Friday, April 28, 2006

The Draft, Coming Up

I’ve had one thought racing through my mind like Ben Johnson today: the NFL Draft. I mean, I’ve been getting psyched for months, reading up on all the prospects, familiarizing myself with the needs of each team, and generally acting like a football junkie. In fact, I have a printout in my room of every player eligible for the Draft, and have been furiously studying the college careers of each.

Tomorrow is like a Guy’s Only holiday. Unfortunately, the bulk of my friends either aren’t football fans (heathens!) or no longer live in the area, so it’s going to be a smaller party than I’m used to. However, with a keg on ice, I think we’ll be making the most of it. I’ve also secured a laptop for the day, meaning we can not only scrutinize every pick to the bone, but I’ll be able to keep up with the draft live on The Sporting Brews.

Before tomorrow at noon (likely late tonight), I’ll have a mock draft up. I know you’ve read thousands of these to this point, but would it hurt to read one more? And not just any ordinary mock draft, but one updated at the 11th hour, assembled by three reasonably intelligent young men. This isn’t Cold Pizza here (which I’m watching right now, just for laughs), where they have a few tooly lookin middle age men pretending they’re in the War Room.

So, as my pre-mock draft, I’d like to say a little ditty about each of the players either rumors to be in the Jets sights, or whom I want the Jets to draft.

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1. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, RT, Virginia. Yeah, the safety pick, the guy everyone believes the Jets will select with the No. 4 pick. I have to admit, though, that I’d rather deal down with Oakland to the No. 7 spot. There will be plenty of options available there, and since the Jets have a flurry of needs, any of the elite players in the draft can help them. One of Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Mario Williams, Ferguson, Vernon Davis, and A.J. Hawk will be available with the seventh pick, and I’d be satisfied with any of them (though Bush and Williams are obviously out of the question). And, to boot, Brodrick Bunkley and Haloti Ngata will be on the board, should the Jets feel that the D-line could use some solifying.

2. Matt Leinart, QB, USC. I’m a sucker for Leinart, and it’s been getting worse as we’ve been getting closer to the Draft. To start, he wants to play for the Jets. Think about that for a second. He truly wants to play for a team picking in the Top Five. That’s an automatic plus in his column. Secondly, had he entered the draft last year, he would have been a 49er without question. So why did his draft stock move from “Surely the No. 1 overall selection” last year to, “draft status up in the air” this year? Simply, because 2005 was his victory lap. He saw the options in front of him, and opted to hang out for one last year before he got serious about his football playing career. Personally, I admire that move, since it implies that he’ll be ready to work come training camp. Obviously, I could be wrong, but that’s how I read the situation. As a result of having the “victory lap” mindset, Leinart proceeded to mail in the first half of a few USC games, which is the main detriment to his draft stock. In the end, I’m fairly certain that he’ll be the best QB of this class. To pass him up should he be on the board at No. 4, even if Ferguson is around, would be a few degrees of foolish.

3. A.J. Hawk, OLB, Ohio St. Imagine for a minute a linebacking corps led by Jonathan Vilma and deputed by Hawk. Then, take a step back and look at the Jets current situation. They’re going to need four linebackers this year, since Mangini is converting the defense to a 3-4. Hawk seems their best opportunity to beef up that corps, since the other linebacking prospects, Iowa’s Chad Greenway and Hawk’s teammate Bobby Carpenter, will likely be off the board by the 29th pick. And don’t expect the Jets to slide up from that 29th unless Jay Cutler slips to somewhere around 15.

4. Vernon Davis, TE, Maryland. Guy may not be huge (6’3, 255), but he runs by far the fastest 40 out of all tight ends in the draft, clocking a 4.38 (though we know those times are exaggerated). My only gripe with selecting Davis is that we could have had Heath Miller last year, but opted for Doug freakin’ Jolly instead, which turned out to be a terrible, terrible mistake. Drafting Davis would mean the sure ouster of Jolly, meaning that in essence, Terry Bradway traded Heath Miller for Mike Nugent. And while I think Nuge might have some long term potential (how ambiguous of me), I think Miller would have filled a greater need.

