Poker Faces

By Mark Cannizzaro
Jets Head Writer
April 28th, 2006
Jets fans hope Eric Mangini will impress during his first draft as Head Coach. (Jets Photo)
Jets fans hope Eric Mangini will impress during his first draft as Head Coach. (Jets Photo)
This NFL Draft for anxious and expectant Jets fans is like Christmas.

The Jets fan, as the first round of the draft approaches on Saturday at high noon, is like a child on Christmas morning wondering if he's going to get that bicycle he's been begging Santa for or something practical and boring ... like clothes.

The Jets need everything _ underwear, socks, shirts, pants, shoes.

They need the shiny bicycle as much as they need the necessities like clothes and back-to-school products.

And the more they can glean, filling their drawers with necessities, out of this draft the better.

The Jets, who own three picks amongst the first 35, including Nos. 4 and 29 in the first round, figure to make a big splash in this draft, the first for Mike Tannenbaum as an NFL GM and for Eric Mangini as an NFL head coach.

Here's what the Jets should do if given the chance: Take a franchise quarterback with their first pick in the first round, whether it's Matt Leinart, Vince Young or even Jay Cutler.

Here's what the Jets are going to do with their first pick in the first round: Draft Virginia left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson if he's available or select North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams.

The way the draft is predicted by most to fall at the top, either Ferguson or Williams will be available for them.

And you cannot argue either of those picks. Both players are immediate starters. Both appear to be can't-miss prospects. Both address significant needs of the team.

You can draft Ferguson and plug him in at left tackle for the next 10 or so years like Orlando Pace. You can draft Williams and make him an immediate starter in the 3-4, where he'll likely be a star _ a pass rusher who can also stop the run.

Remember that Mangini is a defensive coach, so don't be surprised if he's praying for Williams to fall to No. 4.

Inside of Weeb Ewbank Hall, though, there are some people who want the quarterback.

Woody Johnson was said to be enamored of Cutler after their visit with him.

Jets' rookie offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is believed to be smitten with Leinart, who said this week that the two have kept in touch since the Jets visit with him in L.A. and have "established a nice relationship.''

Who'll win out on draft day?

Tannenbaum makes the final decision, so you'll know by about 12:30 Saturday as it unfolds.

"If I'm up there at No. 4, the Jets pick me, I might consider doing a little Lambeau Leap up there to where they're all at," Leinart said. "There are even Jets fans in L.A. A lot of people come up to me and say, 'I hope you're a Jet.' I've gotten a warm welcome here walking the streets with people excited about that happening.

"It would be pretty cool to be here and go jump in with those fans and get something going. We'll see Saturday. Everyone here has been like, 'We hope you're here next weekend,' and I'm like, 'me, too.' "

Everyone loves New York.

Maryland tight end Vernon Davis, for example, told the New York Post this week that he expects the Jets to draft him based on the "bond'' he felt he built with them during a visit three weeks ago.

"I just get a strong feeling; I think they're interested in me," he said.

They should be.

Outside of USC running back Reggie Bush, who's going to be drafted first, and Texas quarterback Vince Young, Davis might be the most dynamic, game-changing offensive player in the draft. The 49ers are believed to be coveting Davis with the sixth overall pick in the draft, so if the Jets are going to make a move on him it has to be at No. 4 or 5.

Tannenbaum has not at all tipped his hand other than to insist that he and his staff have done their due diligence during this process.

"We'll be prepared; I promise you that,'' Tannenbaum said. "If it's not a kicker or a punter (with the first pick) I think we can improve the competitiveness and depth of our team. That's what we're committed to do.

"Sure, quarterback is a position we're looking at very closely, but there are other positions on the team (top be addressed). This isn't a one-round draft.''

Indeed, after making the ballyhooed No. 4 overall pick, the Jets have the 29th pick in the first round and the 35th overall, in the second round. It's conceivable _ hopeful? _ that they get three starters out of those picks.

At No. 29 or 35, look for the Jets to address the quarterback spot with perhaps Oregon's Kellen Clemens or Clemson's Charlie Whitehurst.

Or, if Cutler is available in the middle of the first round, the Jets very well might package the 29th and 35th picks to move up to 13, 14 or 15 and draft Cutler there.

That would make this draft, on paper, a huge success at the top.

From there, look for them to address the weak tight end position, offensive line depth, nose tackle and perhaps take a flier on a running back who might turn out to be someone special.

Curtis Martin is 33 and coming off knee surgery. The belief here is that Martin, particularly behind an improved line (if Ferguson is picked) has at least another productive year in him, making running back not a must-draft at the moment

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