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Keidel: Milliner's Release Officially Signals Another Jets Draft Whiff

By Jason Keidel
» More Columns

As the Jets clean house and quickly erase the stain and stench from the former regime, it brings to mind their recent draft history.

Which starts with Dee Milliner -- yet another draft bomb who was recently released.

The 2013 NFL Draft was considered to be among the leaner drafts in recent history. Yet there were plenty of players taken who are either household or insider names. And, as usual, the Jets got in on very few of them.

The Jets, of course, took Milliner with the ninth overall pick. Milliner may not be the biggest bust in Gang Green history, but he's not that far off. When musing over the club's worst first-rounders, Blair Thomas is often the first name off the lips. Then perhaps Vernon Gholston places second.

MORE: NFL Greats The Jets Passed On In The Draft

Then Milliner? Who knows. He certainly adds to the team's solemn history of talent evaluation. And while NFL revenue and the salary cap swells, the best way to build a football team is still through the draft.

As the New York Post recently noted, the current Jets' hierarchy is moonwalking as fast as they can from the John Idzik era. And they are doing it very well. The GM/head coach duo of Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles looks exponentially more competent than the toxic tandem of Idzik and Rex Ryan, who were either overtly inept or covertly feuding inside the team's facilities. And it showed.

One need look no farther than the 2013 draft, which may have sealed the fates of both men. So let's consider some of the talent that came off the draft board after Milliner was dubiously plucked by the Jets.

If they wanted help in the secondary, Eric Reid was snagged by San Francisco with the 18th pick, and then promptly made the Pro Bowl his rookie season and should be a mainstay on the 49ers defense for a decade.

If they wanted an all-world tight end, a young man named Tyler Eifert was available. But he played for a small school in South Bend, Indiana. Maybe the Jets had no film on him. The Jets instead picked Jace Amaro in 2014, and just cut him a couple of days ago.

If the Jets really wanted a pass-catching threat in 2013, there was a guy named DeAndre Hopkins on the board. Hopkins, of course, was picked 27th by the Houston Texans, and is easily one of the five best wideouts on the planet, just below Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown.

Perhaps no round italicizes the difference between the Jets and the more traditionally prosperous NFL teams. The Jets chose Geno Smith in the second round while the Pittsburgh Steelers bagged a back from Michigan State. Now Le'Veon Bell is widely considered the best all-around running back in the NFL.

In the third round, the Jets picked guard Brian Winters. The San Diego Chargers picked Keenan Allen, who will play in a handful of Pro Bowls if he remains healthy. Or they could have picked Tyrann Mathieu, a stud safety for the Arizona Cardinals who will also have his mail forwarded to the Pro Bowl every season.

Or if they wanted another tight end, they could have whiffed on Eifert and still had a shot at Jordan Reed, who is quietly lighting it up in our nation's capital, becoming perhaps the best pass-catching tight end not named Gronkowski. Or they could have picked Travis Kelce, who is becoming quite productive for the Kansas City Chiefs.

In their defense, the Jets got a defensive stud with their next pick after Milliner -- Sheldon Richardson. When he's not being accused of dashing down roads at 100 mph with a wafting scent of weed and/or guns in the car, he's a force in the middle of the d-line.

Of course, had any team known how electric Hopkins would be, he never would have lasted until the bottom rungs of the first round. But you'll notice the Jets almost never catch accidental lightning in the bottle.

Instead of taking Smith in the second round, they could also have taken defensive tackle Kawann Short, an absolute beast for the 15-1 Carolina Panthers last year. Even in an emaciated draft like 2013, there were more than enough foundation pieces for any NFL club. The Jets, as always, just didn't look in the right places.

Among the other Pro Bowl players the Jets could have drafted and didn't:
• Jamie Collins, LB
• Latavius Murray, RB
• Eddie Lacy, RB
• Cordarrelle Patterson, WR
• Travis Frederick, C
• Kyle Long, OG
• Desmond Trufant, CB

Only one Pro Bowler -- Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah -- was off the board by the time the Jets selected Milliner. And not all were blue-chippers. Indeed, the resurgent Oakland Raiders found Murray in the sixth round. So out of 18 all-world players, the Jets had a crack at 17 of them. And only one of their own -- Sheldon Richardson -- belongs on that list.

To their credit, the Jets have made the Idzik era feel like eons ago, his moves quickly shrinking in their rearview mirror. Meanwhile, Ryan is quickly toeing the vocational tightrope, with rumors already swirling around Buffalo about his job security if he bombs this year.

Meanwhile, the Jets look good, because they are good. If Ryan Fitzpatrick stays healthy and synchronized with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, and if Matt Forte can keep his brittle knees intact, the defense should do the rest.

And thus the Jets could very well make the playoffs. If so, you would have the current general manager and head coach to thank for curing Gang Green of their historical gangrene.

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel

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