To help understand why the New York Jets are in a position where rebuilding is a necessity, it doesn’t take much more than a look at the team’s draft picks from 2009 and 2010. Similar to how strong draft classes in 2006 and 2007 built contenders in 2009 and 2010, poor draft classes in 2009 and 2010 built teams that weren’t playoff caliber in 2011 and 2012, and ultimately need to be rebuilt from the ground up in 2013.
Mike Tannenbaum’s inaugural draft class in 2006 wasn’t impressive just because of the quality (D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold in round one) but because of quantity. He built depth in the middle and late rounds by adding Eric Smith, Brad Smith, Drew Coleman, and Leon Washington…players who all found large, contributing roles during their Jets tenure. 2007 had quality (Darrelle Revis and David Harris in the first two rounds) but began a disturbing trend of alarmingly small draft classes. The Jets only ended up with 4 players in 2007, with the other two being Jacob Bender (a complete non-factor) and Chansi Stuckey (average player before being traded in 2009). The lack of 2007 depth was generally cancelled out or ignored because of just how good Revis turned out to be and to a lesser extent the player Harris was before last year.
2008 marked the beginning of the decline of both quality AND quantity. The Jets took 6 players in the 2008 Draft, highlighted by the bust of Vernon Gholston in the first round but almost equally problematic was the complete misses they had in rounds 5, 6, and 7. Erik Ainge, Marcus Henry and Nate Garner never took a meaningful snap for the Jets. You can’t build depth that way.
The real problems and the real reason the Jets are where they are right now is the 2009 and 2010 Draft. Two drafts, seven total picks and plenty of egregious misses which is how you end up with a current roster like this.
The Jets 2009 Draft Class was Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene and Matt Slauson. They also gave up a pick for Lito Sheppard. With Sanchez and Greene, you got two seasons where they were key components of teams who reached the AFC Championship Games and two seasons where they were key disappointing parts of teams who didn’t make the playoffs. Now Greene is gone and Sanchez is likely playing his last year in New York. You got three starting seasons from Slauson, which is solid for a 6th round pick. You got one subpar season from Sheppard. Simply put, it is not enough. If you are leaving a Draft with three players and not building any depth from the late rounds, two of those three players better be All-Pros…something Sanchez or Greene will never be.
2010 was the banner failure of Mike Tannenbaum’s tenure as the Jets GM. The Draft Class was Kyle Wilson, Vladimir Ducasse, Joe McKnight and John Conner. They also gave up picks that acquired Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, which is the only somewhat…and I repeat somewhat positive thing that came out of this draft. Ultimately, only getting 28 regular season games from Edwards isn’t enough for a Draft Pick. For a fifth round pick what they got from Holmes in 2010 would seem to be enough but his subsequent inability to live up to his big contract has made the trade look less smart in hindsight to say the least.
The actual draft picks were unmitigated disaster. Wilson was taken at the time as insurance for a prolonged Darrelle Revis holdout. Despite being considering good value towards the end of the first round, he has proven to be nothing more than an average number three corner. Ducasse was taken with the expectation to start in Alan Faneca’s place but was easily beat out by Matt Slauson in training camp. He has since bounced around as a backup between Guard and Tackle and will unlikely ever be a significant contributor. McKnight was taken as a replacement for Leon Washington and a long term third down back but he has never lived up to that role. Conner was the icing on the cake of Tannenbaum’s draft laziness. He basically handed off a pick to Rex Ryan who liked Conner because he had some big hits in college…this is how you use a fifth round pick? The Jets actually carried two fullbacks (Wasting Roster Space 101) all throughout 2010 because Conner wasn’t good enough to merit releasing Tony Richardson. He is now off the team.
In retrospect, the Jets have this to show for the 2009-2010 Draft on their current roster – One of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL, an average nickelback, a below average backup lineman, a kick returner and one of the most overpaid wide receivers in football. You could extend it out to 2008 and have the same thing because nobody from the 2008 Draft Class remains on the roster.
This is why rebuilding is necessary and this April’s upcoming Draft is of such critical importance. John Idzik must build depth and flexibility, not take the Tannenbaum route of unloading picks and putting all the eggs in the basket of mediocre prospects. The best way to compensate for 7 total total draft picks in 2009 and 2010? Find a way to leave with 18-22 draft picks in the next 2 years.