By Peter Schwartz
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The Jets concluded their 2011 draft with four selections on Saturday.
In the fourth round, the Jets selected Louisville running back Bilal Powell. He’s had some off-field issues in the past, but he seems to have turned his life around.
“I had troubles,” said Powell. “I kind of rebelled a little bit. I ended up getting saved my senior year and changed a lot of things.”
Powell will compete for playing time in a crowded backfield that includes LaDainian Tomlinson, Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight. But, he’s just thrilled to be in the Jets organization and to have a chance to play for Rex Ryan.
“I just want to come in and compete,” said Powell. “LaDainian Tomlinson is a good running back. I just want to learn from those guys, learn the system and just compete every day.”
In round five, the Jets traded up to snatch TCU wide receiver Jeremy Kerley.
The Jets made two selections in round 7. With the 208th overall pick, they took Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy. Hmmm. Alabama quarterbacks and the Jets? I can think of this happening before!
That’s right. Richard Todd went to Alabama. Aside from a few errant passes, he had a pretty good Jets career.
Am I missing anybody?
McElroy is pretty pumped to be playing for the same team that Joe Willie led to the Super Bowl III title.
“It’s incredible,” said McElroy. “Namath is my dad’s favorite player of all time. The reason why I picked 12 at Alabama is because it was such a special number to my dad. Having grown up watching Joe Namath and being a fan makes this really incredible. He’s someone I have always looked up to and had the utmost respect for. I can’t believe I’m going to be able to follow in the same footsteps that he did. Having the opportunity to play for the New York Jets is an absolute dream come true. I literally can’t think of a better place to go.”
Also in round 7, the Jets took the childhood friend of Mark Sanchez, Colorado wide receiver Scotty McKnight. They are still close today. In fact, Sanchez threw passes to McKnight at his pro-day and was at his home Saturday when he got the call from the Jets.
Ya think he’s happy to be with the Jets?
“Are you kidding me?,” said McKnight “Yes. I am teaming up with a great organization, a great team and being together with my childhood buddy who I grew up with is great. We have never played on the same team together. We’ve just always been chained together. It’s a dream come true. It’s cool. I’m just ready to make the most out of the opportunity.”
I can’t wait to see what kind of rookie hazing that Sanchez has in store for his buddy!
On Friday, there was no shortage of news as the Jets were getting set for day two of the NFL Draft.
First, as part of the NFL post-injunction mandate, players were allowed access to the practice facility and to take part in normal activity, which included using the weight room, meeting with coaches, and getting the playbook.
“It feels like a normal day,” said guard and assistant player representative Brandon Moore. “With treatment, going to lunch, seeing the staff and stuff. I’ll look forward to when the guys get in on Monday.”
Moore wasn’t the only player in the facility on Monday. Fellow offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse was seen driving down One Jets Drive. And wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery was in the complex to continue his rehab.
“It’s good to be back in the building, go through the rehabbing process and just to talk to everyone,” said Cotchery. “Obviously all of the coaches have draft work to do, but it’s good to be back in.”
And then all hell broke loose.
After a story surfaced on yahoosports.com that the players were preparing for the appeals court to grant the NFL their request for a stay of Judge Nelson’s ruling that would re-instate the lockout, ESPN took things further by reporting that the court granted the stay meaning the lockout was back on.
A short time later, ESPN retracted the story. I had to chuckle a little bit!
However, during the draft on Friday night, it was announced that the court of appeals granted the NFL a temporary stay but the league didn’t immediately announce if the lockout was going to be re-instated.
The Jets were to start off-season workouts on Monday, but the lockout was re-instated.
Moore thought he was going to have to leave on Friday.
“I don’t know,” said Moore. “I was sitting in the tub (Friday) in the training room. I was on guard whether the security was coming down to tell us that the appeals court ruled in the owner’s favor.”
This really is no joking matter, but if you have to appreciate Moore’s sense of humor.
So while the world-wide leader (?) was removing the egg off of their collective faces, the Jets were formally introducing first round pick defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson.
