With the NFL Draft rapidly approaching, there is no better time to take a look back at all of the Jets hits and misses in the first round from the last decade. It’s considerably tougher to rank the recent draft picks like Sam Darnold, but this ranking does its best to factor in both what they have already accomplished and projecting their potential going forward.
- Dee Milliner (2013)
Following a stellar third year at Alabama, Milliner was voted a unanimous first-team All-American and the Jets snagged him with the ninth overall pick. Hopes were high for Milliner, who was slated to start at cornerback alongside Antonio Cromartie, but his rookie season was turbulent at best. Milliner was benched on three separate occasions for subpar performances, but appeared poised to bounce back picking up two interceptions against the Dolphins in week 17. He would never get the chance, as an ankle sprain during training camp the following year began a train of injuries that eventually derailed his career. Milliner ended up playing only 21 games for the Jets before being dropped in 2016.
- Calvin Pryor (2014)
Calvin Pryor left Louisville after three successful seasons and was taken 18th in the 2014 draft, with the Jets once again looked to bolster their defense as they often did under head coach Rex Ryan. Ryan praised Pryor’s big play potential after the draft, but it never translated to the field as the safety forced only four turnovers in 44 games and was a notoriously poor tackler. By 2017, the Jets believed Pryor had developed an inflated ego and was refusing to buy into coach Todd Bowles schemes. His fate was sealed when the Jets selected two safeties in that draft (more on this to come), and sure enough he was traded to Cleveland where he was promptly dropped following a fight with a teammate.
- Kyle Wilson (2010)
Kyle Wilson was a consistent presence for the Jets in the first half of the decade, appearing in every game from 2010-2014. After being taken 29th overall, the cornerback out of Boise State was slated to be the third cornerback behind Darrelle Revis and Cromartie. Unfortunately for the Jets, his presence was not usually a helpful one and screaming at the TV about a blown coverage by number 20 would become a weekly tradition for Jets fans over those five years. In 2014, his final year with the team, Wilson allowed completions on a staggering 73.3 percent of throws into his coverage according to Pro Football Focus. His career ended one year later after a brief stint with the Saints.
- Darron Lee (2016)
The Ohio State linebacker and 2015 Sugar Bowl MVP was selected 20th overall by New York in 2016. Following rocky rookie and sophomore seasons, Lee broke out in 2018 forming a linebacking core with Avery Williamson that controlled the middle of the field and was much improved in pass coverage. However, after twelve games that season Lee was suspended for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The Jets acquired C.J. Mosely the following offseason, and head coach and interim general manager Adam Gase was quick to trade Lee to the Chiefs for a sixth round pick. Lee is now a Super Bowl champion, although his contributions to Kansas City were minimal.
- Quinnen Williams (2019)
The Jets played it safe in 2019, using the third overall pick to select Alabama DT Quinnen Williams who was the consensus best player on the board. His rookie season was far from sensational, as Williams accumulated only 15 solo tackles and 2.5 sacks, but the raw size, strength and athleticism still remain. It is still too early to accurately grade Williams’ tenure with the Jets, but you have to believe they are currently kicking themselves for passing on Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen who had 10.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season. Still, Williams will have a chance to prove himself in 2020 playing an important role for the Jets defense.
- Quinton Coples (2012)
Defensive end Quinton Coples was selected 16th overall by the Jets after four productive seasons at North Carolina. He showed some promise in his first three seasons with the team, averaging a little over five sacks per year during that stretch. However, in his fourth year he dramatically fell off and recorded just eight total tackles in ten games. Coples was dropped after an incident on the team plane following a loss to the Texans in which he played only five snaps. He was claimed off waivers by the Dolphins, but would never record another NFL tackle.
- Leonard Williams (2015)
The Jets had high hopes when they selected the DT out of USC with the sixth pick in 2015 and for a while it looked like Williams may live up to those expectations. Recording seven sacks and 11 total tackles for loss, Williams made the Pro Bowl his second year in the league as an alternate. While his statistics fell off after that season, Williams was still regarded as someone who impacts the game in places that don’t show up on the stat sheet. In 2019, Williams was traded to the New York Giants for third and fifth round picks after failing to record a single tackle for loss over seven games. The Giants placed the franchise tag on Williams this offseason.
- Sam Darnold (2018)
The Jets had 11 first round picks in the 2010s, but spent only one of them on an offensive player: USC QB Sam Darnold. In two seasons the third overall pick has shown flashes of greatness, even accumulating a winning 7-6 record in his mono-shortened 2019 campaign. His 24 turnovers in just 13 games that same season prove his decision making has been erratic at times, but it is tough to blame a guy who is running for his life on every play and has had no real wide receivers to target. The Jets have made some decent additions to both areas of need this offseason, and will hopefully for Darnold’s sake continue to do so in the draft. 2020 will tell a great deal about what the future holds for the Jets at quarterback.
- Sheldon Richardson (2013)
The Jets had two first round picks in 2013 thanks to the Darrelle Revis trade with Tampa Bay, and after wasting the first on Dee Milliner took Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson 13th overall. Richardson played 58 games for the Jets over four seasons, winning Rookie of the Year and making the Pro Bowl in 2014 after a big eight sack season. While Richardson’s talent has never been a question, the demise of his relationship with the Jets was ultimately fostered by off the field issues. Following his Pro Bowl season, Richardson was suspended four games in 2015 for substance abuse and briefly in 2016 following an offseason arrest. Despite his immense talent, the Jets shipped him to Seattle in a trade that netted Jermaine Kearse and a second round pick which was later traded to the Eagles.
- Muhammed Wilkerson (2011)
Drafted 13th overall out of Temple in 2011, Mo Wilkerson played more games for the Jets than anyone on this list, starting 101 games over seven years. From the start, Wilkerson looked like a star and was the leading disruptive force on a very strong defensive line. Following a 12 sack Pro Bowl season in 2015, the Jets inked Wilkerson to a massive 5-year deal worth $83 million. As is the case with many of these first round picks, off the field issues were eventually his undoing. The Jets released Wilkerson in early 2018 after he showed up late to four different team meetings.
- Jamal Adams (2017)
The former LSU safety and sixth overall pick coming in at number one on this list should not be a surprise to Jets fans. With two Pro Bowls and a first team All-Pro selection under his belt in his first three seasons, Adams has already cemented himself as one of the best safeties in the league. He is also the most versatile, serving as a matchup nightmare for the offense wherever he lines up. According to PFF, he moved all over the field in 2019: in the box (401 snaps), at free safety (297), in the slot (131) or even on the defensive line (96 snaps). There are rumors swirling that the Jets may trade their star this week before or after the draft, but doing so would be a mistake that would leave a massive hole in the defense.