FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The Jets may have trouble winning games, but they're at the top of the class when it comes to this year's draft selections, according to Rex Ryan.
After only seven months -- and three benchings each of Geno Smith and Dee Milliner -- the coach proclaimed the Jets have the best draft group of 2013. Hands down.
"If this is not an A-plus class, I don't know what you're looking for," Ryan said Wednesday. "I think this class is about as strong a class as I've ever seen."
Usually, it takes years to properly assess a draft. But Ryan sped up the process with his bold prediction.
His surprising statement comes in the midst of the 5-7 Jets' three-game losing streak and on the heels of Smith, their erratic quarterback, and Milliner, their inconsistent cornerback, being pulled from Sunday's 23-3 loss to Miami.
But Ryan was a bit defensive when questioned about the benchings being a reflection on the group.
"That doesn't mean these guys weren't good picks," he said of Milliner (ninth overall) and Smith, taken in the second round with the 39th pick. "If they weren't, they wouldn't have seen the field ever."
Although the team appears to have hit the jackpot with defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson -- the 13th overall pick, who was named the defensive rookie of the month in November -- the Jets' offensive woes are due largely to the struggles of Smith (eight touchdowns, 19 interceptions) and Brian Winters, their third-rounder who leads all guards with nine sacks allowed in eight games, according to ProFootballFocus.com. The statistical site also lists seventh-rounder Tommy Bohanon as the league's worst-rated fullback out of 27 at the position.
But Ryan said having five of his seven rookies starting is proof of this group's talent. However, once the Jets traded Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay just before the draft, they had no choice but to select -- and start -- a rookie cornerback opposite Antonio Cromartie. And with several free-agent defections and salary-cap releases this past offseason, the team was forced to start several young players.
Nevertheless, Ryan kept praising general manager John Idzik's inaugural draft class.
"I think it's an outstanding class, top to bottom," Ryan said. "Will they all make it? I don't know. When you watch them, I see improvement. I'm excited about this draft class. I think it's going to be a real strength for this franchise moving forward."
"I don't know how many other rookies are getting drafted and actually starting on the team right now, but it's not that many," said Richardson, who has 64 tackles and 3.5 sacks. "I most definitely would grade us out as an A-plus."
Smith took a more measured approach. After pointing out he's "not here to rate the draft class," he said, "I can remember when we first got in here, one of the things we all talked about [was] wanting to play big minutes and wanting to step up to the plate and help our team out.
"We've got a lot of work ahead of us."