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What Can the Jets Expect From Their Picks in the 2021 NFL Draft?

NFL Combine - Day 2

The NFL Draft is less than one week away. It will be a significant one for the New York Jets as they will select their new quarterback of the future. The Draft will be about more than the second pick, however. The team has ten selections in total with multiple picks in the first, third, fifth, and sixth rounds. The only round where the Jets do not currently have a pick is the seventh and final round.

What quality of player can the Jets expect to get with each pick? I decided to investigate using Stathead.

I took a look at each player drafted between 2000 and 2016 with the selection in the Draft the Jets currently own. Then I sorted each player by career Approximate Value to find the best, median, and worst player. (I stopped at 2016 so that I wouldn’t get players who had less than five years to make an impact in the NFL.)

Here is what I found.

2nd overall pick

Best: Julius Peppers; Median: Marcus Mariota; Worst: Charles Rogers

Mariota is generally viewed as a disappointment with the second overall pick so I’m sure many Jets fans won’t be thrilled to see him as the median case. That’s just the nature of the Draft, however. People tend to overrate the guarantee of finding a special player with an early pick.

23rd overall pick

Best: Bryan Bulaga; Median: Rashard Mendenhall; Worst: Laquon Treadwell

Mendenhall wasn’t a special player, but he was a running back who had a couple of 1,000 yard seasons. I doubt the Jets will take a running back with this pick, but a player of that quality at another position wouldn’t be a terrible outcome.

34th overall pick

Best: Chris Snee; Median: DeShaun Foster; Worst: Devin Thomas

The top player from this group, Snee, was a multi-time Pro Bowler and integral piece of the offensive line on two Super Bowl winning teams. Foster, the median player, was a solid back for Carolina.

66th overall pick

Best: Nick Hardwick; Median: Usama Young; Worst: Max Tuerk

It’s no surprise that as we hit the third round, the quality of the median player has gone done. Young had an eight year career but was primarily a depth player. There still is a reasonable chance of success. The top third (6 of 17) played at least 100 games in the NFL.

86th overall pick

Best: Marshal Yanda; Median: Asher Allen; Worst: Marquis Walker

This pick shows even more of a decline. Yanda was a tremendous pick for Baltimore in 2007, but the quality really drops after that. David Johnson rated second followed by Allen Bailey. Ironically Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich ranked fourth. There wasn’t a ton of quality after that.

107th overall pick

Best: Mike Thomas; Median: Justin Hardy; Worst: Kendyll Pope/Devin Wylie

I roughly estimate each year that the Draft becomes a dart throw at some point in the fourth round. These picks aren’t terribly encouraging.

146th overall pick

Best: Trent Cole; Median: DeJon Gomes; Worst: DeQuan Menzie

I’m sure this is just due to random factors, but the 146th pick has been pretty amazing for a fifth rounder. Stephon Diggs, Dawan Landry, Aubrayo Franklin Franklin, Rocky Bernard, and Matthew Judon, and Cam Thomas all put together long careers after being selected here.

154th overall pick

Best: Richard Sherman; Median: Andrew Quarless; Worst: Muneer Moore/Marcus Freeman

Jonathan Goodwin and Michael Turner, Tyeler Davison, and Kroy Biermann were the rest of the top five after Sherman. The quality hollows out from that point quite a bit.

186th overall pick

Best: Adlius Thomas; Median: Mario Monds; Worst: Thomas Clayton/Colt Brennan

This is the true dart throwing portion. Thomas was an excellent player, but there is an enormous gap between him and the second ranked player Jakeem Grant who has less than 1,000 career receiving yards in five seasons.

226th overall pick

Best: A.Q. Shipley; Median: Daryl Jones/LeRon McCoy/C.J. Wilson/Jonathan Woodard; Worst: Casey Tisdale/Christian Ferrara/Mitchell Van Dyk

By this point there are more players who never played in the NFL than there are players who started for at least three seasons.

Final Thoughts

I have to say that Mariota as the median case at 2 surprised me a bit. It probably shouldn’t have. I’m the guy who always talks about how teams overestimate the value of the high picks, and how this market inefficiency makes them too reluctant to trade down. Even so this was a bit of a surprise.

The success rates of the third day picks is also a bit surprising to me, but I would urge a bit of caution about reading too much into them. If you look at the history of picks near 107, it would suggest there has been a bit of bad luck with that particular selection. There is a stronger possibility of hitting on a useful player in that range than the raw history of 107 would suggest.

The reverse is likely true of the fifth round picks. The recent history of selections between 146 and 154 suggests it is probably less than the one and four or one in three shot of hitting that you might assume looking only at 146 and 154.

Of course the hope is ultimately that the Jets will be more successful at drafting than the median team, hopefully closer to the high end.