New York Jets: Evaluating Last 5 Sixth-Overall Picks In NFL Draft

Aug 27, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets GM Mike Maccagnan talks with New York Jets Owner Woody Johnson in the 1st half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets own the No. 6 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. Looking back at the last five players selected in that spot.

The 2017 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away. Can you believe it? It feels like yesterday that the Patriots were walking off the field with the Super Bowl title. Now the New York Jets, as well as the rest of the league, are making their final preparations before heading to Philadelphia to pick the NFL stars of tomorrow.

Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan is sitting in an interesting position. Currently his team sits with the No. 6 pick overall. He could theoretically move up if he really sees someone he wants, and has publicly stated his want to move back. But at No. 6, he has a variety of ways he could go. There will be solid defensive back options out there as well as running back options, like Leonard Fournette. There is always the possibility that he brings in yet another quarterback at No. 6, like Deshaun Watson or Mitchell Trubisky.

With the draft coming up, we are going to do the opposite and look back into history. Sometimes history can clue us into the future. So, we are going to look back and see how the No. 6 picks have performed of late. Specifically, we are going to look back at the last five picks made at sixth overall and see the impact they have, or haven’t made.

Starting with 2012, let’s dive into the time machine and see what it tells us about the Jets in 2017.

Dec 7, 2015; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) reacts after breaking up a pass intended for Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed (86) during the second quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

2012: Morris Claiborne, CB (Dallas Cowboys)

2011 was a rough year for the Cowboys defense. It was their first full year under head coach Jason Garrett. They finished 8-8 and were 23rd in the league in pass defense. Jerry Jones and company knew they needed help so they traded up to the sixth overall selection. With that choice, they selected Morris Claiborne, cornerback out of LSU.

After being sought after in the draft, the injury bug has slowed Claiborne’s career. He had wrist surgery prior to his first training camp, but was healthy enough to start 15 games. He also defended eight passes, picked off one, forced one fumble and recovered two. Claiborne recorded 55 tackles as well, in part because he was targeted often, as teams were looking to avoid Brandon Carr on the opposite side.

The injuries got worse for Claiborne in the coming years, and has only been able to play more than 10 games on one occasion since his rookie year (2015). His numbers have been underwhelming at best, with only four career interceptions and never more than eight passes defended in a season. He was playing well for nine games last year until injuries robbed him of the final seven.

Claiborne has signed to join our Jets for the 2017 season. The team is hopeful that, if healthy, Claiborne can finally realize his full potential. Keeping veterans healthy has been one thing the team has been good at over the last few years. He still has time to prove to be a successful pick at No. 6, but he hasn’t gotten there quite yet.

Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Barkevious Mingo (51) celebrates with the Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. The Patriots won 34-28. Mandatory Credit: Dan Powers-USA TODAY Sports

2013: Barkevious Mingo, OLB (Cleveland Browns)

The Browns have been looking for the way to return to prominence for longer than we can all remember. In 2012, they finished 5-11. Nobody posted more than seven sacks, so they went looking for a pass rusher. Mingo dominated the NFL Combine and received comparisons to DeMarcus Ware. With 15 sacks in three years at LSU, it’s no wonder that the Browns spent the sixth overall pick on him.

Mingo’s career started off at a decent clip. He was a backup in 2013, but still managed to post five sacks to go along with 42 total tackles. After another decent season in 2014 when he posted 42 tackles and two sacks, Mingo entered the 2015 season as the starter at outside linebacker. However, he was sent back to the bench after Week 2, and the Browns released him following the season.

Bill Belichick likes to bring in projects from other teams, so he signed Mingo prior to the 2016 season. However, he didn’t see the field often, posting a mere four tackles in a purely backup/situational role. He earned a Super Bowl ring, but not a second chance as he was released.