“This is crazy being a Jet,” said Wilkerson who grew up a Giants fan.
Has he heard any ribbing from anyone in the Jets organization?
“No, there has been no talk about that,” said Wilkerson.
My hunch is that he will, probably from head coach Rex Ryan.
Wilkerson fills a huge void for the Jets as he gives Gang Green a real pass-rushing threat. But it’s the overall scheme that the Jets play defensively that has him excited.
“I think it is a great fit for me,” said Wilkerson. A lot of these guys are very physical. It’s not just one person making plays. It’s everybody. From the linemen to linebackers, everybody has each other’s back out there. I’m going to fit in well.”
Wilkerson found out he was going to be a Jet when he got a call from head coach Rex Ryan.
The Jets official website captured Ryan’s words during the conversation…
But when will the 6’4” 305 pound sack machine actually get on the field for the Jets? He joins Gang Green right in the middle of the league’s unsettled labor situation.
Wilkerson is hoping that the labor war can be settled so that he can take part in all off-season workouts and mini-camps.
“It would mean a lot to me,” said Wilkerson. “I want to get things rolling. I don’t want everything to be fast. The sooner the better to get to learning the playbook and adapting to everything around the organization.”
Sounds like the Jets found themselves a winner!
ONE BIG RISK
In round three on Friday night, the Jets used their 94th overall pick in the draft to select Hampton defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis.
“I was kind of surprised,” said Ellis on being taken in round 3. “I was hoping and praying that I would get a chance to play football. I really did not mind. I just really wanted the opportunity to play football.”
At 6-5 and 346 pounds, the Jets grabbed the player that they had ranked as the 36th best player on their draft board.
But this pick came with some baggage.
Ellis spent his freshman year with South Carolina, but was reportedly kicked off the team for flunking multiple drug tests.
He seemed to get his life in order after transferring to Hampton. In his three years there, he notched 184 tackles and 7 sacks. However, he is reportedly set to go trial in July on a felony assault charge.
“The stuff that I got into is in the past now,” said Ellis. “I was young. I have learned from my mistakes. I was praying that hopefully I would be picked up. “
Ellis didn’t want to talk about his pending issues or anything that happened at South Carolina. However, he did try to hammer home the point that he is confident that he has turned the page on his past.
“I am very confident,” said Ellis. “A lot of things happened when I was younger. I am not proud of it but I have learned from it. It was a learning experience and I have learned from my mistakes. At South Carolina, I thought I was someone I wasn’t . I was very young and immature. I was hanging out with the wrong crowd and made some decisions that drastically impacted my life. I have learned from them.”
If Ellis is able to join the Jets for the season, he’ll have a strong support system with the Jets including former Hampton player Marcus Dixon with whom he has forged a friendship with.
“I speak to Marcus maybe once or twice a month,” said Ellis. “Just for inspiration. He’s a Hampton graduate and kind of a big brother to me. I look up to him. He’s a really good person. He’s been through a lot and gives me advice on little things to help me mature in a time I needed to mature.”
The Jets did an extensive background check on Ellis and they are confident that they made the right move in selecting him.
Still, using a third round choice on him is very risky. For that reason, I have to drop the grade that I gave the Jets in this draft. I thought they made some solid selections but they did not get any help on the offensive line.
The Grade: C+
I’m in the process of reading Rex Ryan’s book “Play Like You Mean It,” which comes out this week. Judging from some of the excerpts that were released, it figures to be an entertaining read.
However, it didn’t take me long to realize that either Ryan has a terrible memory or his co-author Don Yeager wasn’t paying attention.
On page three, Ryan was discussing changes that the Jets were going to make after losing the 2010 AFC Title game to the Colts.
“Coming out of that game and going into the off-season, we went right at those weaknesses to prepare for 2010,” wrote Ryan. “We signed Jason Taylor and Antonio Cromartie as free agents.”
Actually, the Jets traded what turned out to be their second-round pick in this year’s draft for Cromartie who is now a free agent or will be when the lockout is over.
That’s all for now! Check back soon!
How would you rate the Jets’ draft? Post your grade in the comments below…