Updated, 11:28 p.m. ET
The Jets got their pass rusher. And the pass rusher got his team.
Staying put at the 16th spot in the first round at tonight's NFL Draft, the Green & White selected defensive end Quinton Coples, the 6'6", 284-pound senior from North Carolina who was a two-time All-ACC first-teamer after leading the Tar Heels last season with 7.5 sacks and racking up 24 sacks for his four-year career on Chapel Hill.
"Coach Rex Ryan promised me that if I was there at 16, they were going to take me, without a doubt," Coples told Brian Custer and SNY after making the rounds at Radio City Music Hall following his selection. "Pro day, I think that's when he showed the most interest, when he had me start doing linebacker drills."
Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum both said at a late-night news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center that while they will use his versatility to move him around the defense, he will be launching himself at Tom Brady et al., out of a three-point stance at the start.
"Quinton reminds me of similar type players in Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce," Ryan said. "That's the kind of mold, very athletic guys for the 3-4. I think that's a fair comparison.
But Rex didn't think a comparison to Vernon Gholston, drafted sixth overall in 2008, was as apt.
"Vernon was having to go from putting his hand in the dirt to standing up," the head coach said. "This young man is going to put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer. For a big man, he's very athletic, and this guy can run and he has production."
"We felt really good when we got to 16 and Quinton was there," Tannenbaum said. "We were really excited he was there."
Pass rusher was one of several positions the Jets were interested in filling during this draft. Many mock drafters had connected Courtney Upshaw of Alabama to them at the 16th pick. A report before the Jets pick said they were interested in Syracuse's Chandler Jones, enough to trade up to get him. And with a flurry of other trades throwing the expected order of things off, Jets fans in the balconies at Radio City Music Hall began alternating "Mel-vin-In-gram" with chants of "J-E-T-S."
All were still on the board, but with S Mark Barron off the board much earlier to Tampa Bay at No. 7, the Jets' draft team targeted their man, the player that NFLDraftScout.com draft analyst Rob Rang said "is not only the most physically gifted defensive lineman in the draft, he's also the most talented senior prospect, regardless of position."
He played a few positions as he combined for 17.5 sacks as a junior and senior and totaled 10 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss and 59 tackles while moving from DE to DT as a senior. Some draft watchers faulted him for inconsistency and a stop-and-start motor, but he didn't buy into that, telling newyorkjets.com, "I definitely let it run off my back. I proved what kind of player I am at the Senior Bowl and the Combine."
The man who answers to "Q" had a superlative Senior Bowl week in January, and he put up a 4.78-second 40 and 25 reps in the bench press at the NFL Combine in February.
Now he's a Jet and he told Custer that what's next for him are just a few simple goals:
"I just want to help the Jets get to the Super Bowl and be the best player I can be."
On an impressive side note, despite three trades above them tonight, the Jets stood their ground at No. 16. Tannenbaum and his draft team, who have made at least 30 trades involving a draft pick since he took over as GM in 2006, wound up spending their own pick in the first round for the third consecutive year, following the selection of CB Kyle Wilson 29th in 2010 and DE Muhammad Wilkerson 30th a year ago.
It's the first time the Jets have spent their own No. 1 pick in three consecutive drafts since taking T Dave Cadigan, LB Jeff Lageman and RB Blair Thomas in the 1988, '89 and '90 drafts. (Although they also used their own first-round picks in 1995 and '96 and then Bill Parcells traded down twice from the No. 1 overall pick in '97 to select James Farrior eighth that year.)
If the Jets hold their ground with their own second-round pick (No. 47) and third-rounder (No. 77) in Friday night's two rounds, it will mark the first time that they will have used their first three picks in a draft since they selected LB Bryan Thomas, S Jon McGraw and TE Chris Baker in the 2002 draft.