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New York Jets-NFL draft: The best 34th overall selections of all-time

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 21: Guard Chris Snee #67 of the New York Giants looses his helmet and catches the flag on a penalty against the Atlanta Falcons in the third quarter at Giants Stadium on November 21, 2004 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Falcons defeated the Giants 14-10.
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Stars of the past and present, including four Hall of Famers, have gone in the New York Jets’ second-round slot of the NFL draft.

The only NFL draft tradition more enduring than current mocks is revisiting the selections of the past.

Jet X looks back on the 10 spots where the New York Jets are slated to select in the coming 2021 NFL draft in order to highlight the best players chosen in each role.

The countdown continues with the 34th overall pick, the Jets’ regularly scheduled second-round choice …

1951: T Mike McCormack, NY Yanks

Mike McCormack was drafted by the New York Yanks, but no fastball was necessary.

After his rookie season at Yankee Stadium, McCormack spent the next two seasons in the U.S. Army, fighting in the Korean War. He joined the Cleveland Browns upon his return in 1954, playing both sides of the line.

McCormack notably swiped a fumble from Hall of Famer Bobby Layne that led to an early score in Cleveland’s blowout win in the NFL Championship Game. He’d go on to play nine more seasons with the Browns before becoming a coach, a term of service that included head stints in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Seattle.

A front office career followed as the 1984 Hall of Fame electee served as the general manager for the Seahawks and the expansion edition of the Carolina Panthers.

1952: DB/P/KR/PR Yale Lary, Detroit

The Texas A&M alum was a man of many talents in the Motor City, winning two NFL titles before embarking on a two-year military term of his own. He handled punts both ways for the Lions and found himself in nine Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams.

Detroit also earned one last NFL Championship in 1957 and Yale Lary went on to establish himself as one of the most dominant punters in NFL history. His average of 44.3 was the second-best ever upon his retirement in 1964 and the Hall of Fame named him to their all-1950s team.

1967: CB Lem Barney, Detroit

A Jackson State alum and another multi-talented Detroit Lion, Lem Barney made an immediate impact as the NFL’s interception leader (10) and the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1967. One of his first drives in the NFL saw him take a Bart Starr interception back for a touchdown.

Another military veteran (serving in the Navy), Barney followed in Lary’s footsteps as both a defender and a punter. Barney’s career ended in controversy—called to testify before a grand jury in an international drug-smuggling investigation—Barney nonetheless reached the Hall of Fame in 1992.

He became an accomplished singer (during his playing career he was part of the background vocals for Marvin Gaye’s hit song “What’s Going On”) and also embarked on a brief acting career, appearing as himself in the 1968 adaption of George Plimpton’s Paper Lion and co-starring alongside fellow NFL stars Mean Joe Green and Mercury Morris in the biker film The Black Six.

1971: LB Jack Ham, Pittsburgh

Jack Ham was the full package at linebacker for the Steeler dynasty of the 1970s, a hard-hitter who could also provide elite pass defense. He tallied 53 takeaways in his NFL career, most among linebackers, and was a part of each of Pittsburgh’s four Super Bowl champion squads.

His most crucial role in those titles was a pair of interceptions of Ken Stabler in the 1974 AFC title game win over Oakland en route to Super Bowl 9. Ham’s current endeavors include medical marijuana advocacy and serving as a radio analyst for his alma mater of Penn State.

1996: WR Amani Toomer, NY Giants

Amani Toomer began his career as a return specialist over his first three seasons but enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in 1999 (1,183 yards). He became one of the favorite targets of both Kerry Collins and Eli Manning as well as one of the most prolific receivers in the team history.

Toomer notably put in three scores over the first two legs of the Super Bowl trip in 2008 (including two in the Divisional upset over the Cowboys) and was the Giants’ top receiver (6 receptions, 84 yards) in the Big Game triumph over New England.

He ended his Giants career in 2008 and stands as the team’s all-time leader in all major receiving categories (668 receptions, 9,497 yards, 54 touchdowns).

2004: G Chris Snee, NY Giants

Chris Snee is the son-in-law of his former head coach, Tom Coughlin, but nepotism was the very last reason why he developed a decade-long career. The Edison, NJ native and Boston College alum became a staple on the Giants’ offensive line, providing protection for Eli Manning and numerous running backs like Tiki Barber, Brandon Jacobs, and Ahmad Bradshaw.

He appeared in four Pro Bowls and was in the starting lineup for each of the Giants’ most recent pair of Super Bowl triumphs over New England.


2009: S Patrick Chung, New England

Observers say that the New England Patriots’ dynasty ended with the departure of Tom Brady last season, but they were missing another mainstay in the form of Patrick Chung. The former Oregon Duck opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns and officially announced his retirement in March. It ended an 11-year NFL career spent entirely in New England (save for a one-year reprieve in Philadelphia in 2013) that featured five Super Bowl visits, including three victories.

Though Chung holds a special place in the hearts of New England fans, he is perhaps best known to Jets fans for his ill-fated fake punt during the 2010-11 AFC divisional playoffs.

2014: DE DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas

DeMarcus Lawrence has lived up to his nickname of “Tank” over the last seven seasons with the Cowboys. After missing his first games due to injury, he quickly endeared himself to Dallas fans with a crucial sack of Matthew Stafford that allowed them to win a Wild Card game in his rookie season (making up for a fumble on failed turnover earlier in the drive).

Injuries and a suspension hindered progress after an eight-sack sophomore season, but Lawrence tallied a combined 25 quarterback takedowns during the 2017-18 seasons, each of which ended with him in the Pro Bowl and on NFL Network’s Top 100 players list.

2016: LB Jaylon Smith, Dallas

Jaylon Smith should’ve gone long before the Cowboys saw him lingering at 34th overall. The Notre Dame alum was well on his way toward hearing his name on opening night, but a devastating injury during the Fiesta Bowl saw him drop to the second.

Patience paid off for America’s Team, as Smith has partaken in every game since sitting out his rookie year. During that span, he has tallied 490 tackles, 20 pass breakups, and has forced eight fumbles. Smith was welcomed to his first Pro Bowl at the end of the 2019 season.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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