The departure of Jordan Jenkins officially closes the book on the New York Jets’ 2016 NFL draftees. Jet X looks back on what was and what’s now.
The 2016 NFL draft was one that changed the course of football history. Future polarizing figures and engineers of Super Bowl visits were taken with the first two picks (Jared Goff/Carson Wentz). Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry taught us to appreciate the running back again.
Then there’s what happened to the New York Jets.
With the reported departure of Jordan Jenkins, Gang Green’s entire 2016 draft class has officially departed. Of that cursed group of seven, three are not on a current NFL roster and one has already left pros entirely.
Jet X looks back on the class and checks in on where they are now …
Round 1: LB Darron Lee, Ohio State
Then: Darron Lee was fresh off a dominant performance in Ohio State’s national championship trek, earning Defensive MVP honors in the College Football Playoff semifinal upset victory over Alabama.
The Jets chose him 20th overall, one pick before Houston chose Will Fuller. Inconsistency and character issues marred Lee’s time in New York. He was assessed multiple fines for penalized hits and missed the final four games of 2018 for a PED suspension. The Jets declined Lee’s fifth-year option and shipped him to Kansas City for a sixth-round pick (which was later traded to Indianapolis for Quincy Wilson).
Now: Lee partook in every regular-season game for the 2019 Chiefs, earning 31 tackles, but he did not dress in any postseason contests (including Super Bowl 54). After Kansas City let him walk, Lee was dealt another four-game suspension for an unspecified offense.
He eventually joined the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad and appeared in two regular-season games. Lee is currently a free agent and made a case to return to New York on social media in January, expressing an eagerness to work with new head coach Robert Saleh.
Round 2: QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Then: Christian Hackenberg burst onto the national scene with a strong freshman season at Penn State under future Texans coach Bill O’Brien. He failed to match the numbers from his debut campaign but was still the fourth quarterback chosen in the 2016 NFL draft after Goff, Wentz, and Paxton Lynch.
Dak Prescott and Jacoby Brissett were among the throwers chosen after. Hackenberg never impressed in a pair of preseasons and was never called upon in regular-season action, only dressing for three games in 2017 when Josh McCown’s injury made him the backup to Bryce Petty.
Now: Hackenberg was dealt to the Oakland Raiders in May 2018 for a seventh-round pick…one the Jets lost when the Raiders dropped Hackenberg less than a month later. After respective preseason and practice squad stints in Philadelphia and Cincinnati, Hackenberg finally got to play regular-season downs in 2019 with the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football.
Alas, Hackenberg was benched after two games for fellow former NFLer Zach Mettenberger, throwing no touchdown passes and three interceptions. Hackenberg embarked on a new throwing opportunity last summer—attempting to become a baseball pitcher—but recently returned to football through a coaching excursion with Winslow Township High School Football in New Jersey.
— NYJ MIKE (@NyjMike) March 20, 2021
Round 3: LB Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
Then: Jordan Jenkins passes on the mantle of longest-tenured Jet to franchise tag holder Marcus Maye after five seasons. He likely would’ve gone long before the 83rd overall choice had he not suffered a hamstring injury during NFL Scouting Combine workouts.
By far the most prolific choice in the Jets’ 2016 class, Jenkins’ best season in green came during his fourth year in 2019, earning a career-best eight sacks.
Now: Jenkins now moves to Houston on a two-year deal worth as much as $8 million. He’ll likely be called upon to assist a pass rush that recently lost J.J. Watt to Arizona, competing in a linebacker situation that also includes Whitney Mercilus and fellow newcomer Shaq Lawson.
— Gary Phillips (@GaryHPhillips) September 10, 2017
Round 4: CB Juston Burris, North Carolina State
Then: Best known for a red-zone interception in the opening game against Buffalo to kick off 2017, Juston Burris partook in 34 games (2 starts) over two-plus seasons for the Jets before he was waived in October 2018. Two separate stints in Cleveland awaited, sandwiching a stop in Oakland.
He had a sack and an interception in a November 2019 win over Cleveland shortly before chaos erupted in the infamous Thursday night contest.
Now: Burris has made a home of sorts in Carolina, starting 12 games last season and earning a career-best 53 tackles. His 2021 status is in question, as he’s worth $3 million upon release.
Round 5: OT Brandon Shell, South Carolina
Then: Brandon Shell was one of the more passable pieces of the Jets’ beleaguered blocking corps, but struggled to stay in the lineup thanks to numerous injuries. He suffered what was seen as a devastating knee injury in a late 2018 game, but he returned to partake in 15 games the following season.
Alas for the Jets, Shell likely did nothing to make them forget that a Division II receiver named Tyreek Hill went to the Chiefs seven choices later.
Now: Following the expiration of his rookie deal, Shell inked a two-year, $11 million contract with the Seahawks, joining Jamal Adams and several other former Jets. He’d go on to earn positive reviews over 11 starts, with head coach Pete Carroll calling him “a great acquisition for us” prior to the Jets’ visit to Seattle last December (per Liz Mathews of Seahawks Wire).
Round 7: P Lac Edwards, Sam Houston State
Then: Having acquired an extra seventh-rounder from Denver (that also netted Ryan Clady), the Jets went with a specialist. Lac Edwards was a rarity in more ways than one as a draftee of the FCS Bearkats and also as just the ninth Australian rules football player to move on to the NFL.
Edwards was certainly called upon often—he ranked in the top five in attempts in three consecutive seasons (2017-19)—but the Jets opted to move on from him when they drafted Braden Mann with their final pick in last season’s selections.
Now: Edwards spent just over a week in Buffalo Bills training camp before he was brought on to the Los Angeles Chargers practice squad in December. The team added him back on a reserve/future deal at the end of the season.
— NFL Brasil (@NFLBrasil) August 17, 2018
Round 7: WR Charone Peake, Clemson
Then: Charone Peake is perhaps best known for scoring one of the most unusual touchdowns in recent Jets history, in which he took a forward Ryan Fitzpatrick fumble in 40 yards for a score. He was mostly used as a reserve receiver in New York, earning 214 yards on 22 receptions…all but three of the latter coming in his rookie season.
Now: Peake was released by the team at the end of training camp activities in 2019. He signed a future/reserve contract with Jacksonville in January 2020 but was let go three months later. More recently, he joined another green team, the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags