The New York Jets selected Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner with the ninth overall pick with the first of their two Round 1 draft selections Thursday night.
Considered the top cornerback in this draft class, Milliner was an All-America first-team and unanimous All-SEC first-team pick after ranking third nationally with 18 pass breakups at last regular season. He also collected 54 tackles last season, including four behind the line of scrimmage.
"I'm just trying to go out there and compete," Milliner told Jets reporters on a conference call. "I'm trying to go out there and make plays, play some good defense and play football."
At the NFL Combine, Milliner posted two 4.3 40 times. His selection comes four nights after the Jets traded Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for the Buccaneers' first-round selection (No. 13 overall) and a mid-round pick in the 2014 draft.
While some may believe the Jets view Milliner as a valued replacement for the departed Revis, Jets general manager John Idzik said the decision was based solely on their player rankings.
"That had nothing to do with it. It's purely based on the player," he said. "And it may be perceived that way, but the reality is Dee was one of our highest-ranked players regardless of position on our board, so we took him."
Jets head coach Rex Ryan agreed with Idzik's remarks and said the Jets need the 21-year-old Milliner to just be himself.
"We'll be more than happy with that," Ryan said.
Jets senior personnel executive Terry Bradway and the team's scouts did plenty of homework prior to the ninth selection. From an evaluation standpoint, the 6'0", 201-pound CB's toughness and versatility stood out more than anything else
"Jeff [Bauer] and I had the opportunity to see him," Bradway said. "He's a big corner that can play press, he can play off, he's a good tackler. He's probably as complete a corner as there is in this draft. To have the ability to take him at nine was good, and we look for him to come in here like everybody else and compete and hopefully win a job."
Milliner has plenty of experience playing in big games. He won two national championships in three years at 'Bama and only missed one collegiate game during his career.
"He comes from a good program, knows how to play," Bradway said. "He knows how to practice. His football character and personal character were very high on our board, so we were very fortunate to be able to get him."
Earlier this week, it was reported that Milliner has undergone five different surgeries. Idzik, however, said the organization was comfortable with his health and expects the rookie to be ready to go by June.
"He's had a few things," Idzik said of Milliner, who is recovering from shoulder surgery. "He's a very physical player. He doesn't miss time. He played through the injuries. He attended the Indy combine so that he could compete. That's very important to us."
Although each surgery is studied extensively, Milliner said his previous procedures shouldn't worry Jet fans.
"It's nothing that kept me from playing great on the field," he said. "I never had any setbacks from it. They always monitored it and it's nothing really big and you'd see that if you watched film. I'm out there playing."
The Jets' draft room was uplifted when Milliner was available at No. 9 and now it is official that he is a part of the Jets family.
"We drafted Dee because of his talent," Idzik said. "We drafted Dee because we felt he was the best player on our board at the time. It was not position specific. It's pure and simple — he was the best player. He was one of the best players on our board, period. When we had the chance to get him at nine, the room was pretty excited. He bubbled up to the top."