The New York Jets have selected some great players in the NFL Draft over the years. Which picks stand out as the best in team history?
John Riggins began his career with the Jets and became the first player in team history to rush for 1,000 yards, accomplishing the feat in 1975. But he spent only four years with Gang Green before heading to Washington, where he truly established himself as a Hall of Fame running back
So it’s not as if the Jets have a bunch of legendary players to pick from as we decide on the five best draft picks in team history. Still, there’s more than enough talent to choose from.
Without further ado, let’s get to it.
These players were great Jets but fell just short of cracking our top five.
- DE Mark Gastineau, Arizona State, Second round (41st overall), 1979
- RB Freeman McNeil, UCLA, First round (third overall), 1981
- OT Marvin Powell, USC, First round (fourth overall), 1977
- WR Al Toon: First round (10th overall), Wisconsin, 1985
- WR Wesley Walker: Second round (33rd overall), California, 1977
5. QB Joe Namath, Alabama, First Overall Pick, 1965 AFL Draft
Wait, the only player to ever be drafted by the Jets and be voted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame after spending much of his career with the team, is just the fifth-best player they’ve ever drafted? How can this be?
To be honest, Namath is lucky to be on this list at all, but he has been the face of the franchise since they drafted him first overall in 1965. He became the first quarterback in history to pass for 4,000 yards when he reached that total in 1967.
Looking at Namath’s overall numbers, there is no way he should be anywhere near the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He threw 47 more career interceptions than touchdowns and finished with a quarterback rating of just 65.5. Among Pro Football Hall of Famers, only Bobby Layne has a lower rating for just quarterbacks.
Namath finished with a 62-63 record (.496 win percentage) as a starting quarterback. Sonny Jurgensen is the only HOF QB who has a lower winning percentage (69-73, .487). However, Namath was the starting quarterback in perhaps the most important football game in NFL history, as his Jets went on to defeat the mighty Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl 3.
It’s the game that solidified the AFL-NFL merger, the game that, despite being 17-point underdogs heading into the game, Namath guaranteed victory for the Jets. He also became the only QB to be named Super Bowl MVP without throwing a touchdown pass.
Namath never won another postseason game as a starting quarterback, but remains the most popular player to ever play for the Jets and the only starting quarterback to ever lead them to a Super Bowl.
Note: Bob Waterfield and George Blanda have lower quarterback ratings, but spent chunks of their careers as kickers.
4. LB Mo Lewis, Georgia, Third round (63rd overall), 1991
A three-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro in 1998, Lewis was arguably the best all-around linebacker to play for the green and white. His 200 games played ranks fourth in team history and are the second most by a linebacker behind Kyle Clifton.
His 52.5 sacks are the fourth most in team history and the most by a linebacker. Lewis forced 26 fumbles in his career, which is the most in team history, while his 13 fumble recoveries are the second most by a linebacker. His three postseason sacks are tied with Calvin Pace for the most in team history at the position. Lewis is also the only player on this list to be a member of both teams that have won the only AFC East titles in team history.
3. C Nick Mangold, Ohio State, First round (29th overall), 2006
After finishing 4-12 in 2005, the Jets knew they had to rebuild their offensive line in the 2006 NFL Draft. Mangold was the second of the Jets first-round picks that season. He, along with Virginia OT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, drafted fourth overall, were selected to achieve that goal.
Mangold helped lead the way as the Jets ran for an NFL best 172 yards per game in 2009. He has twice been named an NFL All-Pro (2009-10) and five times to the Pro Bowl team (2008-11, 2013), and his peers rank him as one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL.
After being released by the Jets following the 2016 season, he sat out 2017 and officially retired a Jet after signing a one-day contract last week. There is no doubt he will find himself in the Jets Ring of Honor and even possibly in the NFL Hall of Fame.
2. DL Joe Klecko, Temple, Sixth round (144th overall), 1977
One of the most popular players in team history, Joe Klecko was a key member of the Jets’ famed “Sack Exchange” which chased quarterbacks all over the NFL from 1979-1983. Many fellow defensive linemen, including Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long, mention that if not for missing some games due to injury, Klecko would be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Klecko left the Jets after the 1987 season, finishing his NFL career in 1988 with the Indianapolis Colts. A four-time Pro Bowl selection, he is the only player in NFL history to be named a Pro Bowl starter at three different positions (DE, DT and NT). Klecko was also named an All-Pro twice (1981 and 1985) and is one of just five players to have his number retired by the Jets.
1. CB Darrelle Revis, Pittsburgh, First round (14th overall), 2007
Revis spent 11 seasons in the NFL and still has not officially retired. After playing 15 games—all starts—for the Jets in 2015. He resurfaced during the 2017 season with the Kansas City Chiefs, appearing in five games (two starts).
Revis spent his first six seasons and his last two full seasons with the Jets. Almost certain to become the second Pro Football Hall of Famer to be drafted and spend much of his career with the Jets, Revis is one of the best to ever play the position.
Revis’s 29 career interceptions—25 with the Jets—aren’t all that impressive a total but remember, most quarterbacks chose to not even throw the ball to his side of the field. More often than not, Revis would eliminate the best wide receiver on the opposing team with ease and precision.
In 2009, Revis routinely held wide receivers to their season-low in catches and yards, frustrating players such as Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, Steve Smith, Marques Colston, Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson and Reggie Wayne.
Revis injured his ACL two games into the 2012 season, ending his season and unfortunately his first go around with the Jets. After being traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during John Idzik’s tenure and making his fifth Pro Bowl, Revis was released and won a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots in 2014, where he made his sixth Pro Bowl and earned his fourth All-Pro selection.
When owner Woody Johnson hired Mike Maccagnan as general manager and Todd Bowles as head coach in the 2015 offseason, Revis was brought back and rewarded the Jets with his seventh Pro Bowl appearance, serving as a stabilizing force in their defensive secondary.
But he lost a step in 2016 and was routinely beat by lesser players, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of fans. That said, Revis is the best player to ever wear a Jets uniform and no doubt will one day see his name in the halls of Canton, Ohio.