After the first draft of the Jets' new staff, do fans have something to cheer about?
The most exciting part of the NFL draft is of course the number one pick and who will it be. This year was no different because in the 11th hour the Houston Texans decided to go with a safe pick in the form of Mario Williams, a defensive lineman out of North Carolina State, instead of the player that was considered the best available. This then lead to the opportunity of the NY Jets, a team desperate to rebuild, a shot at the most versatile player in college, Reggie Bush.
The New Orleans Saints, who had the second pick overall decided that none of the offers given to them including one from the Jets was good enough to pass up on choosing Bush. Now, the dilemma was do the Jets take Matt Leinart with the fourth pick or stick with the two quarterbacks they have, Chad Pennington and Patrick Ramsey, thereby taking a safe pick and going with D’Brickashaw Ferguson, the left tackle out of Virginia.
And with the fourth pick in the 2006 NFL draft, the NY Jets select—D’Brickashaw Ferguson, left tackle, Virginia. From that moment it was clear that the Jets were going to fix their offensive line before thinking about their quarterback situation. The Jets went for the safe pick, but with it they got a player who could be a great offensive lineman, maybe even a Pro Bowl left tackle for them for the next 12 years.
Ferguson now comes back home to Long Island, only minutes away from the Jets facility at Hofstra University in Hempstead. According to Ferguson, “being in front of the friends and family that I have grown up with, it is just a wonderful situation. I always wanted to be part of an organization such as the Jets. Honestly, I don’t see any minus’s about playing so close to home.” Ferguson grew up in Freeport, Long Island where he played high school football before going to Virginia, where he played under former Jets head coach Al Groh for four years. He played 49 out of 51 games for the Cavaliers.
At 6 foot 6 and 312 pounds, he is considered underweight by NFL offensive line standards, but is the best pass blocker the draft had to offer. He was considered the best offensive lineman in the draft and he has the footwork and quickness to stop and block speed rushers. Ferguson will have to add some bulk and will need to work on his run blocking to help aging Curtis Martin run up the middle. Head coach Eric Mangini stated that, “We’re extremely happy about D’Brickashaw. With my background on defense, one of the things I appreciate the most is a good LT. If you look at it defensively, you’re always looking for a weakness, which is normally at the LT. For us to get a LT of D’Brickashaw’s caliber and the type of program he’s from, he’s a nice fit for us in terms of what we need.”
The fans at Radio City Music Hall were surprisingly pleased with the draft pick even though Leinart was still on the board, and that the Jets did not move up to get Bush. General manager Mike Tannenbaum explained on why the Jets passed on Leinart, “We spent a lot of time with Matt. He is a good person and a good player and he is going to be very successful. As an organization, the best thing to do at the four spot was to take D’Brickashaw looking at all the factors.”
The Jets were then fortunate enough, depending on how big of a fan of John Abraham you are, to have a second pick in the first round. Again, the Jets addressed issues on the offensive line by picking Nick Mangold, a center from Ohio State. It’s hard to replace a center like six-time Pro Bowler Kevin Mawae, but the Jets are hoping that Mangold can develop into a player like his predecessor. Mangold, like Ferguson, was considered the best player at his position in the draft and proved that with a great workout at the Senior Bowl. Mangold commented on replacing Mawae by saying, “I think it’s a great thing to have that type of pressure. Going into Ohio State, I had to fill the shoes of some great centers.”
It should be interesting to see how the Jets plan to utilize Mangold since they just signed a very viable center in Trey Teague from Buffalo. Mangold can also play tackle so it’s possible he could move in to Adrian Jones’ spot at RT or even rotate at both tackle and center. No matter what, this rookie will get some playing time.
Now, comes the confusing part of draft day, the trades. The Jets were in a number of trades from the second round on. The Jets traded their number 35 pick in the second round to the Redskins for their 53rd pick, their sixth round pick, and a second round pick next year. Then they traded the 53rd and six round pick they got from Washington as well as their seventh round pick to the Cowboys to get their 49th pick. With the 49th pick, the Jets finally drafted a quarterback, Kellen Clemens from Oregon.
Clemens could be the diamond in the Jets draft. At 6’2”-218, Clemens has the tools to be a successful NFL QB. His scouting report touts him as a smart fundamentally sound QB with a very quick release and excellent zip on his passes. He can read defenses well and is cool under pressure with quick feet and athletic ability to avoid sacks. Something the Jets have not had in quite a while. The fact that Clemens broke his fibula in the eighth game of last season hurt his draft position but in the end it could be a blessing for Gang Green. Clemens said that he thought he would have been drafted by the Jets, but could never be sure, “I thought I had a pretty good visit with Coach Schottenheimer, but from a college QB stand point you just have to sit and wait. I thought definitely the Jets were a possibility.” If Pennington does not recover from his injuries and Patrick Ramsey does not improve from his time in Washington, this very well could be the Jets QB of the near future. Brooks Bollinger, start packing.
The Jets two third round picks were spent on defense with the 76th pick being used to draft linebacker Anthony Schlegel from Ohio State and safety Eric Smith from Michigan State with the 97th pick. Both players were thought to go on the second day of the draft, but linebacker coach Brian Cox loved the strength possessed by Schlegel, a world deadlift holder with lifts of 662 and 672 pounds. Smith has been nagged by injuries but did play most of the last two seasons at Michigan State and could make a great strong safety at 6 foot 1, 209 pounds. Schlegel loves being drafted and now teammates of players from Ohio State, “The Ohio State guys coming in, it’s awesome. I talked to them about Nick when I was on my visit and obviously, I know (Mike) Nugent really well. At Ohio State, the first thing we talk about is team and I think that is why we are successful.”
On day two of the draft, the Jets moved back to the offensive side of the ball drafting Brad Smith with the 103rd pick, a quarterback/wide receiver from Missouri. The Jets plan to use Smith’s talents in a similar fashion that the Steelers used Antwaan Randle El. Smith is a great athlete and should be fun to watch. Although according to Tannenbaum, it looks like Smith will be for now used just as a receiver, “We are going to start Brad at receiver and go from there.”
Later in the fourth round, the Jets chose running back Leon Washington from Florida State as a complimentary back to Curtis Martin. Washington was excited about working with Martin, “What a guy to come in and play behind. I am honored to get to play with him and be in his presence. I will take this and learn as much as I can from him.” When the fifth round came about, the Jets took tight end Jason Pociask of Wisconsin who is a smart, solid team player. Pociask was unsure of his role with the team as of yet, “I think that they have confidence in me being able to play FB and TE on the line or an HB type deal, or whatever it may be.”
The last two picks took the Jets back to defense, a favorite of new head coach Eric Mangini. In the sixth round the Jets selected cornerback Drew Coleman of Texas Christian with great speed. Their final pick, the 220th was used on Titus Adams, a defensive tackle from Nebraska who will most likely be used on the practice squad.
Overall you have to give this new regime kudos for what seems on paper, an excellent draft. They addressed all of their needs and added some valuable depth at a lot of areas that needed it. There obviously is still have a lot of work to do, but be happy Jets fans, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.