For the past four seasons, Arkansas offensive tackle Nate Garner had the privilege of blocking for All-American running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Garner knew that if he gave McFadden a hole to run through, “[McFadden] would take you mile.” With the NFL draft wrapping up today, Garner will find himself opening holes for a different set of running backs. This time, those running backs will come by the names of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington.
With the 211th overall selection (7th round), the New York Jets selected Garner to be a part of the team’s revamped offensive line. Garner, 6-foot-7, 318 pounds, started all 13 games at right tackle for the Razorbacks in 2007 and earned second-team All-SEC honors. In all, Garner had 60 knockdown blocks on the season. His best game came on Nov. 17, 2007 against conference-rival Mississippi State in which he played 62 total snaps with a 95-percent block grade.
Garner called the Jets selection “mindblowing,” when speaking with reporters through a conference call.
“It’s awesome. I’m so glad to be a Jet,” he said.
Garner adds more depth to the team’s offensive tackle position, which already features D’Brickashaw Ferguson and the newly-acquired Damien Woody. Along with Woody, the Jets have already boosted their offensive line by adding 10-year veteran Alan Faneca at the left guard position.
Following the draft, Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum stressed the importance of strong offensive line play.
“Football is the ultimate team game and if your offensive line plays better I think it lets everything else function better,” Tannenbaum said.
Garner entered the draft projected by many as a late-round pick at best, and Garner himself was unsure whether or not he would hear his name called.
“I didn’t think I was going to go the first day and I wasn’t sure I was going to go today. I was prepared for anything,” he said.
The offensive tackle pick ends a draft which started out with a focus toward strengthening the defense with the selection of Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston, but ended with an emphasis on improving the offense. Gang Green used their last three picks on offensive players, adding Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge in the fifth round (162nd overall), Kansas wide receiver Marcus Henry in the sixth round (171st overall), followed by Garner in the draft’s final round.
With the draft complete, the question arises: What do the Jets do from here? Tannenbaum addressed that question following the draft.
“We will always look to improve the roster. I would anticipate us making moves throughout the summer, again into late August, early September,” he said.