Mingo signed a one-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts. He’s another player that has a chance to find his potential once again, but he certainly hasn’t so far

Aug 11, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons tackle Jake Matthews (70) is introduced before a game against the Washington Redskins at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

2014: Jake Matthews, OT (Atlanta Falcons)

After watching them dominate the 2016 regular season and nearly take home a championship, it’s hard to believe that in 2013, the Falcons weren’t any good. Specifically, they were 4-12, third in the division. The offense was particularly bad, finishing 20th in the league in scoring, led by some guy named Dirk Koetter. The offensive line allowed 44 sacks, so the Falcons brass knew it was time to improve.

With the sixth pick, the Falcons chose Jake Matthews to play left tackle. When a tackle is chosen that high in the draft, they are expected to protect the blind side for a long time. It would appear that Matthews is on his way to doing just that. So far in his young career, he has missed one game and started the rest. That makes 47 starts in 47 career games. This just in, that’s pretty good.

The Falcons saw improvements right away. The record only jumped to 6-10, but Matt Ryan’s sack totals dropped to 31. The offense showed signs of breaking out, upping their rank to 12th in the league, averaging 23.8 points per game. An offense is only as good as its offensive line, and we see that with Matthews came the building blocks for what became a Super Bowl run.

Matthews, as a left tackle should, gets the job done very quietly. If we hear the left tackle’s name too much, it’s likely because they are making mistakes. Matthews gets the job done week in and week out. He was well worth the number six pick, at least so far in his young career.

December 11, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Leonard Williams (92) during the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. The Jets defeated the 49ers 23-17 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

2015: Leonard Williams, DT (New York Jet)

Mike Maccagnan and the Jets are part of this recent history at No. 6. His first ever draft pick as the Jets general manager came in 2015 with the sixth selection. That was an interesting year for the Jets. We knew that we finally had a talent evaluator in Maccagnan. Coming out of the John Idzik years, that was exactly what we wanted. The free agency period had gone so well, but no one had any idea where he would go with the draft pick.

Many thought he would go for an edge rusher. The Jets needed one, and players like Vic Beasley were still on the board. Or maybe he would break the Jets long-standing trend and select an offensive player like Kevin White. Nobody knew. When it came down to it, the selection was who he perceived as the best player available. That choice was defensive tackle Leonard Williams.

There was a lot of surprise with the fans when the pick occurred, but he proved us all wrong. Williams fit right in with the already strong Jets defensive line. He has started every game except for one in his young career to date. That rookie year, he posted three sacks and 63 total tackles. His first solo sack was of Eli Manning in a December win over the Giants, helping the Jets to their 10-6 surprise record in 2015.

In 2016, Williams upped the ante, earning his first Pro Bowl selection. He racked up seven sacks to go along with two forced fumbles and 68 total tackles. He may just be the team’s star up front in the future, as Sheldon Richardson is likely out of town, Damon Harrison already is, and Muhammad Wilkerson could be after the 2017 season. All in all, good pick.

Apr 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Ronnie Staley (Notre Dame) is selected by the Baltimore Ravens as the number six overall pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at Auditorium Theatre. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

2016: Ronnie Stanley, OT (Baltimore Ravens)

2015 was not a good year for Jim Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens. Their record was 5-11, and the offense was 24th in the league in scoring with 25.1 points per game. Things just never got going for the Ravens that year, and improvements needed to happen quickly. We have said it many times before, but it bares repeating. Improving an offense starts with improving the offensive line.

In comes Ronnie Stanley with the sixth overall pick in 2016. Being the team that employed Michael Oher, they know very well the importance of the blind side. Stanley has stepped in to be that guy, starting 12 games at left tackle last season. Proof came in the record, as the Ravens improved to 8-8. There’s more. According to Football Outsiders, they rushed for nearly four yards per carry on Stanley’s side of the field.

Stanley put up solid grades for a rookie. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the 26th rated tackle overall and tied for 17th in pass blocking. Joe Flacco isn’t getting any younger, so protecting his blind side is crucial, as it is for any quarterback. Stanley definitely has room to improve, but he clearly is a solid building block for this Ravens offensive line.

These results are a clear indication that draft picks can go either way. There were three defensive players and two offensive players selected. The more recent selections have been good but the position is not without potential busts as well. It has been good as of late, so hopefully Maccagnan can keep the trend going.

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