We’ve been hearing the term since last year’s draft; “Mangini player.”
What makes a Mangini player? What are the attributes that the coaching staff looks for in a draft pick and a player? How far is the club willing to reach in order to ensure the team is filled with the character that comes associated with being a Mangini player?
The only examples we have are what was determined in last year’s draft class. And from the players that Tangini selected, we can tell that the front office looks for several definitive attributes in a prospect, among them are:
1. Intelligence; the front office selected all seniors last year. From the players they selected, and also from Mangini’s countless statements, we know that they’re looking for “smart” players, it’s clear that not only are they looking for young men possessing the intellectual fortitude to process an NFL playbook completely, but also that they possessed the dedication to finish a college degree. Thus, for the sake of this article, we’ll be focusing on strictly seniors.
2. Dedication; this comes in the two different forms. The first being that within the locker room, it’s clear that Tannenbaum and Mangini both want players 100% committed to improving themselves not only on the field but also in the way they approach the game as a whole. Players that live and die by game film and preparation, and those who absolutely know in any given situation what they’re supposed to do and where they’re supposed to be on the field.
The second factor in terms of dedication is off the field. There won’t be any trouble makers on this roster, not while Eric Mangini is running the show. As a matter of fact, it’s fair to say that they’re committed to building the anti-Bengals, composed of a roster of selfless individuals who don’t pop up in the morning papers due to getting in trouble. Young men involved in the community are a plus.
3. Leadership; every player the front office selected in last year’s draft, from Nick Mangold to Eric Smith, all had the same quality of leadership on the field throughout their college years. This all goes back to character, dedication, and intelligence. It’s clear that Mangini knows that dedication breeds dedication, and he fully expects and knows that players who showed the quality of leadership on the field at the college level bring a sense of competitiveness to the locker room that others players can’t bring.
So what players in this year’s draft exemplify these qualities? In this entire feature, we’re going examine 6 different players. Some are at positions of need for the Jets, some aren’t. What they all have in common though, more so than the other players throughout the draft, is the fact that they exemplify the qualities of intelligence, leadership, and dedication more so than other players in the 2007 draft class.
I’m going to make it clear beforehand, that we won’t be focusing too much on technical aspects in this analysis. This article is meant to single out some of the players who probably have caught Mangini’s eye due to their character and their actions. We’ll save the technical evaluations for a few upcoming features and mainly for after the combine.
Eric Weddle, S, Utah – Talk about the definition of the word versatility. Not only did Weddle play corner and safety while at Utah, but he also returned punts and played occasionally on offense as an option QB. Don’t let the numbers fool you this year for Weddle, they might be a little low, but that’s for no other reason except for the fact that teams were avoiding him for the majority of games. Weddle is the type of player that will do anything his coaches ask of him as long as he’s able to be on the field, and he’s a game-film hawk. His leadership skills on the field are so blatantly obvious at times just by watching him interact with his teammates on the field, and he’s also well known for being involved in the community.
Simply put, Eric Weddle is the definition of what a Mangini player is. Watching Weddle play for Utah was just a pleasure this year, as there’s never been any doubt in anyone who’s scouted him that he loves every second of being on the field and leading the defense. As of right now, he’s being projected to go anywhere between the late 2nd and 4th round depending on who you talk to.
Brian Leonard, FB, Rutgers – Don’t let the fullback moniker fool you. Leonard is not your every day fullback. Look at it this way, when is the last time you saw a fullback hold the all-time receptions record for a Division I football program?
There’s not too much doubt as to whether or not Leonard can carry the ball 15-20 times per game, and the guy is an absolute workhorse. Further, his character came through in full effect this year when he agreed to take a backseat to sophomore Ray Rice and accept a less amount of carries in order for the offense to run the type of schemes they could utilize now that they had a player of Rice’s caliber. It should be noted that Leonard agreed to this while on the verge of a Heisman campaign, and also could have left after his junior year. He decided to stay due to a love for the game, a love for his school, and is simply a player who’s all heart. Anyone who’s ever watched Leonard can’t dispute that claim.
David Harris, LB, Michigan – Harris was the leader outright this season for that outstanding Michigan defense, which is going to produce, when all is said and done, probably 5-6 pros this year. Harris is some general similarities between himself and a guy like Eric Smith; not the greatest athlete, but a relentless hard worker and a leader on and off the field. What needs to be recognized for Harris, when we’re talking about Mangini attributes, is his motor. Harris never stops, from the time the game starts until the time the game ends. He’s notorious for being a smart player and tough as nails.
Now I know we said we’re bypassing technical aspects for this article, but it should be noted that the recognition of Harris as a Mangini-type player might be rendered moot, as it’s more likely than not that Harris isn’t very well suited to play in the 3-4. However, if Mangini decides to keep the trend started in 2006 of switching back and forth between a 3-4 and 4-3 throughout each game, Harris would be an excellent addition to the linebacking rotation. If, and let me stress “if,” Mangini decides to keep switching back and forth, Harris could very well be worth a mid rounder and his approach to the game screams of the Mangini mentality.
Stay tuned for Part II coming soon, where I’ll be reviewing 3 more players who fit the Mangini mold.