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Draft

Who Should They Draft

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By Chris GardellaÂ

The Mel Kiper’s of the world have spent months analyzing hours of game tape in search of the strengths and weaknesses of each player eligible for the NFL draft. NFL fans around the country go through a transformation of sorts – they are no longer fans, but NFL scouts. Most fans critique each and every player chosen, offering forty-times and bench press results as evidence of their genius. Mel Kiper Jr. is a hero one-month a year and ESPN is the channel of choice for 21 straight hours, each and every day. These fans are self-proclaimed experts, and quick to challenge the credentials of former NFL football players who take jobs as draft analysts. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

April is the month for mock drafts and predictions, so I figured I’d jump in on the fun. Everyone seems to building their own Big Board, which has motivated me to build my own.
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Let’s face it: In order to be successful in the NFL, teams need to fit square pegs into square holes. This is very much a system league, and finding players who fit a team’s system is essential. To do this, you must sometimes overlook the ‘sexy’ draft pick and select a player who is better for the overall scheme of the team. “Experts� call this “reaching for a player.� Well, I can tell you that the “experts� are “wrong� because I’ve watched the New England Patriots win three out of the past five Super Bowls “reaching for players.�
I’ve taken my big board and reordered it, ranking each player based upon how they would fit as a New York Jet. Some players’ skills fit other teams better than they would the New York Jets. I’ve taken into account the schemes that the Jets will try to employ, the talent on their roster, and the strengths and weaknesses of each player – all so that I could come up with a new Big Board for the New York Jets. This Big Board isn’t necessarily about picking the best overall player, but the person who best fits a particular team.
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10. Vince Young, Texas
Are any teams in need of a two year project with great athleticism and leadership qualities? The Jets are in need of a quarterback, but Vince Young’s style isn’t a fit for Gang Green. Health is the number one concern for any quarterback the Jets’ draft. Watching Vince Young sprint for touchdowns against USC was a thing of beauty, but that doesn’t translate well in the NFL. Quarterbacks who run in this league are quarterbacks who get injured.
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9. S Michael Huff, Texas
Michael Huff is a nice talent, but safeties aren’t worth their weight in gold. Several quality quarterbacks, defensive lineman and offensive playmakers are available, and each happens to be an area where the Jets need help. Kerry Rhodes was a nice surprise as a rookie and has good upside, so safety isn’t really an issue for the Jets. Erik Coleman could be upgraded, but on a list Jets’ priorities, safety is on the bottom.
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8. OLB A.J. Hawk, Ohio State
Is anyone in need of an active, tenacious linebacker from Ohio State? While Hawk is a talent the Jets would love to have on defense, a top ten pick is too much for Tannenbaum and Mangini to part with. There are priorities in front of linebacker that need to be addressed, and while Hawk is a rare talent, productive linebackers can be found in later rounds. If Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum are really following the Patriots model of building a team, Hawk has no chance of landing with the New York Jets. Bill Belichick’s Patriots have drafted just three linebackers since 2000, all of whom were acquired in the 5th or later. Linebackers with excellent size and weight will be of premium value to Mangini’s defense, and Hawk is lacking in both areas.
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7. QB Matt Leinart, USC
Leinart could turn out to be a gem, but is he really a fit for New York? Leinart has an average arm and could have difficulty consistently throwing into a stiff wind at the Meadowlands. Shoulder and elbow operations mar his résumé, adding concerns that he may have a similar fate to that of Chad Pennington. Is ‘Hollywood’ Matt a fit for New York? He might be too good of a fit for his own good.
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6. DE Mario Williams, North Carolina State
How does Mario Williams fit within the Jets’ scheme? It’s tough to tell at this point because Eric Mangini refuses to give any details regarding the defensive scheme he will be employing in 2006. If the Jets exclusively run a 34 base defense, a Mario Williams like talent would be underutilized. If the Jets, however, flex between a 34 and 43 base defense, which seems likely, Mario Williams would be a good fit. Is a defensive end a need for the Jets, though? DeWayne Robertson is capable of playing the position in a 3-4 and Shaun Ellis has shown that he can thrive in the defensive system. Do the Jets NEED Mario Williams? No, they don’t.
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5. TE Vernon Davis, Maryland
The Jets traded for Doug Jolley last off-season and just re-signed Chris Baker, so Vernon Davis isn’t a “need.� Right. Fans shouldn’t criticize the selection of Vernon Davis, should it happen on Saturday. Think about it. The Jets need a playmaker on offense – does it really matter if the playmaker plays tight end? What if Vernon Davis entered the draft as a wide receiver instead of a tight end, would fans object to drafting him then? Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez impact their respective teams in more ways than fans give them credit for. The scary part is that Vernon Davis has more ability than both of those franchise tight ends; a true threat. A tight end has never been drafted this high, but has there ever been a talent like Vernon Davis playing tight end? He’s not just a tight end. He’s a playmaker.
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4. OT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia
There is an undeserved stigma attached to drafting offensive linemen with high draft picks. Because fans don’t see linemen doing sit-ups in the parking lot or signing footballs after touchdowns, there is a belief that linemen are a dime-a-dozen, and “available in later rounds.� Well, many good linemen are available in later rounds. Not the Orlando Pace’s, Walter Jones’ or D’Brickshaw Ferguson’s of the NFL. Go ask Chad Pennington, Jay Fiedler, Vinny Testaverde, and Brooks Bollinger how those mid-round offensive linemen did last year. D’Brick would be a wonderful addition.
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Overall Grade 9.25
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3. QB Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt
Mel Kiper Jr. thinks I’m crazy, so I know I must be right on the money with this selection. The choice between Patrick Ramsey, Chad Pennington, and Brooks Bollinger can’t be appealing to head coach Eric Mangini. The strong-armed Vanderbilt product’s combination of arm strength, intelligence, mobility, toughness and accuracy rank him as the quarterback who best fits the NY Jets. The Jets need a healthy, strong armed quarterback who can combat the wind in the Meadowlands. Enter Jay Cutler.
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Overall Grade 9.25
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2. DT Haloti Ngata, Oregon
Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum envision a defense that is capable of playing in a base 3-4 or 4-3 at will. They have found solid accessories in free agency that fit the 3-4 defense, but haven’t found anybody who can anchor the defense’s most important position: nose tackle. The nimble 340 pound Ngata fits a huge need for the Jets, but is by no means a stretch.
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Overall Grade 9.6
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1. RB Reggie Bush, USC
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Running back isn’t the highest priority for the Jets, but Reggie Bush is no running back; he’s a playmaker. Line him up at wide receiver, start him at tight end, it just doesn’t matter. Returning kickoffs and punts, lining up in the slot, playing running back – the possibilities are endless. The Jets are in need of a premiere offensive weapon, and Reggie Bush would provide that threat. Reggie Bush is, perhaps, the most physically gifted running back to enter the draft in more than a decade. Nobody on the Jets offense scares opposing defenses: enter Reggie Bush.
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Overall Grade 9.7

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