Feb 6, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; NFL former player Joe Namath on the red carpet prior to the NFL Honors award ceremony at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The 2017 draft for the New York Jets is in the books. Remembering better times, here are the top five draft classes in team history.
The 2017 NFL Draft is over for the New York Jets, and it will take a few years to fully analyze how well general manager Mike Maccagnan did in selecting players for his rebuilding team. On the surface initially, I would give this year’s version a B grade. But it’s far too early to truly assess Gang Green’s draft class for 2017. That takes time.
With the benefit of time having passed by, what are the top five draft classes in Jets history? I thought it would be fun to take a look back and rank New York’s drafts that go all the way back to 1960 when the Jets were actually named the Titans and played in the American Football League (AFL).
Here is my list of the top five, counting backwards from No. 5 to 1:
Nov 22, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) gets a quarterback sack on a play during the third quarter as New York Jets tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson (60) defends the rush at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
5. 2006 NFL Draft
The foundation of New York’s strong offensive line for many seasons was formed here with the selections of offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold in the first round. Wow, talk about striking gold for general manager Mike Tannenbaum. Ferguson made three Pro Bowls and missed one snap in his entire 10-year career — and that was on a trick play. Amazing.
Mangold was named to seven Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro twice. He was the anchor of one of the best offensive lines in football during his Jets career.
In addition, Brad Smith and Leon Washington were both picked in the fourth round that year. Smith ran the wildcat as a quarterback on occasion and had three kickoff returns for touchdowns, including a 106-yarder in 2009. Washington was first-team All-Pro as a kick returner in 2008 and returned four kickoffs for touchdowns during his four-season stint with New York.
Revis Island was officially discovered in this draft. With the 14th pick in the first round, the Jets drafted the best cornerback in team history, Darrelle Revis from the University of Pittsburgh. Forget how a broken down Revis looked last year for Gang Green. Remember him as a five-time Pro Bowler and a three-time First-Team All-Pro during his prime.
Revis changed the way opposing offenses attacked the Jets. During his peak, other teams would simply not throw his way. The Aliquippa, PA native had 25 interceptions with New York which is amazing considering how infrequently teams challenged him. Revis took away a whole side of the football field. This was one of their best individual draft picks ever.
In the second round, the Jets selected a linebacker from Michigan who is still starting for them 10 years later: David Harris. “The Hitman” still calls the defensive signals for Gang Green and has six interceptions, 10 forced fumbles, 35 sacks and 1,087 combined tackles during his career. Harris has missed just six games in 10 seasons. This could very well be his last season in New York, but Harris has been one of the steadiest, most reliable linebackers in Jets history. Head coach Todd Bowles is expecting Harris to continue his strong performance this coming season for New York.
The Jets played their home games at Shea Stadium way back in 1977 and Hotel California by The Eagles was the No. 1 song in the land when this draft was held. This was the year that Gang Green selected three of the best players in their history: offensive tackle Marvin Powell, wide receiver Wesley Walker and defensive tackle Joe Klecko. Quite a trio.
Powell was the No. 4 overall pick from USC and was a five-time Pro Bowler and a three-time First-Team All-Pro right tackle in his nine seasons with the Jets.
Walker might have been the fastest player the Jets ever had, a speed-burning wide receiver that excelled on the post pattern. The University of California product played 13 seasons with New York and was a Pro Bowler twice and a First-Team All-Pro in 1978 when he led the NFL in receiving yards (1169), yards per reception (24.4) and receiving yards per game (73.1). Walker was one of the most dynamic players in team history.
Klecko was one of the most popular players in Jets history. A sixth-round pick from Temple, Klecko played in 155 games for New York and was one of its toughest, grittiest linemen ever. He recorded 24 sacks, eight fumble recoveries and was a four-time Pro Bowler and a two-time First-Team All-Pro. You can still see Klecko jerseys in the stands of MetLife Stadium at Jets home games these days. Jet fans absolutely loved Klecko.
Oct 29, 2016; London, United Kingdom; General view of Super Bowl III championship ring to commemorate the New York Jets 16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts at the Orange Bowl on January 12, 1969 on display at the NFL International Series fan rally at the Victoria House. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
2. 1964 NFL Draft
The foundation of New York’s Super Bowl championship squad started to be formed back in the year that The Beatles arrived in America. Halfback Matt Snell, defensive end Gerry Philbin and linebacker Ralph Baker were all selected in this 26-round AFL Draft and all three players were integral parts of that Super Bowl title unit.
Snell enjoyed one of the finest games of his NFL career in the biggest game in Jets history – Super Bowl III. The Ohio State product rushed for a game-high 121 yards on 30 carries and scored New York’s lone touchdown in their 16-7 triumph over the Baltimore Colts. Remember — the Jets were 18-point underdogs in that Jan. 12, 1969 contest in Miami. He easily could have been named MVP in that game but that honor was bestowed to quarterback Joe Namath.
A first-round selection, Snell played nine seasons with the Jets and was a three-time Pro Bowler and a First-Team All-Pro during the 1969 AFL season.
Philbin, a third-round pick, was a strong yet quick defensive end (6-2, 245 pounds) and an important member of head coach Weeb Ewbank’s defensive corps. He played nine years in New York and was a two-time First-Team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler twice.
Baker was a 6-3, 228-pound linebacker from Penn State who recovered a fumble in Super Bowl III. Although he was never named to the Pro Bowl, Baker was a vital cog in New York’s 1968 championship run with three interceptions for 31 return yards. A sixth-round selection, Baker enjoyed an 11-year career with the Jets and finished with 19 interceptions and, of course, a championship ring to cherish.
Sep 11,2015; Boca Raton, FL, USA; NFL legend Joe Namath smiles on the sidelines of the University of Miami Hurricanes game versus the Florida Atlantic Owls. Credit:Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports
1. 1965 Draft
When a particular draft produces the greatest player in Jets history, it is cemented as the top-ranked draft. Hands down. New York hit the jackpot when it drafted future Hall-of-Famer Joe Namath of Alabama with the first overall selection in the 1965 AFL Draft.
Where do you begin when you discuss “Joe Willie”? Not only does Namath possess most of the passing records in Jets history but he guaranteed that New York, an 18-point underdog, would defeat the Colts in Super Bowl III. He made good on that guarantee with a MVP performance in their 16-7 victory, a win that showed the NFL powers-that-be that the AFL was legitimate after two embarrassing losses in the first two Super Bowls. It brought enormous credibility to the AFL and helped lead to the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Biggs was a third-round selection from Jackson State and excelled at getting to the quarterback. Sacks did not become an official NFL statistic until 1982 so there are no numbers to quote but Biggs did compile quite a few during his six-year Jets tenure. He was solid against the run as well and made the Pro Bowl from 1966-68. Biggs was another member of New York’s world championship contingent of 1968. He passed away in 1994 at the age of 51 in Moss Point, MS.