When Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum turns out the lights next Friday, he'll rest comfortably knowing he won't have to wait long on Saturday to improve his football team.
"Right now we're prepared to take the sixth pick in the draft and there will be six players that we like," Mr. T. told reporters this afternoon.
Tannenbaum, a week away from a third draft in his current capacity, has moved the Jets into an area of comfort. They were one of the NFL's busiest players this spring and that meant filling needs before selecting any college talent.
"We tried to improve the team, but in doing so, we wanted to make sure that going into next weekend we had as much flexibility as possible," Tannenbaum said. "And our stated goal remains the same. We want to primarily build this team through the draft."
At the end of this week, the Green & White will have hosted 32 players (including two locals) at their Weeb Ewbank Hall facility. Record-breaking Arkansas RB Darren McFadden was one of the visitors and he impressed the Jets' staff.
"We've talked with him and he's a great person to talk to," said Joey Clinkscales, the club's director of college scouting. "We've done our homework, and if that's the pick we choose to make, then we will be comfortable with that decision."
McFadden is widely considered to be one of the top six prospects in the field. He is viewed as a potential gamebreaker with runaway speed and open-field elusiveness.
Some of the other names often floated as potential top-six candidates include Michigan T Jake Long, Virginia DE Chris Long, LSU DT Glenn Dorsey, Southern Cal DT Sedrick Ellis, Boston College QB Matt Ryan and Ohio State DE Vernon Gholston.
"It seems like a pretty fluid situation," Mr. T said. "I read the same things you're reading right now. We have to be comfortable with six players and that's really the part of the process we're finalizing right now. And that's the only part of the process we can control — the preparation. There could be trades up and trades back, so we just have to be prepared to have six names we're comfortable with."
In addition to passing the Jets' character test, McFadden makes the grade on the field.
"He's a fantastic player," Clinkscales said. "He's explosive, he's fast and he can catch."
Gholston, a freakish athlete who is projected as a prototypical 3-4 OLB, has seen his stock rise throughout the spring.
"Vernon is a very explosive player," said Terry Bradway, the Jets' director of player personnel. "He's strong and he's physical. In terms of setting the edge and doing those things, he should be able to do those."
The Jets will hold a quarterback competition this summer as both Kellen Clemens and Chad Pennington will get their cracks at the starting job. But Tannenbaum didn't rule out taking a QB in the first couple of rounds and spoke highly of Ryan.
"We had a great visit with Matt and he's a great person," Mr. T. said. "He can make all the throws and played for a couple of different coaches at BC. There's no reason to think that he won't be a successful NFL quarterback."
"I've known Matt since his senior year at Penn Charter High School when my son's team went in there at beat him, 40-8, and sacked him eight times in the second half," Bradway added. "So I've followed his career quite closely and Dana Bible, his [former] offensive coordinator, is a good friend of mine. He is very smart, he's done a great job at Boston College and he should be successful in this league."
Some media types have suggested the Jets moved into a win-now mode. Tannenbaum was asked today if the team's recent acquisitions would change its drafting approach.
"We want to take the best player for us and we're going to factor in his upside, his work ethic, his position. All those factors will go into the decision," he said. "But with that said, we're not taking this pick just in the view of the 2008 season. You hope this player will help us for a long period of time."
The Jets already have their draft board up inside the war room, but there will be some tinkering next week. Today's top six could be shuffled at any point before Selection Saturday.
"We'll begin our review of the draft board Monday at 1 o'clock," Bradway said. "Each day we'll take time to review the board, we'll change it, we'll move some guys around."
Under Tannenbaum, Bradway oversees the Jets' entire college and pro scouting operations and the year-long process leading up to the draft. So he's no stranger to the rodeo and knows there could be sudden twists and turns along the way.
"I think we feel pretty comfortable with the guys that are towards the top and we've done our homework on them," Bradway said. "We've ranked them and we'll talk again next week, but you never know what's going to happen. The phone can ring. There are all kinds of variables that can come into play and you have to be prepared for everything."