By Ernie Palladino
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As anybody who followed the NFL draft knows by now, the Giants traded up in the fourth round to grab Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, while the Jets tabbed West Virginia thrower Geno Smith in the second round.
The reaction of the two players was as different as the teams’ motivations in drafting them. Nassib, who seems like a nice kid, was surprised that he landed in New York. Smith, who nearly left the draft in a huff after everybody passed on him in the first round, brashly proclaimed he was gunning for Mark Sanchez’s starting job.
Whether their personalities are any indicators of their future in the NFL, the fact remains that they have joined two entirely operations. One — the one with two Super Bowl trophies in the Eli era — seems to have a plan.
The other, which still trots out Joe Namath as it tries to live off its lone triumph in Super Bowl III, doesn’t seem to have much of a plan at all. In an odd sort of way, it is exactly the reason Smith had more reason to celebrate than Nassib. Due much to the Jets’ lack of direction, Smith won’t be carrying a clipboard for long. Maybe he never will.
The Jets, you see, are in the player collection business. Get a bunch of guys and see if a couple of them work out. They did that with Smith, who now joins a depth chart peopled with six, count ’em, six quarterbacks. While it’s true that one or more of a group that includes Sanchez, David Garrard, Greg McElroy, Matt Simms, and prototypical square peg Tim Tebow will be gone by the opening of training camp, even the remaining bodies will be given a good run for it by the kid’s rifle arm and soaring confidence.
If Smith ends up as the starter this year, so be it. After all, GM John Idzik did help draft Russell Wilson for the Seahawks last year, and all he did was win NFL.com Rookie of the Year. But one other move pointed to the collection theory, the trade of the fourth-rounder to New Orleans for banger Chris Ivory.
In Ivory, they receive a potential starting running back who averaged 5.11 yards throughout an injury-prone career. When healthy, he’s a punishing runner up the middle, the type that gets defenses tired in a hurry.
Sound good? Sure. Except for one thing. Ivory doesn’t catch passes. He’s caught exactly three passes in his 24 career games for 32 yards and no touchdowns. This is significant, since the Jets now have a West Coast guy in Marty Mornhinweg running the offense. You sort of need a pass-catching back to make that kind of offense work, like free agent pickup Mike Goodson. Even Bilal Powell caught 17 balls last year, which automatically makes him a No. 2 option. But they went out of their way to grab Ivory, who could turn into a total miscast.
Add the first-round pick of defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson with the No. 13 overall pick they received from Tampa Bay in the Darrelle Revis trade. Good player. Penetrator. But one who is probably better suited to playing inside in a 4-3 rather than the 3-4. He’s not a nose tackle. If Rex Ryan wants to call more 4-3 fronts, Richardson could turn into the find of the draft as he teams with fellow first-rounders Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, and 2011 third-rounder Kenrick Ellis. But if he’s forced to play a 3-4 end, he could struggle.
At present, he must also go down in the miscast column.
The Giants? They moved up in the fourth to draft a backup, pure and simple, with the hope that if Eli Manning does go down, Nassib will have learned enough by then to manage a game. At worst, he wears a baseball cap until he’s too expensive for a backup. At best, he’s there and ready once Manning retires who knows how many years from now.
Also, they greened up their offensive line in the first round with Justin Pugh, Nassib’s protector who projects at right tackle, thereby addressing at least a future need. Second-rounder Johnathan Hankins is a space-eating defensive tackle who should help stop the run. And third-rounder Damontre’ Moore is a pass-rushing DE/LB.
There’s no telling if any of these guys work out for either team. But it does seem like the Giants drafted with needs in mind.
The Jets? If Idzik actually has a plan, it probably extends past 2013 and, potentially, the Rex Ryan era. For now, it looks like he’s just collecting players, hoping for the best.
We’ll see who has the better philosophy in a few years.
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