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Draft Talk: Buying In Bulk

By Dan Powell
Jets Staff Writer
April 17th, 2006
The Jets still need to fill the void left by the departure of Jason Fabini and Virginia's D'Brickashaw Ferguson at the #4 pick may be just the man the Jets are looking for.
The Jets still need to fill the void left by the departure of Jason Fabini and Virginia's D'Brickashaw Ferguson at the #4 pick may be just the man the Jets are looking for.
There are some upsides to a losing season like the New York Jetsí 4-12 disaster in 2005. One perk is that the Jets have landed the fourth overall pick in this yearís NFL Draft. While there is some speculation that the team may look to trade up and make a splash by adding a big name quarterback like Matt Leinart or Vince Young, the acquisition of Patrick Ramsey from the Washington Redskins makes it more likely that the Jets will use their coveted pick to bring home a big offensive tackle.

With the departures of All-Pro center Kevin Mawae and tackle Jason Fabini, the Jets must fortify their offensive line. They took a step last week by signing former Buffalo center Trey Teague who brings more size and is younger than Mawae. Now, to fill the void and upgrade over Fabini, there seems to be no better way to do that than by drafting All-American offensive tackle DíBrickashaw Ferguson out of the University of Virginia. This would be something of a homecoming for Ferguson, who played his high school football in Freeport, Long Island. While the pick might not grab the back-page headlines the same way drafting a high-profile quarterback would, many draft experts have tabbed Ferguson as a canít-miss prospect. Sports Illustrated even devoted an entire two-page player profile to Ferguson.

Ferguson, 22, possesses all the size and skills necessary to succeed as an offensive lineman in the NFL. Though some scouts were critical of his weight of 289 during his senior year at Virginia, he has since bulked up to 312 pounds and still has room to grow. He also has ideal height at 6 feet 6 inches tall. Most important, however, could be his tremendous wingspan. As Seattle Seahawks president Tim Ruskell pointed out in the Sports Illustrated profile, Fergusonís wingspan of 7 feet 3 inches helps him excel in pass protection. He is able to feel the defender, anticipate his action, and react to hinder the pass rusherís movement towards to the quarterback.

Pass protection is not the only thing Ferguson does well, though. Scouts praise Fergusonís run blocking ability too, stressing that he takes great angles when attacking the opponent. He is quick for a big guy, running the 40-yard dash in 5.1 seconds, and also very athletic. Experts also say that Ferguson executes his assignments very well. With his brain and body, Ferguson could become a tremendous lead blocker for Jetsí running backs for years to come.

The Jets may look for someone to follow Fergusonís blocks with the 29th overall pick in the draft, as the team must consider its future and the looming retirement of 32-year-old halfback Curtis Martin. If Laurence Maroney is still on the board at this point, it should not take long for the Jets to make this selection. While the running back out of the University of Minnesota is slightly undersized at just 5 feet 11 inches and 217 pounds, scouts love his initial burst and his top-end speed. Though he will not run over many defenders, Maroney, the nationís fifth leading rusher last year, is an elusive back who has excellent field vision and can make a lot of people miss. Another big plus about the 21-year-old St. Louis native is that he takes care of the ball; Maroney fumbled just seven times in 660 carries in 2005.

If Maroney has already been taken by the time the Jets come up in the late first round, they will likely look to fill another need and wait to address the running back situation with the third pick in the second round. One other way the Jets could use their second first round pick would be to snatch up defensive end Tamba Hali out of Penn State.

The off-season trade of John Abraham may have helped team chemistry, but it did damage the teamís pass rush. Hali is a quick pass rusher that uses a variety of techniques to get to the quarterback. Hali is powerful but experts believe he must bulk up or he will be dominated by NFL offensive tackles. . Scouts were also disappointed by his individual workouts at the NFL combine. Scouts fear that Hali, who lived in Liberia until fleeing to the United States with his father when he was 10, does not have the proper technique necessary to be successful at the next level. Still there is no denying what Hali, 22, accomplished on the field against some of the nationís best competition in the Big Ten. The defensive end also displayed leadership ability in his senior year with the Nittany Lions. He has shown tremendous instincts and an outstanding work ethic which should allow him to become effective faster than most rookies.

With the 35th overall pick in the draft, the Jets would likely be forced to address their need at running back if they have not done so yet. One possibility would be Joseph Addai out of Louisiana State University. At 5 feet 11 inches and 214 pounds, Addai is undersized but has plenty of room in his frame to bulk up. He is also considered to be quite powerful for a smaller back and may have the ability to break some tackles. Scouts also praise the 22-year-oldís speed, though they say he does not have the ability to make many people miss. Still, he possesses the explosiveness through the hole and the top-end speed to allow him to break off some big-time runs. Some experts believe Addai is one of the most underrated players in this yearís draft, as he can also make an impact in the passing game. The Houston native has shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and also does an outstanding job of picking up blitzes in pass protection. If the Jets have already drafted a running back in the first round, they may still be able to take Hali with this pick.

It is tough to predict exactly what players the Jets will take with the rest of their pick in this draft. The team has two picks in both the third and fourth rounds then one pick in the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds. The only thing one can speculate is that in the middle rounds the Jets will look to address some needs. The Jets still have needs at outside linebacker, offensive guard, and still may want to look for a quarterback. If Brady Croyle out of Alabama somehow slides all the way down to the Jets seventh pick in the third round, they will likely look to snatch him up. Other than that, it is unlikely that the team will look to pick up a quarterback later in this yearís draft. With the influence of new, defensive-minded head coach Eric Mangini, there is a good chance the team will look to bolster its linebacker core and its secondary in the middle rounds.

Though last year was a disappointment, the 2006 NFL draft is an exciting time to be a Jets fan. Even if they do not make a big splash by landing one of the high-profile quarterbacks, the Jets will improve their team for years to come by adding players like Ferguson, Hali, Maroney or Addai. There could be some new faces ready to make an immediate impact by the time that training camp rolls around in July.

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