The Jets selected Wisconsin center Joe Tippmann with their second-round pick of the NFL Draft tonight. And for anyone who knew the Jets' potential offensive line needs along with Tippmann's family tree, this shouldn't come as a big surprise.
For one thing, Jets 10-year tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson presented his former team's pick to the multitude of fans at the Kansas City draft venue and across the country. For another, one of Tippmann's coaches, from grade school through high school through college to today, not to mention a semi-distant relative, is fellow Hoosier Jason Fabini, another Jets starting tackle, from 1998-2004.
"Coach Fabini coached me in fifth grade through my senior year of high school," Tippmann explained to Jets reporters from his family's Indiana home after joining the Jets, Aaron Rodgers, Quinnen Williams, C.J. Mosley, et al. "I was able to absorb so much from him. He helped me in my transition from high school to college and he's helping me with my transition from college to the NFL. He's a mentor to me, someone I can always lean on to assist me with anything and push me to be a better player."
And as Tippmann's draft perch at No. 43 overall indicates, the 6-6, 313-pounder is not only the first center to come off the NFL's big value board at this draft but also arguably the best center, for several reasons.
"We're fired up to add Big Joe to the team and his 'Wisconsin waterfall' — he probably has the best mullet in the draft," general manager Joe Douglas said. "He's got excellent size, excellent feet, he's great on the move. He's only played center, but with his size and athleticism, he can provide a lot of versatility to our interior. ... He's going to be a good fit."
"I'm a physically dominant player, and athletic as well, someone who'll be able to get out and pull," Tippmann said. "But for the Jets, the first thing I need is the trust of my teammates before anything else."
One of those teammates, head coach Robert Saleh said, will be a veteran NFL center in Connor McGovern. Tippmann will be competing with the recently re-signed McGovern to step into the middle of the Jets' offensive line and in front of new/old QB Rodgers.
"You know how we are — everybody's competing," Saleh said. "It doesn't matter where you get drafted or how much you get paid. It's going to be an open competition."
But a rookie snapping to the 19th-season former Packers icon?
"Aaron's done it before. He had a rookie center the last couple of years," the coach said. "If a rookie earns the job, if he wins it, I think he'll earn the respect of his peers."
Tippmann will also get a lot of high-fives and backslaps for the numbers he's put up in achieving his status as a competitor for a Green & White starting job. There is his pass-blocking, for instance.
He was a two-year C starter for the Badgers, earning All-Big Ten honorable mention in both 2021 and '22. And in those past two seasons, he played in 24 games, participating in 590 pass-block snaps, and, according to Pro Football Focus, gave up only one sack.
Then his Freak-ish athleticism and especially his strength comes through against both the pass and run. He's put up 635 pounds in the squad, and 455 in the bench, which earned him a top-30 spot on The Athletic's 2022 Freaks list.
One lingering question for some football watchers is Tippmann's 6-6 size. But Douglas and Saleh saw no problem with his height fitting into the Jets' scheme.
"They really do come in all shapes and sizes," Douglas said of NFL pivotmen. "Some teams prefer a shorter, squattier guy. But at the end of the day, you're looking for smart, tough, reliable, athletic."
All of which fits into Tippmann's wheelhouse.
"I was about to get a feel for the culture a little bit on my top-30 visit," he said from beneath his black cowboy hat and Southwestern-patterned dress shirt. "I've always been kind of a Jets fan, growing up with Coach Fabini. I definitely have a feel for the Jets. And I can't wait to dive in and learn more about the playbook and the team."
Jets Selection Background
Tippmann is the eighth player drafted by the Jets out of Wisconsin. The most recent Badger tabbed by the G&W was TE Jason Pociask (Round 5, 150th) in 2006. Before that was QB Brooks Bollinger in '03 (Round 6, 200th). And before that was the best Badgers selection in Jets history, WR Al Toon in 1985 (Round 1, 10th). Among Toon's many achievements and accolades: He played in 107 games (95 starts) in his eight pro seasons, all spent with the Jets, caught 517 passes for 6,605 yards and 31 touchdowns, played in three Pro Bowls and was named to the Jets Ring of Honor in 2011.
The last pure center drafted by the Jets was Nick Mangold out of Ohio State with the 29th overall pick of the 2006 draft. Mangold paid huge dividends by starting 164 games in his 11-year Jets career, playing in seven Pro Bowls in an eight-year span (2008-15), and being named to two All-Pro first teams (2009-10).