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The Second Day Selections: Beyond Vilma And Strait
By Matthew Bitonti
Jets Insider.com Draft Expert
May 4th, 2004
4th round pick WR Jerricho Cotchery: The heir apparent to Wayne Chrebet? (JI Photo)
4th round pick WR Jerricho Cotchery: The heir apparent to Wayne Chrebet? (JI Photo)
History proves that while first-day picks are the headline grabbers, the second day are the picks that are essential ingredients to any Super Bowl championship. For context, here’s a quick trip down memory lane to the greatest draft in New York Jets history: the 1977 draft ran by Mike Holovak, which built the foundation for the 80’s Jets teams.

That year, Mike Holovak felt passed over after the Jets hired Walt Michaels to follow up the disaster that was Lou Holtz. Holovak went on to leave the Jets and build a fantastic Houston Oilers team in the eighties. However, prior to his departure he stayed on for one last draft and helped the team pick some serious talent. In the first round, it was Marvin Powell, OT out of USC. The second round was WR Wesley Walker out of Cal. Both picks were featured on the recent 40th anniversary team. However, the great picks don’t stop there. In the fourth Holovak tabbed RB Scott Dierking, one of the most under appreciated backs in team history. In the sixth he selected DT Joe Klecko from Temple University, arguably the best defensive lineman in Jets history. In the seventh he tabbed CB Bob Grupp out of Duke who Jets fans might not remember but went on to play in a few Pro Bowls with the Chiefs. In the eighth round he selected G Dan Alexander, a starter at guard for nearly 13 seasons. In the ninth he picked Matt Robertson, an effective QB who was traded to Denver for a first and a second round pick. As if that wasn’t enough, the Jets picked up RB’s Bruce Harper, Tom Newton and S Kenny Schroy as undrafted free agents.

All in all, it was the greatest draft in Jets history and what puts it over the top is the quality of the second day picks (for example 1979 featured Marty Lyons (Alabama) in the first and Mark Gastineau (East Central Oklahoma) in the second but not a whole lot after that).

Back to 2004. It’s far too early to realistically compare the team’s draft this season to the great 1977 class. However, it’s not a stretch to declare that the potential for this draft to be considered one of the greatest in franchise history is certainly there. Like the old school 12 round drafts, the Jets had several late compensatory picks, which brought their second-day total to 8 players picked. Past the selections of LB Jonathan Vilma and CB Derrick Strait, and the trade for WR Justin McCareins from Tennessee, Bradway & Co. seemingly made some great decisions. In addition, it looks like he also recruited some real talent coming in via undrafted free agency. This is notable as recently some of Bradway’s second day picks were less than stellar.

The Jets needed character and leadership on defense and definitely addressed it with the first two picks. Vilma was the leader of the best defense in the country and manned his MLB spot capably since his predecessor Dan Morgan left Miami three years earlier. In all that time Miami recruited bigger, stronger and faster guys but no one came close to touching Vilma’s job as the starting MLB or his role as the leader of the Hurricane defense. In terms of intangibles he is very Chad-like. Cerebral and gutsy, Vilma was allowed by the Miami coaches to adjust the formation prior to snap based on his quick analysis of the offense – in that sense he was the “QB of the defense.” Like Chad he’s a player that will hold people accountable when they make mistakes and he tangibly fires up the troops on the field (unlike many recent Jet defenders who “lead by example”).

On draft day Vilma was a hot property as several teams (including the Patriots) were rumored to be seeking Vilma via a first round trade up. Once QB Ben Roethlesberger fell to the Steelers at 11, The Jets knew that Vilma was their man, and they submitted their pick with over 10 minutes remaining on the clock, a true sign of confidence. They weren’t taking calls, they had their man and that was that. As defensive linemen such as Udeze, Wilfork and Harris fell down the board, there was no doubt Bradway and his crew made a smart selection at 12.

As for Oklahoma CB Strait, Nagurski and Thorpe award winner, and in the third round you don’t get value like that every day. Since 1993 the only three other defensive backs to win this award were Champ Bailey, Charles Woodson and Roy Williams. Pretty good company in this author’s opinion. Everyone back in Sooner Country has great things to say about this playmaker, and expectations are deservedly high for this third round selection. He was hampered by a pulled groin and 10 yard cushions in the Senior Bowl and “only” ran a 4.5 at his OK pro day, but neither of these shortcomings will necessarily affect his pro prospects. He’s likely to be a fixture in the Jets secondary for a long time, a great pick by the franchise.

