Dan Marino in 1990


NFL Greats Jets Passed On In Draft

April 20, 2018 - 1:47 pm

By WFAN.com

Every NFL team has its own stories about players it passed on in the draft who went on to greatness while the ones they did select flopped — or at the very least did not live up to the hype.

For the Jets, however, the list is more gut-wrenching than it is for most. 

Here is a look at some players who could have been Jets if the team had drafted differently.


In 1983, the Jets selected quarterback Ken O’Brien out of California-Davis with the 27th selection. Three picks later, the Dolphins took quarterback Dan Marino out of Pittsburgh. O’Brien wasn’t a bust — he went to two Pro Bowls — but Marino was a superstar who was selected to nine Pro Bowls, retired as the NFL’s all-time leading passer and has his bust in Canton. Not to mention, if the Jets had drafted Marino, they would have never fallen victim to that fake spike in 1994.


The Jets took wide receiver Al Toon with the 10th pick of the 1985 draft. And Toon was pretty good. But just imagine if New York would have had Jerry Rice, who went six picks later, higher on their draft board that year. Toon played in three Pro Bowls before concussions cut his career short. Rice was selected to 13 Pro Bowls and is still the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895) and receiving touchdowns (197).

Jerry Rice in 2000


The Jets also could have ended up with the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. Needing a running back in 1990, they drafted Penn State’s Blair Thomas with the second overall pick. He was a bust whose best season saw him rush for just 728 yards and three touchdowns. Fifteen picks later, the Cowboys selected Emmitt Smith out of Florida, who went on to become an eight-time Pro Bowler who currently holds the league’s career rushing record of 18,355 yards.


In 1995, the Jets used the ninth overall pick on tight end Kyle Brady despite already having a young Johnny Mitchell, who was coming off a solid season. Brady caught a pedestrian 93 passes over four seasons with the Jets. Meanwhile, Warren Sapp, who was still on the board at No. 9 after failing a drug test, went on to become a seven-time Pro Bowler and Hall of Famer.


New York picked defensive end Bryan Thomas with the 22nd pick in 2002. While Thomas did hang around for 11 seasons, he certainly did not enjoy the kind of career that Ed Reed, who was taken by the Baltimore Ravens two picks later, had. A nine-time Pro Bowler, Reed had 64 career interceptions and is a lock for the Hall of Fame. Reed did finally join the Jets for part of the 2013 season, when he was in the twilight of his career.


In 1967, the Jets used the 12th overall pick on Paul Seiler, a guard from Notre Dame. Seiler battled leg injuries early in his career and made just one career start in the NFL — and that was for the Oakland Raiders in 1973. Gene Upshaw, a guard from Texas A&I, was still on the board when the Jets drafted that year. The Raiders took him at 17, and he went onto have a Hall of Fame career.


Gang Green wasn’t deterred by Dave Cadigan’s failed steroids test at the NFL Combine when they took him with the eighth overall pick in 1988, but his career proved to be largely disappointing. Had the Jets instead selected McDaniel, who went to the Vikings at No. 19, they would have ended up with a guard who went to 12 straight Pro Bowls and is now enshrined in Canton.


The Jets traded up for the second overall pick in 1980 to select wide receiver Johnny “Lam” Jones, who was an Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter. Jones had some moments, but all in all an unremarkable career. Art Monk, a White Plains native and Syracuse star, went to the Washington Redskins with the 18th pick that year. He was a three-time Pro Bowler who retired as the league’s all-time leading receiver and is now in the Hall of Fame. Monk did eventually spend one season with the Jets toward the end of his career.