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Projecting the Performance of the 2010 New York Jets Draft Class

Two drafts ago I posted an article looking at the success rate of players chosen in the first round of the NFL draft based on position and where they were selected. The period of analysis at the time was from 1997 thru 2006. I updated my charts to see if we can project the chance that the players drafted by the Jets over these last few days have of making a big impact in the league. To do this I‘m going to initially look at the normal success rate of players drafted in the round at the particular position to determine a baseline player. We‘ll then expand on that baseline by investigating the Jets history at drafting in that round. To do that we will look at all of the Jets draft since 2001. The reason I chose 2001 is because even though Mike Tannenbaum has only been GM since 2006, the scouting staff more or less dates back to 2001, including former GM Terry Bradway‘s participation in the draft process.

First Round Pick: CB Kyle Wilson

The first step in grading Wilson’s chances for success are to simply look at the other corners drafted in the first round outside of the top 10. The reason for looking outside of the top 10 is because history has shown that there is a difference between players selected in the top of the draft and remainder of the round. Between 1997 and 2008, 40 draft picks had been cornerbacks. About 32% of those players busted or are about to be thrown away as a bust. A bust in this case would be considered a player who lasted less than five years or was forced to switch positions in the NFL. The majority of corners would fall into the category of long careers. 15 players have been in the league at least 7 years and there are a number of young players who already look to be locks to last that long. The position has not produced a ton of great players, so nobody should place those expectations on Wilson. Only 4 players have made multiple pro bowls and only two of those players would really be considered great (Nnamdi Asomugha and Darrelle Revis). Nine players, or 21.9% of those selected, have made at least one Pro Bowl. Solely based on positional analysis we can project that a first round corner should at least last in the NFL for a period of 7 years with a minimum of 5 as a starter. A corner selected in the first round should also be a solid special teams contributor in the normal scenario.

The Jets first round selections have been WR Santana Moss, DE Bryan Thomas, LB Jon Vilma, C Nick Mangold, CB Darrelle Revis, and TE Dustin Keller.

Moss is entering his tenth year in the NFL, is a one time pro bowler, and has three 1,000 yard seasons. 29 WR’s have been selected in the back end of the first round. The two best players selected were Randy Moss and Reggie Wayne, both of which have multiple Pro Bowl appearances. Moss was at one time the best player in the league and Wayne is a top 5 receiver. 17% were selected to at least one Pro Bowl. Other notables with potential to move into the Pro Bowl class would be Santonio Holmes, Lee Evans, and Dwayne Bowe. Clearly the Jets selected one of the better players and should be graded at a B or B+ for the selection.

34 defensive ends were selected after pick number 10 since 1997. 18% made a Pro Bowl. Thomas has never made a pro bowl and switched positions to LB, though that was due to a defensive shift not because Thomas was unable to play DE. Thomas is a bit tough to grade because he sat behind two players that were in the upper echelon of draft choices at the position in Shaun Ellis and John Abraham for the first 4 years of his career. Based on games played and production Thomas would rank around 15 or 16 among first round defensive ends. That should be good enough for a grade of a C as the Jets got average production out of Thomas for an 8 year period.

Jon Vilma’s Jets career was cut short as he was the victim of a defensive shift where he no longer fit the makeup of the team. That should not take away from his success in the NFL as Vilma has been selected to two Pro Bowls and has recorded one 100+ tackle season. 32 Linebackers have been selected through the 2009 in the later part of the first round. It’s a position with a great success rate as 44% have gone on to the Pro Bowl. While Vilma would not grade in the top portion of the position, and he’ll likely be surpassed by the young players just recently drafted, he would still score above average and should earn a grade of a B.

Only 6 centers have been chosen in the first round of the NFL draft. Nobody has really been bad, but its clear who the best of the bunch is. Mangold has already been named to two Pro Bowls and was named All Pro one time. No other center has had those distinctions. The only other Pro Bowler was Damien Woody who made it once. The other players such as Jeff Faine start most games, but that is about all the upside they have. Mangold is a clear A.

