Evaluating the Jets First Three Picks



by Max Marcilla, Sports Editor

Slightly over a month ago, Jets’ Head Coach Rex Ryan made a bold statement about the New York Jets 2013 draft class. “If this is not an A-plus class, I don’t know what you’re looking for,” Ryan said. “I think this class is about as strong a class as I’ve ever seen.”

At the time, Ryan was criticized by media members. The Jets first pick, Dee Milliner, a cornerback who was taken ninth overall, was having an incredibly rough year. Milliner missed games in Weeks 4-6 due to injury and was benched in games against New England, Cincinnati, and Miami.


Milliner wasn’t the only rookie who struggled.


Quarterback Geno Smith, who was taken early in the second round, was having a rocky season. Smith had his moments, but he struggled immensely in a few games, and had yet to show he could be the Jets franchise quarterback. In between a win against the Patriots, and a win against Oakland, Smith went a staggering 23 quarters without throwing a touchdown pass.

The Jets did score a great player in Sheldon Richardson, the defensive tackle, who was taken thirteenth overall; however, the majority of people were far from ready to declare the draft class an “A-plus,” one.


Yet the perception of this draft class completely changed in the final two games, as Smith and Milliner played some of their best football, and Sheldon Richardson cemented himself as a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. In addition to the main three players of the 2013 draft playing well, the Jets also got valuable contributions from 3rd Round Guard Brian Winters, and 7th Round Fullback Tommy Bohanon, who both started all 16 games.

Sheldon Richardson was a leader on the Jets dominant defensive line. The Jets defensive line played two of their weaker games in matchups against Cleveland and Miami but still played well. Richardson and co. allowed an average of 103.5 rushing yards per game in the final two weeks, which is well above their season average of 88.3, which ranks third in the NFL.

Geno Smith played two of his best games to close the season. In his first 14 games, Smith scored 15 touchdowns (10 passing, 5 rushing), but struggled with turnover proneness, with 21 interceptions, and 4 fumbles lost. The key to success in the last two games for the West Virginia graduate was simple: don’t turn the ball over.


The final two games showed why many regarded Smith as the best quarterback in the 2013 draft class, as he scored three total touchdowns (2 passing, 1 rushing), didn’t turn the ball over, and averaged nearly 250 all-purpose yards per game. Smith wrapped up his rookie season with 3,046 passing yards, a Jets rookie record.

Despite great success by the two rookies mentioned above, neither one of them had a better end to their season than Dee Milliner.


Following a couple of rough months, during which some fans and critics were ready to call Milliner an early bust, Milliner had a duo of breakout performances against two speedy wide receivers.

In the Cleveland game, Milliner had the daunting task of guarding a top-5 receiver in Josh Gordon, and he thrived. Gordon did catch 6 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, but struggled to free himself from Milliner. Gordon was targeted by quarterback Jason Campbell 16 times, the third-highest amount of targets he’d seen all season. Milliner even sealed the game with an interception, the first of his career.

In Miami, Milliner added to his interception total by two, as he picked off Ryan Tannehill twice in a win that eliminated the Dolphins from playoff contention.


Milliner was credited for his superb efforts by winning the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month award, the first award Milliner has won as a pro.

The Jets may not have gotten A-plus production from their top three draft picks all season, but one thing New York can look forward to in 2014 is the development of these three players after their A-plus performances the last two weeks.