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

Laveranues Coles
Laveranues Coles, Getty Images

Some of the New York Jets’ best players were taken late in the draft

It’s funny how time slows down in the weeks leading up to the NFL draft as anticipation grows around the football world.

Yesterday, we at Jets X-Factor looked back at some of the biggest draft busts in New York Jets history, but today, we’re taking more of an optimistic look back in time — the biggest draft steals in Jets history!

Keep in mind that these are only draft steals, so we aren’t including undrafted free agents, otherwise you’d see names like Wayne Chrebet and Bryce Huff.

Joe Klecko, DE, 6th round (144th overall) in 1977

Finally a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Klecko was a dominant force off the edge for the Jets during their “New York Sack Exchange” era.

Something that often gets lost in Klecko’s incredible production is the fact that he fell all the way to the sixth round of the 1977 draft. He went on to terrorize the league for the rest of his career, though, earning four Pro Bowl nods, making first-team All-Pro twice, and finishing runner-up to Lawrence Taylor for the AP Defensive Player of the Year award in 1981 after getting 20.5 sacks.

Jason Fabini, OT, 4th round (111th overall) in 1998

Fabini might not have been an era-defining force like Klecko, but the 1998 fourth-round pick was an immediate starter for the Jets and served as a fixture on their offensive line for eight seasons, starting in every game he played. For a franchise that’s long been starving for quality O-line play, the thought of getting a high-end, durable, eight-year starter in the fourth round sounds like the stuff of fairytales.

Laveranues Coles, WR, 3rd round (78th overall) in 2000

The Jets took a chance on Coles despite league-wide concerns surrounding his arrest and suspension from the Florida State football team in-season, just over six months before the draft. Their gamble paid off — Coles turned out to be an exemplary player, and not to mention highly productive for a third-round pick.

Whether it was Chad Pennington, Vinny Testaverde or Brett Favre under center, Coles was always a favorite target of whoever was throwing him the rock. In eight seasons for the Jets, he managed to break the team’s top-five receiving list in yards, receptions and touchdowns, and he still sits at second in targets, behind only Jets X-Factor’s own Wayne Chrebet.

Jerricho Cotchery, WR, 4th round (108th overall) in 2004

Now sitting in the top 10 of the Jets’ all-time receiving yards list, few people remember that Cotchery was a Day 3 pick in the 2004 draft. Cotchery and Coles formed a dynamic duo for the Jets and both were drafted outside of the first two rounds. Cotchery concluded his Jets career with over 4,500 yards, with the majority of that coming out of his hyper-productive 2006-2009 seasons.

Kerry Rhodes, S, 4th round (123rd overall) in 2005

When the Jets selected Rhodes out of Louisville in the fourth round of the 2005 draft, their plans were surely for him to serve as a developmental special teams piece for at least a year before being able to rely on him consistently in the secondary. On the contrary, though, Rhodes quickly seized the starting free safety job and didn’t look back, starting in 78 of his 80 games for the Jets, including every game in each of his first four seasons.

Rhodes signed an extension with the Jets in 2008. Any time you can find an immediate perennial starter (who also earns a second contract) on Day 3 of the draft, it’s simply a massive steal.

Leon Washington, RB, 4th round (117th overall) in 2006

While Washington wasn’t the perennial starter the previous year’s fourth-rounder Rhodes was, he did turn into one of the best kick returners in the NFL during his time with the Jets.

In four seasons in New York, Washington returned 117 kickoffs for 2,986 yards and four touchdowns. In 2008, he earned first-team All-Pro return man honors as well as a Pro-Bowl invite. Even as a pure running back, he led the team in rushing during his rookie season and scored 15 rushing touchdowns over the course of his Jets tenure. Not bad for a Day 3 pick.

Michael Carter II, CB, 5th round (154th overall) in 2021

This draft pick was recent enough to where many of us can still remember what went through our mind when this pick came in… not much. Maybe a little amusement at the fact that Joe Douglas had taken two Michael Carters within a round of each other? But the truth is, most fans had no idea who Michael Carter II was.

They sure do now, because in just a few short years, Carter has developed into one of the NFL’s premier slot defenders. Again – any time you can find a perennial starter on Day 3 of the draft, it’s a huge steal. And Carter is certainly trending toward being one of the biggest draft steals the Jets have had.

Honorable mentions: Jason Ferguson (7th round), Mo Lewis (3rd round), Foley Fatukasi (6th round), Demario Davis (3rd round), Marvin Washington (6th round), Kyle Clifton (3rd round)

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Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
1 month ago

Several Jets picks had decent careers for other teams.
Guard Matt Slauson was a 6th round pick and played 10 years in the league.
TE Joel Dreesen was a 6th round pick who played 9 years in the league.
DB Erik Coleman was a 5th round pick who played 9 years in the league.
Guard Jonathan Goodwin was a 5th round pick who played 13 years in the league.
DT Jason Ferguson was a 7th round pick who played 13 years in the league.
DB Marcus Coleman was a 5th round pick who played 11 years in the league.
RBs Adrian Murrell (5th rd) and Richie Anderson (6th rd) were both in the league over 10 years.
QB Jeff Blake was a 6th rd pick who played 14 years in the league.

Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
1 month ago

Coles was the #2 WR on his Florida St. team after his partner in crime (literally), Peter Warrick. Warrick was the #4 pick in the draft, while Coles fell. Warrick played only 6 years in the league, never winning anything, and his best season he had 819 receiving yards. Coles played 10 years and beat Warrick’s best season 7 times, going over 1000 yards 3 times.

1 month ago

No love for Bilal Powell ?

1 month ago

Joe Fields, 14th round (349 overall) 1975. 13 seasons, 173 games, 155 starts, 2 Pro Bowls, 1 first team All-Pro and 2 second team All-Pro.

Robby Sabo
1 month ago
Reply to  DHB

good call. and, interestingly, center is one of those positions the Jets have been fortunate over the years. Fields would normally warrant all-time starting status in franchise history; not with Mangold/Mawae present.

1 month ago
Reply to  Robby Sabo

Jim Sweeney was no slouch either…