Revis is almost universally recognized as the current top player at his position in the NFL. Some would argue that he is the best defensive player in the NFL. In only 3 seasons, Revis has made 2 Pro Bowls and been named All Pro once. Of the 44 corners selected between choices 11 and 32, only 4 have been named to more than one pro bowl, none other than Revis accomplishing the feat within the first 3 years in the NFL. 5 players were named All Pro one time. The only two to do it as fast as Revis were former teammate Lito Sheppard and current teammate Antonio Cromartie. To be ranked number 1 out of 44 is something very special and is without a doubt an A+ grade.

Keller has been trying to find his role on the team. He has started 18 games, but at times has looked to have run out of gas during the course of the season. He did not make the leap many expected in 2009 and right now looks to be a safe bet for 45-50 receptions for somewhere between 500 and 550 yards a year. 15 tight ends have been selected since 1997 in the last 22 picks of the first round . The gold standard was Tony Gonzalez, who will go down as perhaps the greatest of all time at the position. There have been a few multi time pro bowlers besides Gonzalez, all of whom did it very early in their careers so it history means anything it does not look likely that Keller will reach that level. So in what group does Keller rate. Dallas Clark started out slower than Keller, which is a strong hope for Keller, but Clark looks like the better pick right now. Anthony Becht and Daniel Graham are different type of players than Keller. Both have been around forever and started for many seasons, so its probably safe to put them ahead of DK as well. That brings us mainly to a group of young pass catchers like Greg Olsen and Heath Miller. Olsen has put up better numbers than Keller. Miller was worse in the early stages , but looks to be a late bloomer. I think Miller would be close to equal footing with Keller. The rest of the group like Ben Watson of the Patriots have disappointed. I think its fair to rate Keller around 9th on the list and an average player thus far at the position for a grade of a C.

So what we have here a very strong track record in the scouting department when it comes to spotting first round talent. The Jets scouting is clearly better at identifying players here than they are in the top 10 and its years of consistency. The two worst selections would grade out as no worse than average picks. There are two above average selections and under Tannenbaum they have hit the two best players at the position. Based on the overall success rate of the corner position and the Jets track record at the position Wilson should be a much better than average player. Its not fair to expect top level greatness but it would not be surprising at all if he ends up having a career that measures up to a player like Nate Clements or Antoine Winfield. Long career with a few really good seasons thrown in would look to be his projection and he should be the complement to Revis for at least five years.

Second Round: G/T Vladimir Ducasse

Vladimir Ducasse projects as an offensive tackle, but could find a home in the interior of the line as well, so we will take a look at the history of both spots. 28 players have been chosen to play tackle in the 2nd round between 97 and 08. 25% of the players have gone on to appear in a Pro Bowl and over 30% spent a good deal of time starting in the NFL. Its been a position where players last for a long time. Over 50% have been in the NFL for more than 8 seasons Only 4 players have been total failures at the NFL level. As a tackle an average projection for Ducasse would be a journeyman career with a few chances to be a starter.

Twenty two guards were selected in the second round of the draft. Only 3 went on to a Pro Bowl, so there is about a 14% chance of a second round guard being a Pro Bowler. Like the tackles there is a long lifespan to most of these players. Only 2 players flamed out in less than 4 years so you have to be awful to be that level of bust. The average guard would be considered of starting quality for about 65% of his career and likely project to lasting for 7 years. The Jets second rounders have been RB Lamont Jordan, S Jon McGraw, LB Victor Hobson, K Mike Nugent, CB Justin Miller, QB Kellen Clemens and LB David Harris.

Jordan was a nice little backup to Curtis Martin before he left to Raiderland where he stunk up the field. Jordan is still hanging on in the NFL, but has only started 8 or more games twice in his career. Jordan has one 1000 yard season. 29 second rounders were selected at RB between 1997 and 2008 . 20% went on to the Pro Bowl. However, the drop off from Pro Bowlers to the next level is gigantic. The next level of players are Kevin Faulk, Lendale White, and Julius Jones. Jordan fits in with those players which actually makes him an above average selection. The trap people fell into with Jordan is the same one that teams fell into with White and Jones. Teams and fans felt Jordan was a starter. He never had that skillset and that caused him to look worse than he was. C+.

