MATT RYAN, Quarterback, Boston College
Although the Jets have publicly declared their intention to bring Chad Pennington back for a ninth season with the team, there’s little question that his time in green and white is near its end. Ravaged by two career-threatening shoulder injuries, he’s simply not the player he once was. At 32, he likely has enough left to lead a team packed with quality personnel, but expecting him to raise the level of his supporting cast is unrealistic. This summer, he expects to battle for the starting job with Kellen Clemens, the third-year pro who failed to distinguish himself after replacing Pennington last season. Enter Matt Ryan, the 6’5” 225-pound senior quarterback from Boston College. Ryan doesn’t overwhelm with arm strength or athleticism but compensates with intelligence and leadership. Last season, he threw for a staggering 4,507 yards in leading Boston College to its best season in years.
Why you want him:
He’s a smart, mature player with good size, extensive collegiate experience, and a gunslinger’s attitude.
Why you don’t:
He’s not the kind of player that’s typically drafted in the top 10. He has an average arm, average feet and a disturbing tendency to throw interceptions. Last season, his 31 touchdown passes were substantially offset by 19 picks: a number suspiciously high for a player purporting to be a franchise quarterback. Moreover, even his gaudy yardage appears less impressive when one considers that he attempted a mind-boggling 654 passes.
The Bottom Line:
The likelihood that the Jets will draft Matt Ryan–or any other quarterback–in the first two rounds is almost nil. Tannenbaum and Mangini are on thin ice. They need to turn this thing around fast, and using high picks on quarterbacks is not how to do it. Mangini and Tannenbaum need to use this pick on an impact player who will be ready to contribute on day one. Using the pick on a player who won’t be a competent starter until 2010 at the earliest would be suicidal.
DARREN MCFADDEN, Running Back, University of Arkansas
Little Rock Native Darren McFadden first appeared on the national radar as a sophomore in 2006, when he torched perennial powerhouse LSU for 182 yards on only 21 carries in a Razorback upset. He totaled 1,647 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns that year and then bested those numbers in 2007 by posting 1,830 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. The numbers are impressive, but the true significance of his achievement is that it happened in the SEC, which is as close to a minor league as exists in college football. The overwhelming talent, coupled with ancient, bitter and often-indecipherable hatreds, makes for an intense, para-professional environment second only to the NFL. After only three seasons, McFadden ranked second on the all-time SEC rushing-yardage list, trailing only Herschel Walker, who amassed 5,259 yards in four seasons. After McFadden declared for the NFL draft in January, he took his show to the Combine, where he blew scouts away by blistering the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds. The time was the fourth-fastest among all invitees and the fastest among players 200 pounds or more.
Why you want him:
With superior on-field performance to match his startling workouts, the 6’1” 211-pound McFadden is arguably the most complete running-back prospect since Marshall Faulk. He’s a home-run hitter, a game-changer, and precisely what the doctor ordered for a beleaguered Jets franchise desperate to parry the success of the Patriots and Giants.
Why you don’t:
McFadden has the kind of character issues that make NFL coaches and general managers sweat. In the summer of 2006, he was involved in a 4 a.m. fist fight outside a Little Rock nightclub and later requir
ed surgery to repair a toe that he dislocated in the melee. He then became involved in another incident in January 2008, when he was handcuffed outside a bar. A police report indicated that McFadden was “agitated” and “provoking aggressive behavior.” Additionally, McFadden has been named in three separate paternity scandals. He is 20 years old.
The bottom line:
The Jets need Darren McFadden. If they’re uncertain whether he’ll be available at #6, they should trade up to get him. Doubtless, McFadden’s character concerns are considerable, but his talent is overwhelming. None of the other prospects can match his combination of on-field domination and stunning workouts. In addition to sparking a moribund running game, he would instantly raise organizational morale and provide the team with the identity it sorely lacks. As it stands, the Jet backfield is manned by Thomas Jones, who was billed as a savior upon his arrival in 2007 but ultimately failed to emerge from the mediocrity of his surroundings. Of course, the media portrayal of Jones as a superback was absurd from the outset; he was nothing of the sort, and there was no evidence to suggest that he was. In reality, he was what he had always been: a serviceable, competent starter who would neither lose nor win many games. Now 30, Jones is a geriatric running back. History says that he likely has one season left as a starter—two, at the most. In either event, his time in New York will soon be little more than a footnote to Jets history alongside would-be saviors of the past Johnnie Johnson, Blair Thomas, and Ronald Moore. If Tannenbaum and Mangini bypass McFadden on account of misplaced loyalty to Jones or, worse yet, a desire to justify their decision to bring Jones here in the first place, they will have made a critical, perhaps fatal, error. The truth is that, although no prospect is a sure-fire success, McFadden is no more likely to bust than any other player the Jets would draft. And given both the volume and the severity of their past mistakes at the top of the draft, the Jets are best served by choosing the player with the greatest upside.