The Jets' 2011 season was a disappointment, but the Green & White's scouting department is already well into 2012. Free agency will commence on March 13 and the draft process is entering its critical final stages as a large Jets contingent was on hand for Senior Bowl Week festivities in Mobile, Ala.
"We just see this as another piece of the puzzle and in April we'll complete the puzzle," said Joey Clinckscales, now in his 17th season with the club and fourth as vice president of college scouting. "The puzzle actually started in June and July, and this is just another piece of finding out what type of player we want, what type of player we're trying to get, and hopefully it comes together around draft time."
There are many pieces to the draft puzzle. Senior Bowl Week will conclude with the game Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET, but the NFL's Combine is only a few weeks away and there will be individual workouts afterward as well.
"It's really good for us. It's a good evaluation," said senior personnel executive Terry Bradway, who has 26 years of NFL experience. "It's the first time our coaches — including Rex and GM Mike Tannenbaum — get a chance to view these players. It's usually among the best seniors. There are a few of them who aren't here, but it's really some of the best of the senior crop and it really gives us a chance to look at them with pro coaching, pro systems, a lot of 1-on-1's, 7-on-7's, 9-on-7 inside drills and team periods to evaluate them."
Leslie Frazier's Minnesota Vikings staff coached up the North squad while Mike Shananhan's Washington Redskins group led the South team through its paces. Jets scouts and coaches observed from the stands as the prospects learned new systems from new teachers and did it all with new teammates.
"Their tempo," Clinkscales said when asked what he wanted to see on the field. "This is a new process for them. We want to know how fast they can pick up a new system first of all and how fast they're able to play in a new system."
While days consisted of practices, the Jets and the league's 31 other teams had their opportunities to visit with some senior prospects at night.
"We get a chance to talk with these guys, interview them," Bradway said. "We'll bring them up to a room, we'll have group interviews and we'll have individual interviews. It's part of the process."
Scott Cohen, in his fourth season as Jets assistant general manager, oversees the pro personnel department and also helps evaluate the top college players for the draft.
"Our college scouts do a tremendous job. It's great for us as the pro guys to interact with them and find out the backgrounds of some of these players," he said. "Hearing the background and seeing them live for the first time, it kind of starts the big picture. For us it's starting the process and we're not going to be able to know what they know about the college guys, but it's important for us to be on the same page, too."
Player interviews can be awfully revealing. If a prospect has a checkered past, Clinckscales and Tannenbaum don't waste time getting to the point.
"A lot of guys, we find out character information and usually I address that right away if there's been a problem, if there's been a suspension," Clinkscales said. "Anything like that, it gets addressed immediately and then we can go on to the football aspect of it."
"Mike will ask the really tough questions and to me it's really good to see how they respond to them," added Cohen.
What kind of qualities do the Jets want?
"He has to be tough, he has to play hard and he has to be a selfless player," Clinkscales said. "You'd like for him to be as intelligent as possible. If he can play hard and be smart, he can get on the field quicker."
Underclassmen were not in Mobile, but the Jets have to put in just as much work on the early entries as well.
"We'll go back and we'll continue to look at some of the juniors that have come out and declared," Bradway said. "That official list came out a couple of weeks ago, so we'll look at that list and there are a lot of good players on that. There are 65 this year, which is the most juniors we've had come out. We'll continue to evaluate those players, do some film reports on them so we have some information on them prior to the combine, and then again setting up our strategy for that whole thing in terms of the player evaluations and the interviews."
In little more than a week, the college scouts will reconvene in Florham Park and get back to work on the puzzle from dawn to dusk.
"The day after the Super Bowl, we'll start our predraft meetings — our second predraft meetings — and we'll go from 7 a.m. to 7 or 8 p.m.," Clinkscales said. "We'll work the next 2½ weeks in those meetings and we'll go through every player that we feel is draftable in this draft."
We traveled to Mobile this past week and we'll be on hand for the Indianapolis Combine later next month as well. Look for plenty of more draft content — video and editorial — from us in the coming weeks and months.