Somehow Jon McGraw is still in the NFL. He has started more than 8 games exactly once in his career and has really amounted to nothing in the NFL. Over 50% of the safeties selected in the second round have proven to bust and that is exactly where McGraw ranks. He has lasted for years so that gives him a D.

With two linebackers on the list we can look at them together. Victor Hobson was a 4 year starter for the Jets, who quickly ended up out of the NFL once the Jets let him go. David Harris is a big favorite in NY. He’s a big hitter and did make 2nd team All Pro in 2009. There have been 53 linebackers taken in the second round since 1997. Only 12% made a pro bowl. About a quarter of those selected had good long productive careers. Harris is somewhere between these two groups which would give him a grade of either B or B+. Hobson’s four nondescript starting seasons rank him close to the average for the second round. He didn’t exceed expectations, but did not really fail any worse than expected either. C.

Nugent is the only kicker selected in the second round. He did just sign with the Bengals, but there is no guarantee that he remains in the NFL. He’s been worse than average players selected in later rounds at the position. F.

CB Justin Miller is a tough grade because he was an outstanding special teams player for a number of years, but never played well as a corner. Miller’s career is likely over after five years, but he did make the Pro Bowl once as a return specialist. The expectation for a second round corner is to bust (64% have busted), which looks to be where Miller ranks. His return skills make him better than the worst of the group, but no seasons where he was really a starter ranks him among the worst of the busts. C-.

Clemens is barely hanging onto a roster spot and failed to claim a starters spot when given a few chances. He may not make it much longer in the NFL. 14 Qbs have been chosen in the second round of the draft, 10 of which are probably fair to look at. Only one ended up with an outstanding career, current Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees. The only other long term starter was Jake Plummer. When you look at the list of names selected in the second round, such as Quincy Carter, Shaun King, and Charlie Batch, the Clemens pick is not as bad as one would think. The team never showed any confidence in giving Clemens the job which probably rank him lower than players like Batch and certainly the current names about to get their chance in Chad Henne and Kevin Kolb, but Clemens has lasted longer than John Beck and Drew Stanton. Surprisingly a C grade is simply a guy who lasts for more than 4 years in the league. Clemens might. Right now a D is fair, but that’s better than I would have expected.

This has not been a strong round for the Jets. Two D’s. An F. A couple of C’s. And David Harris. For whatever reason the scouting here seems to do a poor job at identifying prospects at the chosen positions, which does not bode well for Ducasse. The Jets have only hit one F, so Ducasse should not hit the mega level bust tag that some have reached. Most likely he is going to be an average or slightly below average selection. That wont be a terrible player by any means, but if he becomes a starter (and most of the linemen are given that opportunity by no later than year two) he’ll likely be considered the weak link of the squad and the one position they are active in upgrading.

Fourth Round: RB Joe McKnight

It is often said that running backs can be found anywhere in the draft and the fourth round has produced some decent players. Four players have had 1000 yard seasons and Rudi Johnson was a clear number one back for a few years. Normally teams are not finding long term starting options in the fourth round, but some very well known complementary backs have been chosen in this round. The average fourth round back stays in the league for a three year period and is used as a part time player at the position gaining around 350 yards a season. This would be the average projection for Joe McKnight.

The Jets fourth rounders have been CB Jamie Henderson, DT Alan Harper, WR Jerricho Cotchery, T Adrian Jones, S Kerry Rhodes, WR Brad Smith, RB Leon Washington, and CB Dwight Lowery

The team has jumped into the DB category, three times over the past 7 years with some mixed results. Henderson was a total flop, lasting only 3 years before a motorcycle accident officially ended his career. Rhodes was a consistent starter for five years and looks as if he will be a starter in Arizona for a few more seasons. Lowery is likely not going to get to start again, but does seem to have the skill set to last in the league beyond the first contract. The 4th round has produced five pro bowlers, though two were for return skills more than coverage skills. Only one safety, Lance Schulters, made a pro bowl. Rhodes will likely surpass his career totals in interceptions and games and at worst would ranks as the second best safety taken in the fourth round. The average DB never starts a season for his team and at best is a special teams contributor. Lowery’s one starting year and potential does make him slightly better than average. Henderson, only appearing in 32 games, ranks below the 50th percentile. Overall grades would be an A for Rhodes, C+ for Lowery, and D for Henderson.

