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Schwartz: Muhammad Wilkerson – Jets Get Their Pass Rusher

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Muhammad Wilkerson (credit: Michael Conroy/AP Photo)

Muhammad Wilkerson (credit: Michael Conroy/AP Photo)

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By Peter Schwartz
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As the first round of the draft unfolded, it became apparent that the Jets were going to get one of their defensive targets. As players continued to drop, Head Coach Rex Ryan and General Manager Mike Tannenbaum grew more and more excited that they were going to fill a huge need.

They were going to get a pass rusher.

And that player is Temple defensive tackle/end Muhammad Wilkerson.

The former Linden (NJ) High School star racked up 17.5 career sacks with Temple to go along with 144 tackles. He’s an outstanding speed and bull rusher that has led some to compare him to the Raiders Richard Seymour.

Wilkerson watched the draft with about 80-90 family members and friends at a restaurant in Linden. He said he had a feeling he would land with the Jets because of a hunch he had following his workout with Gang Green.

At 6’4” and 305 pounds, Wilkerson has bulked up over the last couple of years adding over 65 pounds. He has a tremendous burst and wingspan while also possessing explosive speed and balance coming off the edge.

Wilkerson told reporters on a conference call that he didn’t grow up a Jets fan but was very happy to be joining Gang Green. He’s excited to be joining what is already a quality unit.

The newest Jet will arrive at the Jets complex on Friday and will hold a formal news conference.

The Jets pass rush is better today than it was when they left the field in Pittsburgh following the AFC Championship game. Gang Green was fortunate to wind up with him and now they can turn their attention to the rest of the draft.

Coming up on Friday, its rounds 2 and 3 but the Jets currently do not own a 2nd round pick so it will likely be a long day of waiting before the Jets are back on the clock.

In the meantime, the Jets will be opening their practice facility to veteran players as per the NFL’s post-injunction policy. It’s not yet known just how many players will show up but the good news is that it seems like we can all concentrate on football for the time being while the legal mumbo jumbo continues behinds the scenes.

We won’t be able to write the story about the Jets 2011 draft for quite some time, but for the moment, it looks like the Jets came up with a huge piece of the puzzle on Thursday night.

DRAFT DAY BLUNDERS

Throughout the history of the NFL Draft, teams have made errors left and right. In many cases, those mistakes were made with high first round draft picks, errors that can set a franchise back for many years.

Those types of mistakes can also cost the person with decision-making powers their jobs. A recent example was the terrible job that Matt Millen did with the Lions. It cost him his job but he is just one of many who just couldn’t get picking it right when it came to picking players.

But personnel executives aren’t the only ones who have made mistakes on draft day.

How about the media?

There have been many so-called experts who have been dead wrong when it came to evaluating players and determining what teams they were going to be picked by.

But I remember a huge mistake made by a member of the media that will never be forgotten. That is, until the video of the error is destroyed but in the age of You Tube, that’s never going to happen.

The funny thing is that it had nothing to do with reporting but it did have to do with evaluating a player. It’s something that was inexcusable and embarrassing but was found to be hysterically funny by many.

So why do I remember what this reporter did so vividly?

Because it was me.

In 1992, I was working for SportsPhone, my first job out of college. I had covered a few NFL Drafts for them doing pick-by-pick updates but that year, I was off on draft day. So that year, I went to the draft as a fan with my brother and a friend.

I don’t think it will come as a shock to anybody that I grew up as an avid Jets fan. Before I started covering the Jets for WFAN, that fact was brought up many times by hosts as they introduced me to do 20/20 updates. However, I’d like to think that I’ve covered the team fairly and professionally for all of the outlets that I’ve worked for.

When it comes to doing my job, I take things very seriously.

But on draft day 1992, I did something that was very foolish. Perhaps my first mistake was wearing a Jets jersey to the draft. While I was there as a fan, it probably wasn’t the best idea since I could have run into media members that I knew or even team or league employees.

The Jets had the 15th pick in the draft, so as the selection got closer, I started to ponder what player that they were going to take. There were a number of directions that the Jets could have gone, but I didn’t the one player that I didn’t want them to pick was Nebraska tight end Johnny Mitchell. I just didn’t think he was going to pan out.

So, of course, then NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue stepped to the podium and said…

“With the 15th pick in the NFL Draft, the New York Jets select Johnny Mitchell…tight end…Nebraska”

Well, I lost it. If you’ve never seen it, here it is. It’s at the end of this You Tube video and I’m the clown in the #90 Dennis Byrd jersey who’s making a fool of himself.

I still cringe when I see it. I had no idea that the ESPN cameras were up there. I was just being a fan and the funny part is, I was right. Johnny Mitchell didn’t pan out.

But that’s not the point.

I made a terrible mistake. It was all over the television newscasts that night.

There were a zillion phone calls. The next day at work, I got the business good from my co-workers. Needless to say, my boss was not happy about it.

Over time, the ribbing subsided but came up from time to time, especially on draft days when the video was shown. Somehow in recent years, the video grew some legs on the internet and people would come up to me and ask…

“Was that you going nuts when the Jets took Johnny Mitchell?”

My professional life continued but making that stupid mistake always bothered me. I would wind up covering the team for another radio station for five years and there were never any issues about my childish behavior from 1992.

The point of the story is that there is no shortage of mistakes made in the NFL Draft.

That includes those who make the picks, those who cover the picks, and even those that pick the wrong time to be a fan again.

Great pick by Tannenbaum? Let Schwartz know below…

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