Jets took draft spotlight despite few picks
NEW YORK — Few teams have ever practiced the old sports adage of making the most out of the least the way the New York Jets did this past weekend.
Over two days and 256 selections, the Jets somehow managed to be in the forefront of the NFL draft despite making a mere three picks. Maybe that’s a sign of how aggressive the franchise plans to be heading into the 41st year since it last won a Super Bowl.
Or maybe it was desperation.
With Brett Favre retired and Thomas Jones threatening to stay away without a renegotiated contract, general manager Mike Tannenbaum was super active at the beginning of both days of the draft. He landed Southern California quarterback Mark Sanchez in the fifth overall spot Saturday by trading up with, of all people, former Jets coach Eric Mangini, who now rules in Cleveland.
After Tannenbaum caught his breath — his team had no more picks in the first two rounds — he began Sunday’s session by dealing with Detroit. The Jets traded for the first pick of the third round and filled a potential hole with Iowa All-American running back Shonn Greene, who merely rushed for at least 100 yards in all 13 games last year, his only season as a regular.
The Jets’ only other addition after all the dealing was guard Matt Slauson of Nebraska in the sixth round.
“We truly are the land of opportunity for free agents this year with only three picks. So we are going to be very, very aggressive. … Anybody out there listening, there’s great opportunities,” Tannenbaum said.
Opportunities are what the draft is all about. For the Lions, coming off the first 0-16 season in NFL history, it’s the chance to, well, win a game or two. A new crew guided by coach Jim Schwartz and featuring top overall selection Matt Stafford and his $41 million in contract guarantees provide a starting point.
“I’m a competitive guy, and I’m excited about going to Detroit,” said Stafford, the Georgia quarterback who left school after his junior year. “I know there were a lot of people that might have been scared away by an 0-16 team, but I can’t wait to take on that challenge.”
Joining him, if he starts — veteran Daunte Culpepper is the incumbent — will be the highest-ranked tight end in this year’s grab bag, Brandon Pettigrew of Oklahoma State, and the top safety, Louis Delmas of Western Michigan.
“The fans here want to win, and I think I’m going to be able to help them do that,” Pettigrew said.
Positions of high interest this year were offensive tackle, wide receiver, tight end and defensive back — 54 of them were chosen, by far the most of any spot on the field. In the first round, four tackles went, and all are projected as rookie starters: Baylor’s Jason Smith (second to St. Louis), Alabama’s Andre Smith (sixth to Cincinnati), Virginia’s Eugene Monroe (eighth to Jacksonville) and Mississippi’s Michael Oher (23rd to Baltimore).
Tight end often has been a forgotten position on draft day, but Pettigrew was the first of 21 selected this weekend. Tennessee wanted one so badly it traded a 2010 second-round pick to New England to get the 25th spot in the third round and grab Jared Cook of South Carolina.
“A guy was there that we didn’t expect to be there,” general manager Mike Reinfeldt said, “and when you have a chance to add a difference maker, you need to jump in there and make it happen.”
The emphasis on defensive backs came after the first round, when only two were selected. Ohio State’s Malcolm Jenkins went to New Orleans at No. 18, and Miami selected Illinois’ Vontae Davis at No. 25. Jenkins can play cornerback or safety, while Davis is strictly a cornerback.
“I really don’t have a preference,” Jenkins said. “I could see myself playing corner and being a dominant corner and having a lot of success there, and I also can see myself doing the same thing at safety.”
One player not chosen was Graham Harrell, the record-setting passer from Texas Tech.
Not surprisingly, USC had the most choices, 11, including first-rounders Sanchez and linebackers Brian Cushing to Houston and Clay Matthews to Green Bay.
The Miami Hurricanes had gone 14 straight drafts with a first-round pick. This year, only one ‘Cane was taken: linebacker Spencer Adkins went to Atlanta at No. 176.
Even Miami, Ohio, had as many players selected as the ‘Canes.
The Associated Press breaks down this past weekend’s NFL Draft.