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Looking back at some of the biggest draft busts in NY Jets history

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Christian Hackenberg, Getty Images

The New York Jets need to make fewer picks like these to break their Super Bowl drought

With the 2024 NFL draft less than two weeks away, the football world has turned its starving eyes to the incoming rookie class.

While the excitement of draft season and the opportunity to upgrade is undeniable, one thing that terrifies any NFL fan to their core is watching their favorite team pick someone they believe to be a bust. So while Jets Twitter wages war over whether an offensive lineman or pass-catcher would be the smarter pick at 10, we’re taking a breather to look back at some of the biggest Jets draft busts of all time.

These names come in no particular order or ranking, and we’re keeping it to one player per draft class. It’s only right for me to include a trigger warning for Jets fans, because you will see names you may have tried to suppress from your memory.

Vernon Gholston, DE, No. 6 overall (2008)

Ohio State’s Vernon Gholston had an incredibly impressive pre-draft combine, including a 4.68 40-yard dash and 37 reps on the bench press. The Jets were fooled into believing those measurables would translate into him being a dominant pass-rusher off their edge for years. Gholston never recorded a single sack nor forced a single fumble in his NFL career, and he finished with 42 total tackles over three seasons.

The Jets learned a valuable lesson from Gholston: don’t overreact to workout numbers.

Christian Hackenberg, QB, No. 51 overall (2016)

Christian Hackenberg. A name Jets fans still cringe at to this day. This is due in large part to the fact that essentially the entire fanbase knew how bad of a pick it was the moment it was announced at the podium.

Sure, the former Penn State Nittany Lion had some promising tools, but scouts and analysts alike agreed that his accuracy was simply not good enough to compete in the NFL. Apparently, GM Mike Maccagnan didn’t get the memo, because he pounced on Hackenberg with the team’s second-round pick.

The result? Hackenberg was gone within two years and never even saw an NFL field. Frustratingly, many players drafted in the next 30 picks after him have gone on to play prominent roles in the league, including Joe Thuney, Justin Simmons and Javon Hargrave among others.

Zach Wilson, QB, No. 2 overall (2021)

While we’re on the subject of quarterbacks, I might as well mention Zach Wilson here. This one is still recent enough to really sting, and some fans still have yet to let go of hope that the 24-year-old can amount to something. The biggest shame with Wilson is that right from the get-go, he was a consolation prize for a fanbase that believed all throughout the 2020 season that their suffering would be rewarded with Trevor Lawrence.

Despite being assured by Robert Saleh that the organization would lift him up, “not the other way around,” Wilson was not put in the most favorable of positions as a young franchise-saving quarterback from the start. Still, for someone drafted with the second overall pick, they ultimately gave him what should have in theory been enough to show something over the next few years. In the end, Wilson turned out to just not have the mental fortitude to deal with the ups and downs of being QB1 for the New York Jets.

Kyle Brady, TE, No. 9 overall (1995)

This pick particularly stings because fans had been pounding the table for defensive lineman Warren Sapp in the 1995 Draft. The team passed on him in favor of Kyle Brady, the tight end out of Penn State.

Brady wasn’t terrible, but he certainly never came remotely close to living up to his top-10 selection. Sapp, meanwhile, ended up going to seven Pro Bowls, made first-team All-Pro four times, won a Defensive Player of the Year award, and even won a Super Bowl.

Dee Milliner, CB, No. 9 overall (2013)

Dee Milliner had high expectations and a lot of hype surrounding him coming out of Alabama, where he earned All-American honors in 2012. Still, there was also plenty of concern due to him undergoing five surgeries during his college career.

Milliner’s rookie campaign for the Jets was uneven, but he finished strong – strong enough that some projected him as a potential Pro Bowler heading into his second season. Unfortunately, Milliner suffered an Achilles injury early in that season. He returned to play five games in his third season, but after that, he never again saw an NFL field. He’s still just 32 years old.

Calvin Pryor, SS, No. 18 overall (2014)

Every single one of the “Idzik 12” 2014 draft class could be included on this list (except maybe Quincy Enunwa), but since Pryor was the first-round pick and headliner of the bunch, he gets the nod here.

Pryor was still on the roster when the Jets drafted Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye in the first and second rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft. The fact alone that the team felt the need to draft safeties with their two highest picks that year should say enough about Pryor. Following the draft, the Jets declined his fifth-year option and traded him to the Cleveland Browns.

Honorable mentions: Blair Thomas, Mekhi Becton, Dewayne Robertson, Quinton Coples, Darron Lee

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DHB
DHB
1 month ago

Gholston wasn’t just a workout warrior he was also very productive for two years at Ohio State and nobody questioned the pick at the time. Back then I loved the pick.

I remember in his first game he had Chad Pennington right in front of him for a sack. It was a three or five-step drop and Gholston anticipated another two which didn’t happen. He ended up running behind and past Chad. It was the closest he ever came to a sack.

Jim G
Jim G
1 month ago

Kyle Brady was drafted in 1995, not 2005 as the article indicates.

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