Adrian Jones gets a lot of grief because he was awful in a starting role for the Jets and later the Chiefs, but he was a starter for two seasons and appeared in 55 games. Those numbers actually rank him 9th and 8th respectively out of the 32 tackles selected between 1997 and 2008. Considering 11 players never even played in as many as 15 games that is not too bad. Though not a good player he was not a bad pick if you decided to go line there. C+

Defensive tackles selected this low in the draft have been a nightmare. Not one Pro Bowler in 35 picks and only three players would grade out as starting quality. 11 players have appeared in less than 15 games. Alan Harper is one of them. F.

The Jets have found a consistent starter in Jerricho Cotchery that they can pencil in for 800+ receiving yards a year. Cotchery has one 1000 yard season. The two best receivers taken in round 4 were Derrick Mason and Brandon Marshall, both Pro Bowl talents with big resumes. Cotchery would rank third out of the 50 fourth round WR’s. Smith was drafted as a QB, but projected as a WR in the NFL. He’s a solid special teams player that has appeared in 60 games in his career and is now entering his 5th year in the NFL. Smith ranks 16th in games, 20th in receptions, and 1st in rushing yards. A- for Cotchery, C+ for Smith.

Leon Washington rounds out the field for the Jets in the round. Leon was an excellent kick returner who made one Pro Bowl. Based on an injury suffered in 2009 it does not look as if his career is going to extend significantly longer, but he could prove everyone wrong. Leon was a good change of pace back that ranked 10th in rushing yardage and 6th in receiving yardage among all fourth round backs. He is clearly an above average selection. B.

This has been a strong round for the Jets. Other than Harper and Henderson every pick has performed above the average and three of the last six have been well above average. This bodes well for McKnight and pushes his projection above the average. One should expect a career that is at least similar to Leon Washington to where you could pencil him in for 500-600 yards on offense a season, with the outside potential for a big year or two where he could run for close to 800 yards.

Round 5: FB John Conner

Only 10 Fullbacks have been drafted in the fifth round and only Mike Karney of the Saints has been a quality starter. An average pick is out of the NFL within 3 years and only appears in a handful of games.

The Jets have not shown much of a track record in round 5. The draft choices are G Jonathan Goodwin, S Derek Pagel, DE Matt Walters, S Erik Coleman, S Andre Maddox, TE Jason Pociask, and QB Erik Ainge.

Goodwin has had a much better than average career. He has lasted in the NFL for 8 years and has become a starter for the New Orleans Saints. Hes a solid enough veteran that ranks in the top 10 of the 31 fifth round guards. B.

Coleman was the other bright spot of the fifth rounders. Fans expected alot because of a nice rookie season and he never delivered, but he is arguably the second best safety selected in the round and one of only two players who ended up being a full time starter. Pagel was gone after two seasons and Maddox never even played in a game. Coleman earns an A- , Pagel a D, and Maddox a F.

The fifth round has produced a number of Pro Bowl and starting quality Defensive Ends. Needless to say Walters was not one of them. F….TE Jason Pociask appeared in 4 games before his NFL career was over. F…Erik Ainge’s biggest claims to fame were a preseason pass and a drug suspension. The book is still open, but he is right at the bottom of the QB list for round 5. F.

It’s a spotty round for the Jets. Their two best picks ended up leaving the team and the rest quickly left the NFL. None of this bodes well for Conners future. Between the Jets history and the relative lack of production of draftees at the position, if Conner lasts for more than two seasons on the roster he will exceed expectations.