Four more Hall of Famers appear in the New York Jets’ initial first-round NFL draft slot, as Jet X’s countdown nears its end.
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 and highlights the best players chosen in each role.
The countdown reaches its final stage with the second overall pick, the Jets’ opening choice on Thursday night in Cleveland (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/NFL Network).
1939: QB Sid Luckman, Chicago
We try to keep things in the Super Bowl era for brevity’s sake, especially when it comes to the second overall choice. But we couldn’t talk about the greatest second choices without bringing up the Brooklyn native and one of the greatest deep passers the league has ever seen.
Sid Luckman, a tailback at Columbia, was called upon by George Halas to be a quarterback in the famed T-Formation run in Chicago. His ensuing endeavors helped revolutionize the game, popularizing the long ball and man in motion.
He would guide the Chicago Bears to four NFL championships, the most renowned of which was the first, a 73-0 demolishing of Washington in 1940.
1975: DT Randy White, Dallas
Originally drafted to succeed Lee Roy Jordan at linebacker, Randy White was moved to take over the defensive tackle spot Bob Lilly left behind before his third season in 1977. He enjoyed one of the most prolific breakouts in NFL history, reaching the Pro Bowl and first All-Pro teams.
On his 25th birthday, White earned co-MVP honors with Harvey Martin in the Cowboys’ 27-10 win over Denver in Super Bowl 12. He’d later earn the NFC Defensive Player of the Year award and get invited to eight more All-Pro teams, as well as the Cowboys’ famous Ring of Honor.
1977: RB Tony Dorsett, Dallas
It seems ludicrous today, but Tony Dorsett was surprisingly seen as a risk with the second choice in 1977. His size and supposed attitude (telling the top choice holders in Seattle he had no interest in joining the expansion squad) drew concerns, but he quickly erased them with a Dallas-record 1,007 yards as a rookie en route to the aforementioned Super Bowl triumph.
Ezekiel Elliott may have broken that record, but Dorsett would set a record that can literally never be broken: Derrick Henry tied it, but Dorsett was the first rusher in NFL history to take a ball 99 yards for a score, doing so in a 1982 Monday night game against Minnesota.
Ring of Honor commemoration likewise awaited Dorsett, who ranked second in all-time rushing yards upon his departure after the 1988 season.
1981: LB Lawrence Taylor, NY Giants
Arguably the greatest defensive player in the history of the game, Lawrence Taylor shockingly fell to the Giants when New Orleans took rusher George Rogers with the top choice. Though Rogers proved serviceable, Taylor immediately showed them what they were missing by becoming the first rookie to earn Defensive Player of the Year honors (the first of three such titles he’d take home).
He and the rest of the “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” helped guide the Giants out of a long rut, pushing them to the top of the NFC through relentless backfield invasions. His legacy was commemorated by Hall of Fame inductions on both the college and professional levels but likewise marred by a tumultuous personal life during and after his playing career.
1983: RB Eric Dickerson, LA Rams
Despite the NFL’s growing reliance on offense, Eric Dickerson’s legendary rushing tally in 1984 (2,105 yards) has yet to be bested. His dominance went beyond that legendary season, as he broke 1,200 yards in each of his first four seasons, scoring 55 ground touchdowns in that span.
Like Dorsett, he was in second place behind Walter Payton in rushing yards at the time of his NFL swan song (13,259). He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
1994: RB Marshall Faulk, Indianapolis
Peyton Manning finished what Marshall Faulk started: putting Indianapolis on the NFL map. He ended his rookie season by becoming the first freshman to win the Pro Bowl’s MVP award, complementing a 1,282-yard, 11 touchdown season with an all-star game record 180 yards in the AFC’s 41-13 win.
Faulk helped guide the team into the AFC title game the next season, though things quickly soured with Colts management afterward. He subsequently took a starring role in The Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis, winning three consecutive Offensive Player of the Year awards, as well as the Super Bowl at the end of the 1999-2000 season.
Faulk still holds numerous NFL records after his retirement in 2007, including the individual record for two-point conversions (7).
2002: DE Julius Peppers, Carolina
A multi-sport athlete in Chapel Hill (partaking in the North Carolina Tar Heels’ run to the 2000 Final Four), Julius Peppers rudely introduced himself to NFL quarterbacks with a dozen sacks in his rookie season. He wound up tallying at least 10 sacks in 10 of his 17 professional seasons (including 11 in his penultimate campaign in 2017).
Peppers currently stands as the fourth-leading sack man in NFL history (159.5). Quarterbacks weren’t the only backfield dwellers who came to fear Peppers, the only player in NFL history with at least 100 sacks and 10 interceptions.
Kickers also had their share of nightmares, as Peppers blocked 13 kicks, the second-best ever.
2011: LB Von Miller, Denver
Miller Time has taken on a new, horrifying meaning for opposing offenses. It took Von Miller only nine seasons to join the 100-sack club, his career-best being a tally of 18.5 in his second season (2012).
Though a freak ankle injury right before Week 1 ended his 2020 season before it began (ending a streak of consecutive Pro Bowls at six), Miller has a permanent mark in NFL championship history through MVP honors in the Broncos Super Bowl 50 triumph over Carolina.
- 1940: RB George McAfee, Philadelphia
- 1952: LB Les Richter, Dallas
- 1956: QB Earl Morrall, San Francisco
- 1961: QB Roman Gabriel, LA Rams
- 1964: T Bob Brown, Philadelphia
- 1966: G Tom Mack, LA Rams
- 1971: QB Archie Manning, New Orleans
- 1987: LB Cornelius Bennett, Indianapolis
- 1988: DE Neil Smith, Kansas City
- 1995: T Tony Boselli, Jacksonville
- 1999: QB Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia
- 2010: DT Ndamukong Suh, Detroit
- 2018 RB Saquon Barkley, NY Giants
- 2019: DE Nick Bosa, San Francisco
- 2020: DE Chase Young, Washington
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags