Jets’ top picks must mirror success of 2000 draft class


Twenty-two NFL drafts ago, the circumstances were different for the Jets, but the volume at the top of the draft was similar. 

The 2000 Jets had four first-round draft picks. This year, they had three in the first round and a high second-round pick. If the production of the Jets’ 2022 NFL Draft class ends up being similar to that of the 2000 class, then it won’t be long before the Jets climb out of the playoff-less abyss they’ve been mired in for the past 12 years. 

“It looks like they did a pretty good job,’’ Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells told The Post on Saturday of the Jets’ 2022 haul. 

But Parcells was quick to warn: “I know what the wishes are, but they don’t sell insurance for success.’’ 

That 2000 Jets team, with Parcells the architect as the team president, drafted defensive linemen Shaun Ellis and John Abraham, quarterback Chad Pennington and tight end Anthony Becht in the first round and receiver Laveranues Coles in the third round. 

Those players became the cornerstone to a successful era for the Jets, who had winning records in four of the next five seasons, made the playoffs three times in that span and won the AFC East once. 

The Jets hope the three first-rounders they drafted Thursday night — cornerback Ahmad “Sauce’’ Gardner at No. 4 overall, receiver Garrett Wilson at No. 10 and edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II at 26th — and Friday night’s second-round pick, running back Breece Hall at No. 36, produce similar results. 

Ahmad Gardner (left), Jermaine Johnson (middle) and Garrett Wilson (right) pose at the Jets' practice facility.
Ahmad Gardner (left), Jermaine Johnson (middle) and Garrett Wilson (right) pose at the Jets’ practice facility.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

“The biggest statistic of that draft was you had about 60 years of NFL football between the five of us,’’ Pennington told The Post. “That’s something I’ll always celebrate with our five picks there, because that’s hard to do.’’ 

Those top five picks in 2000 ended up playing for a combined 59 seasons (37 with the Jets) and 785 games. 

Gardner, Wilson, Johnson and Hall have a tough act to follow in that 2000 class, the last year the team made more than two first-round picks. 

The degree of difficulty lies in the different circumstances. That 2000 Jets team was two years removed from being in the AFC Championship game and there already was a winning culture in the building thanks to Parcells. 

This Jets team is trying to find its way with an inexperienced head coach in Robert Saleh and one of the youngest rosters in the league. So, these four draft picks will be asked to do a lot more right away than those 2000 players were at the time. 

Parcells said in this current era that demands instant-gratification, expecting draft picks to start right away “is a very heavy request.’’ 

“The chances are that one or two of them may need a little transition time,’’ he said. “Sometimes, you can’t afford to give it to them.’’ 

left to right: Anthony Becht, Jonathan Abraham, Shaun Ellis and Chad Pennington after the 2000 NFL Draft.
Left to right: Anthony Becht, Jonathan Abraham, Shaun Ellis and Chad Pennington after the 2000 NFL Draft.
New York Post

The Jets, 13-36 since 2019, cannot afford to wait for these four players to sit and learn, though. They need them to be immediate contributors. 

“There’s a lot of pressure on these kids,’’ Parcells said. “Just because it says ‘first-round draft pick’ next to their name it doesn’t mean they’re plug-in, highly successful, top-of-the-food-chain players.’’ 

Pennington said there are “similarities’’ between the 2000 and 2022 classes “in knowing that these four picks certainly have the opportunity to help change the direction of the organization from a winning standpoint’’ the way the 2000 class did. 

“The biggest difference is the amount of responsibility that will be placed upon these four players from Day 1,’’ Pennington said. “They’re going to drink information through a fire hose and be expected to play like a veteran in about three months. If we’re being honest, that’s unrealistic, because you cannot replace life experience and you can’t speed that cycle up. It does take time. Unfortunately, in our world of pro sports patience is not something that is exercised.’’ 

Breece Hall reacts after being drafted by the Jets.
Breece Hall reacts after being drafted by the Jets.

Coles recalled the luxury of learning from the veterans. 

“Nobody expected us to do much our first year,’’ Coles told The Post. “We all had some veteran guys that were on the team that could kind of guide us as young guys on how it worked and taught us how to be professionals. That was a key to developing all of us young guys. 

“Now, with the team coming off losing seasons with all these high picks and nobody to guide these guys is a different dynamic. I understand the excitement, but I would caution people not to get too excited about it because it’s going to take time.’’ 

Can this class become the cornerstone for success as the 2000 class did for the Jets? 

“Listen, it’s like a heavyweight fight,’’ Parcells said. “Until you get in the ring and you’re fighting against the guys that know how to fight, you never really know what they’re gonna do.’’

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