Many successful NFL teams have different routes to success. Some find a sleeper quarterback in the sixth-round who leads the franchise to a dynasty (New England) and some replace a legendary defense with several top-tier offensive weapons (Pittsburgh).
However, there is one overarching concept that will forever connect successful teams: the NFL Draft. On the contrary, not-so successful teams often whiff in the draft, both with top picks and mid-round selections.
“The draft is critical and it’s been a very important part of our process from day one,” Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan said on Monday. “We’ve always felt very strongly about building this organization through the draft. I think every team would probably say the same thing in terms of long-term success — that’s the key to this whole process.”
As the 2017 NFL Draft nears, I decided to take a look at why the Jets have been unsuccessful compared to their AFC counterparts. By comparing Gang Green to two storied franchises — the Patriots and Steelers — and two franchises in dismay — the Browns and Jaguars — it’s clear to see success in the draft is directly correlated to wins.
Note: All data since the 2002 NFL Draft
|Pro Bowlers taken in Round 1 (% of picks)||Pro Bowlers taken in Rounds 2-4||Pro Bowlers taken in Rounds 5-7||Team Playoff Appearances (since 2002)|
|Cleveland Browns||5/18 (27.8%)||3/54 (5.6%)||1/51 (2.0%)||1|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||3/15 (20%)||4/46 (8.7%)||0/55 (0%)||2|
|New York Jets||7/17 (41%)||2/39 (5.1%)||1/47 (2.1%)||5|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||7/15 (46.7%)||5/46 (10.8%)||2/60 (3.3%)||10|
|New England Patriots||7/14 (50%)||4/60 (6.7%)||3/59 (5.1%)||13|
Pro Bowl appearances can also be flukey, as a player could suffer a serious injury or severe regression. Therefore, it’s important to evaluate how many Pro Bowl selections these players made on average.
|Round 1: Total Pro Bowl Appearances||Rounds 2-4: Total Pro Bowl Appearances||Rounds 5-7: Total Pro Bowl Appearances|
|New York Jets||23||3||1|
|New England Patriots||20||13||8|
Lastly, it’s also significant to figure out how many players thrived with the team that drafted them. Between trades and free agency, there are cases where players don’t reach their peak until after leaving their initial team.
|Round 1: Total Pro Bowl Appearances w/ Original Team||Rounds 2-4: Total Pro Bowl Appearances w/ Original Team||Rounds 5-7: Total Pro Bowl Appearance w/ Original Team|
|Cleveland Browns||17 (94%)||2 (50%)||2 (100%)|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||3 (60%)||6 (100%)||0|
|New York Jets||19 (83%)||2 (67%)||0|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||24 (100%)||4 (57%)||6 (100%)|
|New England Patriots||20 (100%)||10 (77%)||7 (88%)|
So what are some of the main differences between long-term success and long-term mediocrity in the NFL? For starters, retaining your first-round studs. All of New England and Pittsburgh’s first-round picks since 2002 made all of their Pro Bowl appearances with their original team. The other three teams lagged slightly behind.
Additionally, the importance of mid-round drafting is integral. The Patriots have 13 Pro Bowl appearances among their mid-round picks while the three mediocre teams (Cleveland, Jacksonville and New York) have a combined 13. The Jets actually have the fewest mid-round draft picks who made at least one Pro Bowl of the five teams listed.
However, to New York’s credit, it has had some success in the first round, mostly thanks to solid picks on the defensive line. Its seven Pro Bowlers taken in the first round is right on par with New England and Pittsburgh, albeit the Jets had a few more chances earlier in the round.
Gang Green will get a chance to reverse its inconsistent draft history on Thursday when the 2017 NFL Draft gets underway.