Sam Darnold Is Just The Latest 1st-Round NFL Draft Bust in the New York Jets’ Sordid History

After three seasons, the New York Jets officially gave up on Sam Darnold by trading him to the Carolina Panthers. All indications are that they will fill the position by taking BYU’s Zach Wilson with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft. From what we’ve seen of Wilson, he has the tools to succeed in the pros. But if recent history is any indication, even Wilson will struggle the second he walks through the Jets’ doors.

Sam Darnold looked like a can’t-miss pick for the New York Jets

Former New York Jets QB Sam Darnold
Quarterback Sam Darnold pictured in what turned out to be his final game with the New York Jets. The Jets traded him to the Carolina Panthers on Monday. | Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images

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The New York Jets selected Darnold with the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, hoping that he would provide a spark to a franchise that had not made the playoffs since 2010. Darnold came into the pros off of two successful years at USC, where he posted gaudy numbers and led the Trojans to a victory in the 2017 Rose Bowl.

Unfortunately, he never could quite replicate that success with the Jets. Throughout his three-year stint, Darnold was frequently racked by injury, as well as a brief bout with mononucleosis in 2019. It didn’t help matters that he had to play under the “guidance” of Adam Gase for the last two years.

Darnold’s play improved in the second half of 2019, as he led the Jets to six wins in their last eight games. The following year, the bottom fell out for both quarterback and team. While Sam Darnold was far from the Jets’ only problem in 2020, he certainly didn’t elevate the team. In his 12 starts, he averaged only 184 yards per game, and his interceptions outnumbered his touchdowns 11 to 9. Making matters worse, he missed four games with a shoulder injury.

The Jets finished 2-14, putting them right back where they started when they drafted Darnold in the first place.

The New York Jets do not have a good track record at the draft

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Of all NFL teams, none have a more infamous history of whiffing in the first round than the New York Jets. This is the franchise that passed over Hall of Famer Warren Sapp for tight end Kyle Brady. This is the franchise that passed over Dan Marino for the unheralded Ken O’Brien. (No disrespect to Ken O’Brien, as he was a perfectly good quarterback. But he wasn’t Dan Marino.)

Unfortunately, that reputation has held true to form in the past decade. Sam Darnold is only the most recent Jets first-round draft pick to pack his bags and leave. Of all New York Jets first-round draft selections from 2010 to 2018, none remain on the team’s roster.

Four of these players are out of the NFL entirely. 2013 first-rounder Dee Milliner had his career cut short by multiple injuries. Kyle Wilson, Quinton Coples, and Calvin Pryor all faded away after brief careers.

Not all of these have been “busts” in the traditional sense. One, safety Jamal Adams, turned out to be quite a good player and earned three Pro Bowl trips. Unfortunately, he forced his way out of New York due to differences with general manager Joe Douglas. This means that their best draft pick of the last decade now plies his trade in Seattle.

The New York Jets struck out completely in the 2014 draft

It’s hard to find any draft in the history of the New York Jets that was particularly “good”. But their performance at the 2014 NFL Draft may well have been the worst haul by any team in any sport in any draft in history.

The general manager at the time, John Idzik, must have felt like a kid in a candy store. In a draft that goes seven rounds, the Jets somehow ended up with 12 — yes, twelve — picks. It would be almost impossible to not come away with at least one good player out of 12 picks, but somehow Idzik managed it.

The Jets picked Louisville safety Calvin Pryor in the first round. He spent only three seasons with the team and was out of the NFL after 2017. According to ESPN, none of the “Idzik 12”, as they came to be known, were on the active roster for more than 40 games. As of 2021, only one of them — offensive lineman Dakota Dozier is still on an NFL roster.

The Jets fired Idzik in December 2014.

Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.