What happened the other times the Jets had the No. 2 pick?

Tyler Greenawalt
·3 min read

The Jets officially own the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft, their highest pick since 1996 when they drafted Keyshawn Johnson No. 1 overall. Who the Jets select will be up for discussion for the next four months, so for now, let’s look back on Gang Green’s history with this pick.

New York has picked second overall just twice in the common draft era – 1980 and 1990 – and the picks didn’t go well. The Jets passed on better players with each pick over perceived medical issues and subsequently selected busts.

Let’s take a look back at what happened as Joe Douglas and the scouting team prepare to avoid the mistakes of past regimes.

1990: RB Blair Thomas

(USA TODAY Sports)

The Jets were torn between Penn State running back Blair Thomas and Miami defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy with the No. 2 pick in 1990. They decided to grab Thomas because of perceived weight issues with Kennedy. Thomas went on to have an unspectacular Jets career, while Kennedy made eight Pro Bowls with the Seahawks and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012. The Jets also passed on future Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Junior Seau, who were picked Nos. 17 and 5, respectively. Thomas rushed for just 2,009 yards and five touchdowns and added 64 receptions for 473 yards and two touchdowns in four seasons with the Jets from 1990-1993. Thomas had a bit of a fumbling issue with the Jets – three his rookie year, three in 1991 and two more in 1992. One fumble in a loss to the Bears in 1991 reportedly crushed Thomas’ confidence and played a role in his usage in New York for the rest of his career.

1980: WR Lam Jones

(Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Network)

Jones had an unspectacular five seasons in New York. He only caught 138 passes for 2,322 yards and 13 touchdowns in 61 games and never totaled more than 43 receptions or 734 yards in a season. Jones missed both the 1985 and 1986 seasons with finger and hamstring injuries before the Jets traded him to the 49ers in 1987. Coincidentally, the 49ers are the same team the Jets traded their two first-round picks (No. 13 and No. 20) to when New York moved up to No. 2 in the 1980 draft. New York decided against drafting USC tackle Anthony Muñoz – their original target – because Muñoz failed his physical with the Jets after undergoing knee surgery. The Jets settled for Jones, while Muñoz finished his illustrious career in Cincinnati with 11 Pro Bowls and nine All-Pro nods. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1998.

1961: G Tom Brown

(Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

There are conflicting reports on if New York selected Brown second or fifth overall in the 1961 AFL draft – back when the Jets were called the Titans – but Brown spurned the team that drafted him for the Canadian Football League. In an ironic twist, Brown was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame in 1984 after seven seasons with the BC Lions. He won a Grey Cup title in 1964.