The ninth installment of our ten part series examining the last ten New York Jets drafts, with a look at 2013 — John Idzik’s first as GM.
1st Round, 9th overall pick — Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
In the weeks leading up to the draft, John Idzik made his first big move as GM by trading Darrelle Revis to Tampa. The trade yielded the pick that became the second guy mentioned on this list, but it also left a gaping hole at corner opposite Antonio Cromartie. Multiple mock drafts (not that they mean anything at all) had Milliner, the draft’s top corner, going in the top five, but he fell to the Jets at 9th overall. He had big shoes to fill, but expectations were high for the top corner in Nick Saban’s championship winning defense. He had some minor injuries and was coming off a recent shoulder surgery, but nothing raised any major red flags.
Milliner had a typical rookie season of highs and lows. He started off very slow, finding himself on the bench a couple of times before he began to turn the corner. His progress was slowed a bit as he missed three games due to injury, but he bounced back and was a bright spot on the defense. In December, he began to cover the opposition’s best receiver and his play earned him NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month honors.
With the way he ended the 2013 season, there was a lot of excitement surrounding Milliner heading into 2014 as fans believed he was capable of becoming a shutdown corner. Unfortunately, Milliner suffered a high ankle sprain that cost him the majority of the preseason and the first few weeks of the regular season. He finally returned in a limited role, but in his third game back, he tore his achilles.
It’s not fair to call Milliner a bust because he played well as a rookie and missed virtually his entire second season; however, with the signings of Revis, Cromartie, and Skrine, Milliner has fallen to fourth on the depth chart and we may never see him reach his full potential as a Jet.
1st Round, 13th overall pick — Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
As I alluded to earlier, the Jets acquired this pick via the Darrelle Revis trade. Now that Revis has made his way back home, this trade looks about as great as trading an over the hill Scott Gomez for Ryan McDonagh, because Sheldon Richardson has blossomed into one of the best defensive linemen in the league.
While some rookie defensive lineman, take Dontari Poe of the Chiefs for example, undergo an adjustment period in which they are seemingly invisible, Richardson’s impact was immediate. As a rookie, he recorded 78 tackles — by comparison, the great J.J. Watt had 80. He only had 3.5 sacks, but he was very disruptive at the line, great against the run, and it was evident that he was a star in the making. He was named the NFL Rookie of the Month in November, and was ultimately named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Richardson built on his stellar rookie season with an even better 2014. If you take a look at the tape, he began to receive some of the double teams Wilkerson received (especially in the three games Wilkerson missed), but he continued to produce. His tackle number took a bit of a dip down to 66, but he recorded eight sacks en route to his first Pro-Bowl appearance — the first of many.
The case can be made that Richardson is the league’s best defensive tackle after J.J. Watt. It will be interesting to see how he progresses, especially with a secondary that will give hime more time to get to the QB.
2nd Round, 39th overall pick — Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Heading into the draft, no one really had any idea where the big-armed QB from West Virginia would go. Some mock drafts had him going in the top 10, while others had him going in the late first round. When draft night came around, Geno took his seat in the green room and waited…and waited…and waited some more. With every pick that went by, the camera would flash to a disgruntled Geno, clearly unhappy with how far he had fallen. The first round went by without his name being called, but he didn’t have to wait long on day two, as Wayne Chrebet announced he had been selected by the Jets with the 39th overall pick.
Smith competed with Sanchez in camp for the starting role, before Smith became the starter by default after Sanchez tore his shoulder against the Giants in the preseason (when he was in a game that meant nothing behind the backup offensive line — bring on the conspiracy theories). For the first nine weeks, the Jets alternated wins and loses, and Smith alternated good and bad performances. An abysmal three game stretch in the middle of the season led to his benching, but he bounced back with a strong final month of the season. His final stat line read 3,046 yards with 12 TDs and 21 INTs.
Michael Vick was brought in ahead of the 2014 season as a capable veteran that would push Smith, who had a good preseason and retained his starting job. After playing very well on opening day, Smith’s play declined tremendously. He was ultimately benched after a game against the Bills in late October (injury also factored in, but he would have been benched anyway). After missing two games, he regained his starting job due to Vick’s mediocrity. He once again was abysmal in his first two games back, but just as in 2013, he played very well in the last month of the season and actually had a perfect passer rating in the season finale against Miami.
The way Smith finished the season may not matter, as the new coaches and management don’t seem to have much faith in him. Many people believe Ryan Fitzpatrick is the favorite to start at QB this season, with Marcus Mariota still lurking in the background. Smith’s days as the Jets’ starting QB may be numbered, and yet another valuable 2nd round pick was wasted.
Rest of the Draft
3rd Round, 72nd overall pick — Brian Winters, OG, Kent St. (Had the chance to start at left guard, but was clearly not the answer)
5th Round, 141st overall pick — Oday Aboushi, OG, Virginia (Was given the job when Winters lost it — was serviceable and will compete to retain the job this year)
6th Round, 178th overall pick — William Campbell, OL, Michigan (Has never seen the field)
7th Round, 215th overall pick — Tommy Bohanon, FB, Wake Forest (Was a serviceable player in a position near extinction)