It should be noted that Strait might have been tabbed earlier had Bradway not traded away the second round pick for McCareins. That’s how much the team liked him, and that’s yet another reason to like the trade with Tennessee. Although G Justin Smiley was still on the board, there was no great WR was there at 42 overall, where the Titans selected a DE out of Hawaii. The Jets got a starter and possible #1 WR with that their second round pick, and Bradway deserves serious kudos. He foresaw the run on WR’s (5 in the top 15, an NFL draft first) and made the team’s WR move in the weeks prior.

So that’s pretty much it for the first day. However, the Jets did not rest on thier laurels for day 2, and built up a fine stable of talent on Draft Sunday.

4th round: Jerricho Cotchery: WR: NC State
Cotchery was the main target of QB Phillip Rivers (4th overall, traded to Chargers) and is most well known for his precise route running and great hands. He’s not a speed burner, (4.5 40 yard dash) but he’s not scared to go over the middle. Cotchery is the type of player who can step in as the “3rd down specialist” after Wayne Chrebet retires. He shows good physicality breaking the jam, and when one considers this plus the skills listed above it adds up to make Jerricho one of the most pro-ready WR’s in the entire NFL draft. A quality second day selection. He‘s not the type of “stud” receiver such as Roy Williams or Larry Fitzgerald who if selected by the Jets would have thrown a serious cog into Santana Moss’ negotiations with the franchise. Great value and should contribute right away through special teams and some WR work.

4th round: Adrian Jones: OT: Kansas
Jones was a former TE who has the athleticism and explosion that scouts covet in offensive linemen. He certainly has the agility for offensive tackle however the first fact that jumped out to this observer was his nearly identical body dimensions as starting OG Brandon Moore. He’s 6-4 297 and Moore is 6-3.5 and 295. The Jets have a gaping hole at guard and while I’ve heard it said by Bradway (and others) that he’s a tackle and you don’t waste such talents at guard, my take is you don’t waste guys on the bench while you play scrubs ahead of them, regardless of position. Also it should be noted that 6-4 is a on the short side for NFL OT, as these guys need a long wingspan to shove rush ends past the pocket. In addition, his mobility and athleticism would fit in well with Hackett’s misdirection WCO running attack. A lot of this player’s ultimate usage (i.e. tackle or guard) will depend on the franchise’s plan for RFA OT Kareem McKenzie. If they don’t think they can sign him (and he is troublingly represented by the same agent as Rams OT Orlando Pace), then the team will groom him as an OT. If not they should get on the stick and see if Jones can make the jump to starting G immediately. Regardless, he’s a quality player and a great pick, with real starter potential, the only question is exactly where.

5th Round: Erik Coleman: S Washington State
Like Vilma and Strait, Coleman is a player known more for his exploits on the field then in pre-draft workouts. He has leadership, moxie and flat out makes it happen. He is though out of all the picks, one that can be questioned the most, as there were decent alternatives such as ASU’s Jason Shivers still on the board - that being said the guys in the scouting department know more than I do, and a case can be made Erik was value. There can be no doubt that Erik was a real leader for the Cougars. After the 2003 UCLA game, the UCLA head coach flippantly remarked that if Coleman didn’t make all-Pac10 that year, “there is no God.” While we might not condone his choice of words, the point is that Coleman is a serious player, and is more football quick than his less than stellar times would have you believe. Erik is an impact playmaker that was named both the Pac-10 defensive player and special teams player of the week… in the same week. Coleman is another guy who Jets special teams guru Mike Westhoff will love to use. Also, with the Jets unsettlement at defensive back, Erik could even muscle his way into the starting lineup at some point.

6th Round: Marko Cavka: OT: Cal-Davis Sacramento
Cavka is a player who will be familiar to readers of my website draftdaddy.com as a player highlighted for his great value if selected on the second day of the draft. A Croatian national who moved to California in high school, Cavka actually ran a faster shuttle drill than the Oakland Raiders’ #2 overall selection T Robert Gallery. While clearly not in Gallery’s class at this point, guys with Cavka’s frame (6-8) and agility are rare commodities in the NFL. He really impressed scouts with his athleticism, as evidenced not only by outstanding drills but by his abdominal ‘six-pack’ – something you don’t see on 300-pounders too often. Even though he started 42 games in college, Cavka is the type of player that will need a couple seasons to develop, as he needs to work on strength, and learn the nuances of the position. However in the 6th round, this is exactly the type of player the team needed to take – high upside, frame to grow without impacting speed, with the potential to be a starter. This is a drastic departure from previous drafts, when Terry seemed to be drafting backups and career special-teamers with second day selections. Statistically, Cavka could miss more likely than he hits but if he hits will be a starter for a decade, maybe even an all-pro. Very much boom or bust, but as noted at this point in the draft you can’t ask for much more out of a pick than the chance for greatness.

