This whole website redesign process can drive even the most sensible man or woman nutty. The "new" newyorkjets.com debut was Wednesday and there was still a ton of work to do, but we had to get out of the office and venture to a tavern. With the draft only weeks away, it was time to let New York City locals take their shots at a Mock Draft.
Walking the streets of New York in April is a rebirth. The sun returns as a familiar companion and people find the hop in their step. Similarly teams look to the draft for a revival and the hometown Jets are in position to make some noise with their nine overall selections. Those passionate fans of the Green & White like what they've seen of first-year Head Coach Eric Mangini and rookie General Manager Mike Tannenbaum. They can't wait to see the two confidants add to the roster. We found that to be the case when we arrived at our favorite Irish hangout.
We entered, passing by stools and stepping on sawdust, and found an empty table in the back. There we threw down our pens, papers, notebooks, draft guides and ordered a round for the house. And from there friendships rekindled and people gathered around our roundtable for a memorable night of revelry.
It was difficult to pick four prognosticators with so many "experts" in the house. But after a few persuasive arguments and a fair share of bickering, we settled on four diverse selectors: Steve, a Wall Street corporate type who owns season tickets to everything along with a house in the Hamptons, Bobby, a Brooklyn born fast talker and deli owner, Darren, a native Long Islander who is a plumber, and Brigid, a young Irish gal and bartender at her family's tavern. The draft commenced with a toast followed by whiskey shots.
Houston "El Presidente," shouts Bobby with delight.
"Yeah, at least there is one Bush everyone can agree upon," adds Steve.
Both Darren and Brigid would like to see Reggie Bush in green & white, but they don't think it's realistic.
Darren says, "He's great but not worth trading the ranch for."
Brigid grabs four pints of Guinness and everyone raises their glasses to the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner, a dynamic back from USC who rushed for 1,777 yards last season and added 16 rushing touchdowns. The 5'10 7/8", 201-pound runner just dazzled scouts at SC's Pro Day with a sub 4.4 run and he has amazing open field skills.
New Orleans "The Saints are the real key to the draft," Darren says. "I don't see them taking a quarterback after signing Drew Brees in free agency."
"I can't believe the Saints gave Brees $10 million up front," Brigid adds. "Who knows if his shoulder will hold up? That seems like a dicey situation."
Steve, slowly sipping on his Guinness, thinks there is no way the Saints consider USC QB Matt Leinart. "Too many holes. I play the market and sometimes you have to gamble on stocks. The Saints have to bet on Brees and look to other positions."
Bobby, suddenly equipped with a mixed drink, says the Saints always pick a pass rusher early and Mario Williams looks like a stud. Williams, the 6'6", 285-pound NC State alum, is coming off a season in which he racked up 14.5 sacks. He has great natural tools, a player who can whip off the corner and stop the run. There is consensus.
Tennessee Activity begins to heat up because there are a lot of Jets fans here and they are already thinking about that number four selection. First up though are the Titans who are in an interesting position themselves.
"I wonder what they think of that kid Billy Volek," quips Steve.
"Yeah, Volek will be 30 a few days," adds Bobby. "And they just locked Steve McNair out of their complex. I think that means quarterback."
Brigid, in her refreshing Irish brogue, is real impressed with Texas QB Vince Young. But Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow used to mentor Matt Leinart at USC and Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher is also a Trojan alum. The latest buzz is Titans GM Floyd Reese thinks Young is the best quarterback on the board. A quandary of sorts.
After some brutal exchanges, the group picks Vince Young. The former Texas star is coming off a season where he completed 65% of his passes and passed for more than 3,000 yards (3,036) and ran for more than 1,000 yards (1,186). Everyone in our group was mesmerized by Young's Rose Bowl performance against Southern Cal.
NY Jets Darren is part of the group of Jets fans who attend the draft every year. He orders a Black and Tan while his eyes move wildly in amazement. "If the draft falls this way, then we gotta take Leinart," he says. "He is ready to play now! You can't pass on a quarterback because you never know when you are going to be in this position again."
Steve, as calculated as ever, looks at the Jets current roster and sees an offensive line in need of improvement. "Penny and Rammer can carry us through for a couple of years. Hell, I think Penny returns this summer with a chip on his healthy shoulder and surprises everyone. Even if he doesn't, Rammer is as tough as nails and he can get the ball downfield. We need a stud to protect these guys and D'Brickashaw is the man. This is our time to select a Hall of Fame left tackle."
Now settled with his whiskey, Bobby professes his loves Eric Mangini. He points to Mangini's experience under some of the game's greatest coaches and also his team-oriented philosophy. Bobby thinks this new Jets defense is going to be a strong suit behind both Mangini and first-year coordinator Bob Sutton, two of the most cerebral men in the NFL. The name A.J. Hawk surfaces, but Bobby insists the Jets should grab a linebacker later perhaps with the 29th overall selection or the 35th overall selection.
