By Peter Schwartz
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Regardless of the NFL’s labor situation and no matter what the rules are in terms of the cap and signing free agents, there is one thing that is perfectly clear….

On Thursday night, with the 30th pick in the NFL Draft, the New York Jets must select a pass rusher.

Not a nose tackle that has been suggested in some mock drafts. Baylor’s Phil Taylor is an outstanding player and has been selected by many NFL observers as a possibility for the Jets, but he should not be the choice. In each of the last two campaigns, Sione Pouha did a terrific job after season-ending injuries to Kris Jenkins. He deserves the chance to be the starting nose tackle as the Jets have a bigger hole to fill.

Gang Green must address a need that has been glaring for the last two years. They have to get someone who can wreak havoc on the quarterback.

However, the Jets are keeping all of their options open.

“We’re going to draft the best player available,” according to vice-president of college scouting Joey Clinkscales. “That’s been our stance the past few years. That’s who we are. However the board falls, we’ll be ready to draft the best player available.”

With all do respect to an organization that has done a pretty good job picking players, that’s a bunch of nonsense!

Go get a pass rusher!

When the 30th pick comes up, probably sometime after 11pm Thursday night, the Jets should have a few players to choose from that can help improve the pass rush. Those players could include Arizona DE/OLB Brooks Reed, Temple DE/DT Muhammad Wilkerson, Ohio State DE/DT Cameron Heyward, Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers and Georgia DE Justin Houston.

But if he’s available, and this blog was making the pick, here is what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would say when he steps to the podium.

UCLA defensive end/outside linebacker Akeem Ayers!

At 6’4” and 255 pounds, Ayers would be the perfect pick for the Jets. A captain for the Bruins in 2010, Ayers finished third in Butkus Award voting. He was a first team All-Pac-10 selection after starting all 12 games for UCLA. He finished with 68 tackles (10 for a loss), four sacks, and two interceptions.

Even General Manager Mike Tannenbaum admits that the defensive side of the ball is a priority.

“I think if we could add some depth, competition on the defensive side, that’s something we’d like to accomplish during the off-season, if the right opportunity comes along,” said Tannenbaum. That is something we’re looking at.”

Tannenbaum is certainly known for wheeling and dealing on draft day. So with the 30th pick, the chance is certainly there for him to move up or down depending on what players are still on the board.

“We have run scenarios,” said Tannenbaum. “We’ve looked at a lot of different opportunities. We’ll continue to do that. Maybe we’ll move up, maybe we’ll move back. We’ll be ready to go. But again, it’s a long continuum. When opportunities present themselves, we’ll be prepared.”

It was three years ago when the Jets last had the 30th pick in the draft and it was because of a trade.

The Jets moved up to select tight end Dustin Keller. One year later, Tannenbaum engineered two trades, moving up to select quarterback Mark Sanchez and then doing it again in the third round to pick running back Shonn Greene.

But swinging trades this year might be a little tricky. Under the rules of the lockout, teams can’t trade players, but since Judge Nelson ruling on Monday that called for the end of the lockout, things are a bit cloudy. The uncertainty is certainly for a factor for the Jets and the other 31 NFL teams.

“I think that’s fair,” said Tannenbaum. That old saying: “Measure twice, cut once.” We’ll look at it really carefully. Again, if there are opportunities, and we think it’s smart, we’ll go.. At the end of the day, (we do) what’s the best decision for the Jets.”

Despite all of the uncertainty around the labor situation, the Jets are focused on the one thing that they have done well over the last few years and that’s drafting players. Just like every team, mistakes are going to be made (aka Vernon Gholston), but they’ve hit a home run on a lot of selections and they deserve a lot of credit.

“Its kind of business as usual,” said head coach Rex Ryan. We’re getting ready for the draft. We’re really dialed in on the draft. Mike Tannenbaum, Joey Clinkscales and all our scouts do an unbelievable job. The other thing that we do is we include our coaches. We feel like we have such a thorough process, we have (prospects) coming in, speaking to the coaches. We’re really prepared for the draft. We feel good about it. We just finished up our initial board where you go through all the positions. We feel great about our process, we feel great about our board, and we are excited about the draft.”

Barring a trade or trades, the Jets have six picks in the 2011 NFL Draft…..

Round 1-#30
Round 3-#94
Round 4-#126
Round 5-#161
Round 6-#192
Round 7-#200 (acquired from Arizona in the Kerry Rhodes trade)

The Jets traded their second round pick to San Diego for cornerback Antonio Cromartie and their own 7th round selection to Detroit for quarterback Kevin O’Connell.

A record 25 players, including Jets Blog selection Akeem Ayers, will be at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday for round one of the draft. The previous high was last year, when 17 prospects were on hand at Radio City for the celebration of the 75th NFL Draft, the first-ever in primetime.

Round one will begin at 8pm. Then on Friday night, round 2 will commence at 6pm and will be followed by round 3. In round 2, the announcements of the picks will be made by former NFL players representing their respective teams. There are a few teams, including the Jets, who do not have a 2nd round pick so their former player will announce the third round pick.

Former Jets defensive end Marty Lyons will unveil Gang Green’s third round selection.

On Saturday, it’s rounds 4-7 starting at noon.

Check back after round one for a look at the Jets’ 2011 #1 draft pick. Then again, they could trade down out of the first round so in that case we’ll examine who the Jets would take should they pick up a second round selection.

Who do you think the Jets should pick at No. 30? Let us know below…

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