting quarterback, even poor ones, have such inordinate influence on the outcomes of games that they always have significant AV.  To give you an idea about this, Geno Smith and Sheldon Richardson were both drafted by the Jets in 2013.  Both started their first two years.  At the end of the 2014 season Richardson was regarded as one of the better defensive tackles in the NFL, and a major positive influence on Jets games.  At the same time Geno Smith was considered one of the worst, if not the worst, starting quarterback in the NFL, and a major negative influence on Jets games.  Yet at the end of 2014, Richardson had an AV of 15, while Smith had a very similar AV of 13, due apparently to the systemic overvaluation (in my view) of bad starting quarterbacks.  By the same token, great starting quarterbacks are so important they overwhelm the contributions of every other player on the field, even if it's Watt's his name.  But PFR doesn't really see it this way, giving Watt an AV of 21 and 22 the last two years, while arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers, has had only two seasons in his illustrious career of AV over 20.  As unbelievable as Watt has been, it's very difficult to argue his value is on a par with the value of Rodgers or any of the other handful of great NFL quarterbacks.

That's a long way of acknowledging that yes, AV has its limitations.  Nonetheless, it is a convenient numerical measure that is readily available for every NFL player and is unbiased, if not necessarily perfect, in its application.  As such it provides a pretty good proxy for actual performance of each team's draft picks over the years.  We'll also look at how many Pro Bowl and All Pro players teams drafted to get a somewhat different take on the quality of the drafts.

So how have the Jets done?  Let's take a look.  A reminder: 2015 is not included because it's too early for decent evaluations of the 2015 draft class.  Here's a look at the AV of the Jets last five draft classes prior to 2015.  Please keep in mind AV is a cumulative metric, so each succeeding year adds to any individual player's AV.  As a result, each year's class should, all things being equal, have a substantially higher AV than the next year's class.

Jets Drafts 2010 - 2014

Draft Year

Total AV

Remaining AV

Pro Bowls

All Pros

.

2014

22

19

0

0

2013

58

58

1

0

2012

65

0

0

0

2011

95

68

1

0

2010

33

0

0

0

.

Totals

273

145

2

0

Total AV refers to the sum of the AV numbers for every player in a particular draft class.  Remaining AV refers to the Total AV for all players remaining on the team as of today.  Pro Bowls refers to the total number of Pro Bowl years achieved by the players in each draft class.  So, for example, if Player A from the 2011 class has 3 Pro Bowl years and Player B from the 2011 class has four Pro Bowl years, and no other player from the 2011 class has any Pro Bowl years, the Pro Bowls number for 2011 would be 3+4 = 7.  All Pros are determined in the same manner, and count only years in which said player was First Team All Pro.

The numbers don't mean much in a vacuum.  Is an AV of 273 over five years good, bad or middling?  To begin to answer that question let's look at the rest of the AFC East.

Bills Drafts 2010 - 2014

Draft Year

Total AV

Remaining AV

Pro Bowls

All Pros

.

2014

56

50

0

0

2013

48

33

0

0

2012

79

64

0

0

2011

120

60

2

1

2010

65

8

1

0

.

Totals

368

215

3

1

Dolphins Drafts 2010 - 2014

Draft Year

Total AV

Remaining AV

Pro Bowls

All Pros

.

2014

40

40

1

0

2013

45

36

0

0

2012

114

42

0

0

2011

82

34

3

0

2010

140

62

1

0

.

Totals

421

214

5

0

Patriots Drafts 2010 - 2014

Draft Year

Total AV

Remaining AV

Pro Bowls

All Pros

.

2014

29

28

0

0

2013

50

49

1

0

2012

75

36

1

0

2011

100

51

0

0

2010

189

92

5

3

.

Totals

443

256

7

3

It should be noted here that no adjustments have been made for average draft position, draft pick trades, or compensatory picks.  Although these are relevant factors, I wanted to just get a simple, clean look at what each team's drafts produced, without the complications of tracking each trade and adjusting for the position of each pick.  It's a little rough around the edges as a result, but the results should give us a decent idea of how good or bad each team has been at drafting.

The results are, to say the least, a bit discouraging.  The Jets have gotten the least of any team in the AFC East out of their drafts, by a fairly wide margin.  In addition, despite suffering the handicap of being the only team in the division with a very low draft position every year, the Patriots still have gotten more out of their drafts than any other team.  This is especially disheartening  given that it has been tougher for Patriots young players to make contributions on championship level teams than it has on any other team in the division.

The Jets have the worst Total AV score of any team in the division.  They also have the worst Remaining AV score, the least number of Pro Bowl years, and are tied for the least number of All Pro years.  In short, the Jets have been the worst drafting team in the division by every measure in the chart.  The Jets also have the worst score for 2014, the worst score for 2012, the second worst score for 2011, and the worst score by a wide margin for 2010.

Such a prolonged drafting drought has its consequences, and it should not be a surprise that the Jets have not gone to the playoffs since 2010.  Whether the relatively successful 10-6 2015 season proves to be a turning point or just an aberration will largely hinge on whether the new regime can do a better job drafting than its predecessors.  While it's still very early, results thus far for the 2015 draft class have not been overly encouraging.  Aside from Leonard Williams there does not appear to be a major star in the group, and Lorenzo Mauldin thus far is the only other player that has in any way impressed.  Of course, there is still plenty of time for players like Bryce Petty, Jarvis Harrison and Devin Smith to develop into much more than they currently appear to be.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at how the Jets stack up against the rest of the NFL.  Spoiler alert: it ain't pretty.