If McFadden is not available at pick number six who then?
Sources claim that while the Jets like Rashard Mendenhall of Illinois, they presently have another junior ball carrier rated higher, that being Jonathan Stewart of Oregon.
Last Friday Mendenhall’s own representative told me he believes the Jets would select Stewart over his client. Yet would the team take Stewart with the sixth pick?
The belief at present time is quite possibly, the team likes him that much.
After declaring for the draft in January Stewart rated as a top ten prospect. When he scorched the track at the combine, running forty times between 4.45-to-4.50 seconds after weighing 235 pounds, his stock climbed even higher.
Yet the day before Oregon’s pro-day in the middle of last month it was announced that Stewart underwent surgery during the second week of March to repair a right toe injury he originally suffered in November.
His rehab will take four-to-six months, with most insiders thinking it could be the latter before Stewart sees the field. Hence the dominant ball carrier may not be ready to go until Labor Day weekend.
If the Jets do go running back in round one they will turn their attention to defense at the top of the second frame and the player they are targeting is Lawrence Jackson of USC.
Jackson, a defensive end who dominated the opposition on occasion yet showed a lot of inconsistency, is envisioned by the team as a stand-up rush linebacker.
Ironically he would play outside of high priced free agent acquisition Calvin Pace, another defender known for inconsistent play.
The Jets brain trust flew to Los Angeles and worked out Jackson the week prior to the owners meeting. Sources who attended the workout told me two other teams, the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, were also present for this private workout.
Yet of the three teams in attendance it was only the Jets who put Jackson through a battery of linebacker drills.
The team had a smattering of representation at last week’s USC pro-day as Jackson stood on his combine numbers but participated in position drills.
In Indianapolis, Jackson ran the forty in the mid-to-upper 4.8-second area, after weighing in at 271 pounds. He also completed 31 reps on the bench press and ran the short shuttles in 4.40 seconds, one of the better times of any defensive end.
Should the Jets trade down or acquire picks in the late part of round two their target is likely to be Tyvon Branch, the fast rising cornerback from Connecticut.
Branch, whose stock has been moving north since his terrific play last season, has made a big leap up draft boards the past two months.
At the combine he measured 5-feet 11.5-inches and weighed 204 pounds. He was one of the fastest defensive backs on the floor of the RCA Dome, running forty times which averaged 4.35 seconds.
Several weeks ago both Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum visited Branch on campus in Storrs, Connecticut to privately work him out. The belief is Branch will eventually develop into a starter at cornerback and will offer special teams production early in his NFL career, an area he where he stood out in college.
Be sure to check back to JI for all the latest Jets draft news leading up to the big day on April 26.
Tony Pauline is the NFL Draft analyst at SI.com. His year round work on the NFL draft can be found at www.TFYDRAFT.com.