7th Round: Darrell McClover: LB: Miami
Again, Bradway tabs a Miami linebacker, and why the heck not? They run a great program, with intense practices and pro-style tempo in everything they do. The lackadaisical Jets need some of that, especially in their defense. McClover ran a faster 40 time than Vilma and other Hurricanes teammate LB DJ Williams. As the third starting linebacker, he made plays with quickness and aggression. The Jets defense needs speed and McClover brings that. Plus, he could even work out as a monster-back/SS at his current height/weight. A real sleeper that had the rare privilege of having his highlights aired during ESPN’s second day, in between their interviews of coaches, first round picks and generally ignoring what was happening on the stage.

7th Round: Trevor Johnson: DE: Nebraska
Johnson is another selection that has great intangibles. Previous winner of the Nebraska offseason conditioning contest, Trevor is a weight-room junkie whose dedication off the field is only matched by his relentless motor on it. He should shortly become a John Lott favorite. Johnson is a good edge rusher who uses his hands well and gets off the snap with hop. Trevor power cleaned 381 (!) and is a former TE with good hands and great agility. Needs to bulk up some, but with DE’s John Abraham and Shaun Ellis becoming free agents after this season the backup DE position was one that needed to be addressed.

7th Round: Derrick Ward: RB: Ottawa
By the time the draft rolled around, Derrick Ward was the trendy sleeper pick for many draft prognosticators. He started his career at Fresno State, but injury and academic troubles led him to smaller Ottawa University (KS) where he was outstanding. At 5-11 and 233 he’s got Lamont Jordan’s rare size, and although did not time quite as fast in the 40 as Lamont, he still beat 2004 first-rounders such as Stephen Jackson, Chris Perry and Kevin Jones. Known for his acceleration and burst, and for creating his own holes where there are none, Derrick is the type of player that could stick as a backup running back, should the Jets decide not to resign Lamont Jordan. The type of guy that had he stuck at Fresno State would have had his name called a lot earlier. A great 7th round pick any way you look at it.

7th Round: Rashaad Washington: SS: Kansas State
Did the Jets save the best for last? Possibly…with their pick of strong safety Rashaad Washington out of K-State. Despite somewhat slow 4.57 time on the stopwatch, Rashaad has quickness, running well and showing great range making plays on the football field. A converted tailback, Rashaad has only played the position for a relatively short time, but in that time has proven himself a capable defender. Given the team’s unsettled long-term strong safety he could work his way into the starting lineup after a season, or perhaps sooner. A long-time favorite sleeper of JI.com draftnik Green Jets & Ham, and for those who know Ham, that’s high praise.

Undrafted Players to Watch:

Jarrell Weaver S, Miami
Faster than Vilma, Williams and McClover, Weaver stole the show at the Miami pro day running a blinding 4.37. At 6’0 207 the Jets will try to convert him to strong safety, and with those numbers, why not? Should he make the team his 40 would be better than all defensive backs besides Jon McGraw.

Brandon Westbrook, OT, Middle Tennessee State
Dominated lower level competition from the tackle spot, and pre-draft was considered late round by many sources. Top Sun Belt offensive line prospect for years is considered coachable, aware and a leader.

Josh Davis, RB/KR, Nebraska
Holds Nebraska and big 12 record for Kickoff return yards over a career (2,265). The Jets need a KR and Westoff is probably itching to get his hands on this kid.

John Paul Foschi TE, Georgia Tech
Glen Head, LI native went to Chaminade HS and will get his shot to make good here in NY.

Conclusion
If I had to draw a theme from these picks, for the most part, the team did not rely purely on stopwatch times and bench press reps to pick their 2004 players. Instead, they took a page out of highly successful Patriots Assistant GM Scott Paoli’s book: finding high character/high leadership guys who can play football at the expense of the workout warriors. Well done Terry, and here’s hoping that this draft can be one day mentioned in the same sentence as the great 1977 class. Hopefully the new kids fit right in with the young free agents and Jets fans can forget the Aaron Beasley, Sam Garnes and Curtis Conway experiments.

Matthew Bitonti is publisher of DraftDaddy.com. A website that covers all aspects of the NFL Draft. Check it out at DraftDaddy.com