After a good deal of huddling, Brigid declares consensus for D'Brickashaw Ferguson. The 6'5 7/8", 305-pound tackle from Virginia has very long arms to keep defenders at bay, and he possesses great quickness for a big guy. Ferguson, an honors student and high-character player, is a perfect fit for the new regime in New York.
Interest in selections 5-10 aren't as high because people want to get to the Jets' second selection - #29 overall in round one - which was acquired from Atlanta in the John Abraham trade. Our four prized contestants agree to alternate selections through the top 10. A band drops in and begins to sing "Whiskey in the Jar."
Green Bay Leinart's still on the board, but Aaron Rodgers is already waiting in the wings for Brett Favre to retire. Darren selects Ohio State LB A.J. Hawk, a sideline-to-sideline backer, who could fit in well next to Nick Barnett.
San Francisco Bobby takes timeout after the song and says, "The Niners have to take Matt Leinart. Even if they don't keep him, they have to select him and package him down the line."
Oakland The Raiders are in need help at a lot of positions, so they could move in a number of directions. "There is need in the middle of that defense after the departure of Ted Washington and Warren Sapp just isn't close to dominant anymore," says Steve. "Haloti Ngata, a 6'4 1/8", 338-pound mammoth defensive tackle from Oregon, is strong as a truck.
Buffalo This marks Marv Levy's first draft as General Manager. Brigid recalls a few nights in Buffalo on Chippewa Street, sampling a few Molson and Labatt products. The Bills must get better on both lines and improve their safety position. Brigid narrows it down to three: USC T Winston Justice, Florida State DT Brodrick Bunkley and Texas DB Michael Huff. Bunkley gets the nod because new Buffalo coach Dick Jauron is inserting the Tampa Cover-2 scheme. The Florida State DT has a good burst and can be disruptive at the point of attack.
Detroit - Do the Lions give offensive coordinator Mike Martz an opportunity to work with Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler? Or do the Lions select talented Texas DB Michael Huff and please defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson? Linebacker is a big area of concern as well but Hawk is probably the only linebacker with a Top-10 grade. "Coach Marinelli is a defensive guy, so Huff is the choice," says Bobby. "He can play any position in the defensive backfield and has 4.3 speed."
Arizona "Kurt Warner's going to be 35 at the start of camp," says Darren. "The Cards take Jay Cutler, a passer who has drawn comparisons to Brett Favre. Give Cutler a little time and watch out with those young Arizona wideouts and RB Edgerrin James."
There is a sudden break in draft action. Paul, the man in charge of running the back end of the site along with a myriad of other technical duties (our MVP), hasn't slept since accepting the job a couple of years ago. He looks tired again, sipping a coffee and working on code, so he volunteers to fill out selections 11-28 while we participate in a few sing alongs beginning with "Finnegan's Wake." The place is rocking now and the green and orange flags are waving frantically. Later we're blasting shouts of, "Ole, ole, ole" and it's become a madhouse, a scene paralleled to a soccer match.
In the midst of the euphoria and confusion, our fantastic four still is able to get the selections out in a rapid order. Here is how Paul scribbled it down: St. Louis Winston Justice, T, USC. Cleveland Vernon Davis, TE, Maryland. Baltimore Chad Jackson, WR, Florida. Philadelphia Ernie Sims, OLB, Florida State. Denver Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State. Miami Jimmy Williams, CB, Virginia Tech. Minnesota Chad Greenway, OLB, Iowa. Dallas Tye Hill, CB, Clemson. San Diego Antonio Cromartie, CB, Florida State. Kansas City Kamerion Wimbley, DE, Florida State. New England Bobby Carpenter, OLB, Ohio State. Denver Laurence Maroney, RB, Minnesota. Tampa Bay Demeco Ryans, OLB, Alabama. Cincinnati Marcedes Lewis, TE, UCLA. NY Giants Rodrique Wright, DT, Texas. Chicago Ashton Youboty, CB Ohio State. Carolina - Leonard Pope, TE, Georgia. Jacksonville Mathias Kiwanuka, DE, Boston College.
The band takes a break at a good time because the Green & White pick next with the 29th overall selection in round one.
"This is a tough call," says Steve. "I'd like to get another good running back in here and there are three possibilities with Joseph Addai, DeAngelo Williams and LenDale White still available."
"You have to be kidding me," responds a livid Bobby. "History says you can find a quality running back in the later rounds. A center like Nick Mangold just doesn't come around too often. We can pick him up and then move Kendall back to guard. All of the sudden, we don't have issues up front."
Brigid and Darrell think Mangold would fit in well in New York. He's tough as nails and smart. Another intangible player for Coach Mangini. Our crowd loves the fact the Jets just solidified the offensive line with the additions of two studs.
It's agreed that there is no sense in completing the first round. The opening round selections are complete for the hometown team. People are genuinely excited for the new era and they sing one more verse before parting for their cabs: "So fill me to the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all."