With so many holes to fill on both sides of the ball, the New York Jets and their new front office really couldn’t make a mistake whichever way they went in the 2006 NFL Draft. Let me rephrase that. They would have helped themselves either way. After the top three were taken, they had a big decision. ‘Madison Avenue’ Leinart or D’Brickashaw Ferguson?
They chose Ferguson, the left tackle who started all four years at Virginia. Some critics may say that they should have gone for the popular quarterback. Maybe they should have. But to have an opportunity to get a LT such as Ferguson cannot be overlooked. The NFL has changed so much over the years that what was once not looked at as a skill position, LT has as much importance in an offense as quarterback, wide receiver, or running back. Without solid protection, even a qualified quarterback will have trouble moving the ball from flat on his back. The Jets currently employ all right-handed quarterbacks, and their blind side will be safe with Ferguson.
As for USC’s Leinart, he fell all the way to number ten, where the hapless Arizona Cardinals selected him. They are rebuilding for the umpteenth time and have also added running back Edgerin James, who left the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent. Questions about Leinart’s arm strength could have been the reason he didn’t go as high as Texas’ Vince Young, who will be Steve McNair’s replacement in Tennessee.
The Houston Texans took away some drama by coming to terms with defense end Mario Williams of North Carolina State the night before the draft. Reggie Bush, the Heisman Trophy-winning back from USC, went number two to the New Orleans Saints.
The Jets went back to the offensive line in their second pick, choosing Ohio State center Nick Mangold. The 300-pounder will be the replacement for the departed Kevin Mawae, who will be joining Young in Tennessee.
In the second round, the Jets traded down with the Washington Redskins (and picked up a second round pick in next year’s draft) and chose Oregon senior quarterback Killen Clemens at number 49. Clemens was productive but is rehabbing a broken fibula. The third round brought inside line backer Anthony Schlegel and strong safety Eric Smith.
Every draft class is a crap-shoot. Who will be the next big time player out of the class of 2006? We shall see. Experts say that it takes up to three years to evaluate a draft effectively. Offensive line is a position where a rookie can jump right in and start and make an impact. With Ferguson and Mangold being projected as the two best available players at left tackle and center respectively, head coach Eric Mangini and general manager Mike Tannenbaum may have hit the jackpot in their first draft.