After moving up in the draft to obtain a second first-round selection, the New York Jets selected Purdue TE Dustin Keller with the 30th pick. The Jets found a trading partner in the Green Bay Packers, swapping their second-round selection, No. 36 overall, and one of their two fourth-round selections, No. 113 overall, to rise six slots.
"A couple of nights ago we had run some scenarios about a group of players who, if they were available toward the bottom of the first round, we would try to trade back into the bottom of the first round," said Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum. "Dustin was obviously one of those players, so we stuck to our gameplan."
"I'm not surprised. I went on a visit to New York and I really liked them," Keller said. "I think they liked me a lot and I just think it's going to be a really good fit. I had a really good feeling about the Jets, but I didn't know as far as making trades if they were going to get me. But I definitely knew they had interest in me."
Last season, the 6'3", 242-pound Keller had a career-high 68 receptions for 881 yards and seven touchdowns. He earned team MVP honors and was a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award. which is given to the nation's best tight end.
"We see Dustin evolving into a good blocker over time," Tannenbaum said. "It's going to be an area he needs to improve, but we like his work ethic, we like his athleticism and we like what he can do with the ball in his hands. That's why we went up to get him."
"In college, more than anything I was used as a receiving tight end," said Keller. "But I know with work and repetition, I can become a much better blocker and I think in time I can become an every-down type of tight end."
Timed at 4.55 in the 40-yard dash, Keller has the speed to stretch the field vertically. He leaves Purdue as one of the most prolific tight ends in school history with 142 catches and 16 receiving TDs. When NFL scouts met in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine, Keller put on quite a show.
"He's a Big Ten player who's produced a lot in college and that's important to us," Mr. T. said. "He comes from a good program run by Coach [Joe] Tiller. There were a lot of things we like about Dustin — it was just not the combine workout."
At Jefferson High School, Keller lined up at wide receiver and set state records as a senior with 113 receptions for 1,804 yards and 22 touchdowns. A finalist for Indiana "Mr. Football" honors, he also claimed the state high-jump championship as senior with a leap of 6'9".
After a season on the Boilermakers' scout team, Keller added bulk and weighed 235 pounds in the spring of 2004. He eventually became a full-time starter in '06, receiving All-Big Ten honorable mention after finishing third on the team with 56 receptions for 771 yards.
With the addition of Ohio State DE Vernon Gholston (No. 6 overall) earlier in the afternoon, the Jets completed the 2008 first round with two Big Ten products. Keller called Gholston "a monster of a player" and reflected Saturday on their meetings.
"There were a few times that I had to block Gholston and it went well for the most part," Keller said. "He got me a couple times, but I got him a few times. I think I fared pretty well as far as blocking is concerned."