That’s it for my wants at the No. 4 (or No. 7) slot. Mario Williams’s name is noticeably absent, mainly because he’s not the guy Mangini would want playing DE in a 3-4, and he’s too large to convert to linebacker. If for some reason the draft order goes Bush-Ferguson-Leinart, I would hope the Jets new front office would have the wherewithal to either take Hawk or trade down. Now, for the guys I’d like with the 29th pick and beyond.

1. Eric Winston, LT, The U. So many things to like about Winston, beginning with the fact that he’s a product of the U of Miami system. I can’t laud them enough for their system and how many NFL players they have produced. But let’s move on to his physical stature. He stands at 6 feet, 6 inches, and weighs in at 319, putting him right along with the majority of available tackles. However, his 40 time clocks in at under 5 seconds, a rarity among tackles, especially of his size. He also ran a relatively quick 20 yard shuttle and 3 cone drill, though not as impressive as his 40 time. At No. 35, he’d be a steal. At 29, he’d be a reasonable pickup. However, at 29…

2. Nick Mangold, C, Ohio St. Let’s face it: we don’t want Pete Kendall snapping this year. Don’t get me wrong, he’s fine as a guard. And maybe with a few capable interior linemen surrounding him, he could work as a center. But he’s getting on in years, and could certainly benefit from playing guard. Enter Mangold, far and away the top center prospect in the draft. The only reason he’s not rated higher is because of the viewed importance of a center. The Jets, however, could use an apt body at the position, and would be wise to use the 29th selection on him. Trust me, they’ll be glad if they select Mangold over the predicted-to-slide LenDale White.

3. Andrew Whitworth, OT, LSU. I actually came across this guy while playing NCAA Football 2006, and decided to do my homework on him. If, for some reason, the Jets don’t take a tackle by the 35th pick and Winston is no longer available, Whitworth seems like the next best option. He only ran the 40, performed the vertical leap, and bench-pressed at the combine – or at least that’s all the data I can find at this time. His 40 time was a little below average, but he makes up for it by benching 225 pounds 28 times (above average), and has a massive 9 foot, four inch wingspan. I realize that physical traits don’t necessarily translate to success in the NFL, but it’s hard to ignore a brick wall of a lineman who is incredibly long. The Jets would be taking him a bit earlier than most forecasts with the 35th pick, but since they won’t be picking until the third round, they either take Whitworth there or trade up from the fourth pick in the third round. I say take the flier and select him.

4. Omar Jacobs, QB, Bowling Green. There’s much to be said for Jacobs, but it’s mainly that he was able to thrive as a young player with lesser talents around him. Of course, he spent 2005 on the sidelines with an injury, and surely that injury affected his combine numbers (most notably his 4.88 time in the 40, and he didn’t bench press). But he’s 6’4, 232, which is as prototypical for a quarterback as it gets. I’d rather have him than Brodie Croyle, Charlie Whitehurst, and Kellen Clemens, all of whom are generally rated higher than Jacobs. Should he fall to the third round and the Jets haven’t taken a QB, I would hope Mangini and Co. would realize his potential and snag him. If he fell to their supplemental pick at the end of the third round, it would be sheer idiocy to pass on him.

5. Derek Hagan, WR, Arizona State. People have short memories. Hagan was widely regarded as an upper echelon wide receiving prospect until he slipped up in 2005. However, I believe that he’ll be a valuable asset in the future. Maybe not in 2006, but given time, he could certainly flourish into a solid No. 2 wide receiver. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Jets have picks to blow on wide receivers in this draft, so I’m fairly certain that Hagan will go unnoticed to the Jets brass.

6. Leon Williams, MLB, The U. I’m basing this on sheer physical traits. The guy stands at 6’3 and weighs 245, putting him at the top of the MLB pack in terms of size. And he runs a 4.55 40, which makes him far and away the fastest MLB in the draft. No one comes within .05 seconds of that time, and no one rated ahead of him comes within .11 seconds. Pair him up with former U teammate Jonathan Vilma, and you have a linebacking corps that can’t be denied. Here’s to hoping that Williams falls far enough for the Jets to make use of him. The supplemental pick in the third is where I’d ideally like to pick him, but it may be too late at that point. Really, it depends on where No. 2 ranked Abdul Hodge winds up. The rest of the MLB pack will be decided from there.

That’s all for now, folks. I hope you’re all as psyched as I am. As I said, check back late tonight or early tomorrow morning for a Mock Draft, and stay tuned throughout draft day for live updates and analysis.