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Schwartz: Jets Fans Coping With First-Round Pick

(credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

(credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

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By Peter Schwartz
» More Columns

Judging by the Jets fans’ reaction at Radio City Music Hall and the video from the MetLife Stadium draft party, Gang Green Nation is not happy.

And I agree… it was a risky pick!

On a night full of first-round trades, the Jets stayed put at No. 16. They could have taken Melvin Ingram or Courtney Upshaw but they selected University of North Carolina defensive end/tackle Quinton Coples.

“We’re excited to get Quinton at the sixteenth pick,” said general manager Mike Tannenbaum. “We did field some calls, but just really felt good about the value of getting Quinton. He’s going to play on the defensive line.”

After racking up 10 sacks in 2010, Coples struggled early this past season when he was moved back to his natural position at left end. He had 2.5 sacks over the first half of the season but showed improvement and finished with 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

“Quinton’s a guy, he’s probably athletic enough to stand up and play linebacker and all that, but that’s not why we brought him here,” said head coach Rex Ryan, who personally worked out Coples at his pro day last month. “He’s going to have his hand in the dirt. He reminds me of a similar type of player to Shaun Ellis, a Trevor Pryce-type. He’s in that kind of mold, very athletic for an inside pass rusher and a 3-4 guy. I really think that’s a fair comparison between those two.”

In 60 total games at UNC, he recorded 24 sacks, 144 tackles (40.5 for a loss), and 23 quarterback pressures. At 6’5” and 284 pounds, Coples has a big frame with long arms. He ran a 4.71 40 at the combine.

Those are certainly impressive numbers. However, Coples does come to the Jets with a bit of baggage. Last year, he attended an NFL Draft party and there was an investigation to see if there was anything that went on to void his NCAA eligibility.

He was cleared of any wrongdoing because he proved that he didn’t receive any special treatment.

“He had all of his receipts,” said Tannenbaum. “Because I think at one point he was looked into in an incident, but to his credit he had all the documentation he needed to keep his eligibility.”

After getting off to a slow start in his senior season, many people began to question Coples’ work ethic and his passion for the game of football. In fact, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said that he didn’t like Coples’ tape from this past season.

The Jets looked past that and saw a guy with immense talent that can help them improve their pass rush.

“I think that the thing you have to do is sit down and talk to the kid and find out where his heart is,” according to vice president of scouting Joey Clincscales. “Again, Coach (Ryan) worked him out and he found out how athletic the kid was and you can see some of that stuff on tape.”

The Jets also had some inside information on Coples thanks to last year’s first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson. They played together in Prep School and Hargrove Military Academy so the Jets were able to get the scoop on what kind of person and player Coples is.

“This is a guy that was in the same locker room with him and any time we have those situations I always ask,” said Tannenbaum. “Mo was unbelievable. He said (Coples) is a great teammate and he’s a better player than me. So those two things were very encouraging, but again our process was very thorough, we’re excited that he’s here, we’re looking forward for him working with us.”

Coples had a very late pre-draft visit with the Jets as he met with Gang Green just last week at the Atlantic Health Training Center. It was at that time when Ryan made a guarantee to Coples.

“He promised me that if they got to that pick and I was still there then he was definitely going to take me,” said Coples.

Well how do you like that? A guarantee from Rex that actually came true!

“Mike (Tannenbaum) may not have been there when I made that promise,” said Ryan. “But I was going to work really hard to get him if he was there at 16 that’s for sure.”

The Jets could certainly have made a safer pick but they decided to try and go for the grand slam hoping that they can keep Coples motivated and extracting all of his natural ability.

Time will tell if it works out, but Jets fans were probably muttering three words when they heard the pick…

“Another Vernon Gholston!”

Now that would be a disaster.

On Friday, it’s rounds two and three of the draft. Right now, the Jets have one pick in the second round (47th overall) and one pick in the third round (77th overall).

My guess is that the Jets look at wide receiver, running back, and safety.

A GOOD CAUSE

Jets Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine will be co-hosting a charity event called “Match For Michael” this coming Tuesday, May 1. Avid Jets fan Michael Manganiello was recently diagnosed with Acute Myelofibrosis, a rare condition where progressive scarring or fibrosis of the bone marrow impairs its ability to make blood cells. Michael needs a bone marrow transplant and this event will help him find a donor.

At the event, people can register for the National Marrow Donor Program via a simple cheek swab. There will also bed a silent auction, autograph session, and photo opportunity with Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan, DT Sione Pouha, QB Mark Sanchez, DE Muhammad Wilkerson, and members of the Flight Crew cheerleaders.

There’s more information at the Jets official website.

DO YOU HAVE A JET-SIZED APPETITE?

The Jets’ annual “Taste of the NFL” will take place on Thursday, May 31, at Cipriani in Manhattan. It’s an event that helps raise money to tackle hunger. The hosts of the event will be Darrelle Revis and Nick Mangold. You will be able to meet current players, taste food from New York and New Jersey’s finest restaurants, sip wine, and take part in an auction for once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

For more information click here.

THE ROSTER WILL BE SET ON SUNDAY

No, not the Jets’ roster! The 2012 New York Jets Flight Crew Cheerleader finals will take place this Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

Okay, you can stop laughing now!

There are 61 finalists including 31 veterans vying for up to 40 spots on the squad. There will be celebrity judges involved in the decision making.

Sadly, I’m not one of them!

That’s all for now!

Enjoy the draft and check back on Friday for more!

What’s your gut tell you about Coples — boom or bust? Sound off in the comments below…