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DRAFT TALK: “With the Sixth Pick, The NY Jets select...”
By Tony Pauline
Special To Jets Insider.com
April 10th, 2008
Hot draft prospect Arkansas RB Darren McFadden is scheduled to visit the Jets next week.
Hot draft prospect Arkansas RB Darren McFadden is scheduled to visit the Jets next week.
The NFL Draft is less than three weeks away and the anticipation is at fever pitch amongst Jets fans; who will the team take with the sixth pick of the draft?? And what about their selection early in the second frame? SI.com draft analyst and TFYDraft.com owner Tony Pauline takes a look at the word inside scouting circles.

Trade up? Trade down?? Stay put??? What are the Jets thinking at this point in time with the draft just around the corner?

For better or worse the Eric Mangini/Mike Tannenbaum regime has been one of the most secretive in the NFL since they were announced to lead the Jets franchise in 2006.

And while they keep their intentions close to the vest, plenty of league insiders and sources have given me a look as to which way the Jets will be headed when they are announced on the clock in rounds one and two.

At this point in time a number of sources are firm in their belief that the Jets will take a running back with their initial pick in the draft, the sixth selection of round one.

The player the team covets is Darren McFadden, the junior from Arkansas. McFadden will be flown to New York and brought to Hofstra from an interview in the next week.

By most accounts, (which includes this author) McFadden is the top rated prospect in the draft. The off the field concerns brought out during the combine have been quelled to a large extent and McFadden has all the makings of being a big time runner at the next level. 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.