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New Direction or Aberration?: Terry Bradway Needs to Build on His Strongest Draft as Jets GM

by slats
Contributing Columnist

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When Terry Bradway got up on the podium when he was first hired, he spoke of believing in building the team through the draft. Four years later, wouldn’t you think that maybe he’d have one player left on the roster from his first amateur lottery? Umm… sorry, the Jets are one of just three teams in the NFL who have none of the players they selected in 2001 still with the team. It’s a shame, too, because that was probably his second best rookie crop. Over four years, Terry’s traded away the equivalent of one really good Miami draft: A first, a second, two fourths, and two sixths. He’s made some good picks, some clunkers, and a couple of real head scratchers.

Back in 2001, there was naiveté in the front office. Edwards and Bradway were both singing Santana Moss’s praises. So much so, that everyone knew that he was their guy in the first round. The trouble with everyone knowing who they were going to take started to get to Bradway as their pick got closer. He panicked, and traded a fourth and a sixth to move up three spots to get his man. His first draft was immediately two picks lite.

LaMont Jordan could’ve been one of the best picks he ever made if he ever got on the field. What was Bradway thinking when he drafted him? Perhaps he was thinking Martin was washed up at that point, as Curtis was coming off his worst year as a pro. Looking at Bradway’s next couple second rounders, the plan seems to’ve been to draft them, then start them the following year. Martin took him by surprise with a 1500 yard season in LaMont’s first year. Now LaMont’s a Raider. Terry passed up an opportunity to gain a pick when Oakland reportedly offered a high third rounder for him. It would’ve been great in a strong draft, especially after they traded their second round pick for Justin McCareins. But Terry doesn’t like to collect picks. Kareem McKenzie was another strong pick that year, another first round talent who slipped for character reasons. But, alas, these guys aren’t here anymore.

We’ve got just about everyone from the next two drafts still on the team, though, for whatever that’s worth. The ’02 draft is not generally looked back at fondly. Again, what was Bradway thinking with Bryan Thomas? He had two, young, high quality DE’s in John Abraham and Shaun Ellis. Except that an aborted experiment to move Ellis to DT just about ruined his previous season. Thomas was productive player on the D2 level, and a guy that blew ’em away at the combines, but he was still taken high by the Jets. Just ahead of Napolean Harris and Ed Reed (ouch!). A bad tooth, a bad diet, and an altercation with his girlfriend, all combined to wreck his rookie season. He gained his weight back, but he’s never reached the promise of being another John Abraham. The speed he showed at the combines has not been evident on the field. After that, you got Jon McGraw who can’t stay healthy. Chris Baker, who couldn’t beat out Anthony Becht in three years of trying. Alan Harper, who set a league record of consecutive DNP’s. Am I missing someone?

There are people who like the trade Terry made to move up to the fourth overall pick to take Dewayne Robertson, but I’m not one of them. The Jets had a lot more needs that year than just one DT (as demonstrated by their 6-10 record), and the extra first rounder he got for under-tendering Laveranues Coles could’ve been better spent. Ty Warren was available at that pick, and Nick Barnett was available at their own #1. By sticking with what they had, they wouldn’t’ve had to reach for Hobson in the second round. By doing that, they passed on WR in a very strong class, and traded away a second rounder the following year for McCareins. Just by being patient, he could’ve had a much better draft, and significantly more cap room to buy more FA’s. Not to mention the fact that Joe Klecko’s acorn was picked with the fourth round pick Terry inexplicably threw in on the trade up. Both his moves up in the first round have been overpayments based on the internet version of the draft pick trade chart.

So has he learned? Last year was his best draft to date. He stayed at his picks, and took the value guy at every turn. Maybe trading away the second rounder worked for him this time around, making him more focused on value. God knows it didn’t help him in ’03 when he reached two rounds early for B.J. Askew, leaving many better RB’s on the board. A true Roger Vick-type selection. Last year he grabbed two starters, including Erik Coleman in the fifth round, when previously the only rookie starter he drafted was DRob II.

A couple factors certainly worked in his favor last year. One, it was one of the strongest draft classes in years. Two, the team changed defensive coordinators, and Donnie Henderson had no reservations at all about going with rookies. Ted Cottrell would’ve never started a fifth-round rookie. Never. But this is the way it works in the NFL, the coaches have the ability to make the personnel guys look smart. Donnie did Bradway a big favor last year.

The Jets have still never started an offensive rookie, but maybe that changes this year with Mike Heimerdinger running that side of the ball and many Jet fans hot after Heath Miller. Or maybe the defensive-minded HC of the NYJ goes ‘D’ in the first two rounds again. Terry actually traded for his very first pick this year, getting a seventh rounder for Sam Cowart. Baby steps, Terry. The John Abraham rumors won’t die down until after the draft, and getting a pair of first day picks and a ton of cap space for Abraham has to have some appeal. In Bradway’s recent press conference, he talked about there being only 18-20 first round picks in this draft, and that if one of them isn’t there, he might trade down. That would also be a first for Terry, a welcome one. However, they also interviewed a few players not expected to be on the board at the 26th pick, hinting, perhaps, that they might be trading up again.

The Jets don’t have a lot of guys under contract today, and still have a couple of wide open gaps at DT and TE. This is a team that needs to keep its picks, and maybe collect a couple more. Not trade up. As in ’03, they are not just one player away. Being able to get first day players at CB, DT, S, and maybe TE or WR, would be a coup. That should be the goal. Our team has not displayed the ability or willingness to trade down, or move back and forth, to maximize what the board has to offer. They stiffly sit at their picks, or they trade them away. Without a lot of cap room, or any great players left on the waiver wire, they need to fill starting jobs, and key backup roles, with draft picks. Word that Donnie Abraham might retire almost forces them to go CB early, a direction they were probably looking in anyway. The fact that CB Andre Dyson is in town might alter their plans, though. Even if John Abraham stays, his contract will be an issue again next season. Bradway needs to fill roster spots today, and plan for the future at the same time. Planning for the future has not been one of his strong suits. This is why the Jets have brought in free agents like Lance Legree and Curtis Conway after losing players like Coles and Jason Ferguson. He’s got to start doing it better this year. He did prepare for the loss of McKenzie, but seems to’ve been blindsided by the loss of Jordan. How could that be? He needs to be ahead of the curve heading into ’06.

Was ’05 the start of smart drafting by Terry Bradway & Co.? Or was it an aberration, helped by a terrific draft class and better coaching? Best case scenario is that Terry got smart and the Jets have better coaching. Next week, we’ll start to have a better idea.

Please Terry, no Saturday FB’s! Thanks!

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