Towards the end of the sixth round of the NFL Draft last Saturday, the NFL Network started to grade each team’s draft class division by division, starting with the AFC East. For what it’s worth, the New York Jets received straight A’s from Charles Davis and Daniel Jeremiah. And for what it’s worth, draft analyst Mike Mayock refused to partake, saying, “I’ve been with this network since we started. That’s the most meaningless segment we’ve done in eleven years.”
Grading draft classes before rookies are issued their shoulder pads is both pointless and pretentious. Critics widely planned the Seattle Seahawks 2012 draft, giving F’s to the class that features star players (and now Super Bowl champions) Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson. Shouldn’t that be enough to abolish the ridiculous idea of post-draft grading?
Calvin Pryor and Jace Amaro might turn into superstars, or maybe busts. Maybe sixth-round cornerback Brandon Dixon will become a starter, while third-round cornerback Dex McDougle is out of the league next year. The point is, you need to see at least three years of players’ careers before grading them properly. So the only New York Jet draft class I think is appropriate to grade today is the class of 2011.
Round 1, pick 30. Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple
Wilkerson has developed into one of the top young pass rushers in the game. And the most underrated – how did he not make the Pro Bowl last year? He recorded 10.5 sacks, 63 tackles and even an interception in 2013, and last month the team picked up their fifth-year option on the young star. This grade gets that extra ‘+’ because the Jets were able to draft Wilkerson at the end of the first round, because this was back in the day when they were still making AFC Championship Games.
Round 3, pick 94. Kenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton
Damon Harrison handily beat out Ellis for the starting nose tackle position last year, and thank goodness. Otherwise, the ’Sons of Anarchy would only be two ’sons out of three. Ellis has made for a viable reserve and rotation guy, posting a pedestrian 41 tackles in 33 career games. For a third-round pick, I guess we hoped for more.
Round 4, pick 126. Bilal Powell, RB, Louisville
Powell became an important cog in the Jets’ backfield in his second season in the league. He has averaged just shy of four yards per carry in both of the last two seasons and scored five touchdowns over that time. With the addition of Chris Johnson to the rotation, Powell will enter 2014 as the third-string back behind him and Chris Ivory, but he’s a good runner and very valuable to have as a fresh pair of legs on third downs and in the fourth quarter.
Round 5, pick 153. Jeremy Kerley, WR, Texas Christian
The Jets’ receiving corps has been both decimated and rightfully criticized, even mocked, for the past three years. Santonio Holmes withered, as well as poisoned the locker room, according to some. Stephen Hill looks like a bust. But through it all, Jeremy Kerley has been consistently productive from the slot. He has averaged 13 yards per catch for his career, and his receiving touchdowns have increased every season. He was an excellent value in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. Kerley dealt with a few injuries in 2013, but he ought to be playing his best football this year while defenses are focused on stopping Eric Decker and Jace Amaro.
Round 7, pick 208. Greg McElroy, QB, Alabama
McElroy recently retired after watching the 2013 season from the Bengals’ practice squad. Prior to that, Matt Simms beat him out for the final quarterback roster spot in training camp, and the Jets cut him. The former Alabama standout is probably most famous for his frank comments about the turmoil in the Jets’ locker room during the 2012 season. He was the second former Jet quarterback, after Tim Tebow, to join the forthcoming SEC Network as an analyst. This grade isn’t lower than a C because McElroy was only a seventh-round pick, not a higher-round bust.
Round 7, pick 227. Scotty McKnight, WR, Colorado
McKnight saw no regular season action as a rookie and was off the team and out of the league shortly thereafter. He saw much more action from his then-girlfriend, actress/singer/famous person Hayden Panettiere, who then broke up with him at the end of 2012.