Mike Tannenbaum, one of draft day's most renowned wheelers and dealers, sat tight as the top 10 picks in the first round of the NFL Draft were shuffled during a wild evening of trading. But Tannenbaum and the Jets didn't have to move up to get what they needed with their first-round pick.
The Jets, in search of a pass rusher, selected North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples with the 16th pick of the draft. Coples was a two-time All-ACC selection during his four years at Chapel Hill and had 17.5 sacks the last two seasons, so he should address an area that has been of concern for some time to the Jets, who last had a player record double-digit sacks in 2005 (John Abraham). Situational player Aaron Maybin led the Jets with six sacks last season while fellow pass rushers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace are each on the wrong side of 30.
"With this addition, we push the quarterback back a little bit," head coach Rex Ryan said.
But in typical Jets fashion, Coples is a player who generates plenty of discussion, not all of which is positive. While there is no doubting his size, athleticism and ceiling, many scouts and insiders were disappointed by the effort he displayed last season at North Carolina.
"I wouldn't draft him," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock told The Charlotte Observer this week. "But I do recognize the talent. He showed it at the Senior Bowl when he was motivated. I get nervous when guys have bad senior year tape but great Senior Bowls. It tells me there's a money drive there.
"He's a boom-or-bust guy. He can be an All-Pro and I don't deny his talent." Such criticisms, of course, evoke memories of Vernon Gholston, another big-time collegiate pass rusher whom the Jets selected sixth overall in 2008 despite questions regarding his motor. Gholston ended up as one of the biggest draft busts in history and was cut after three seasons and zero sacks.
Ryan seemed particularly excited to land Coples, who said the coach told him during his Pro Day that the Jets would take him if he was still available at No. 16. Ryan compared Coples to longtime Jet defensive end Shaun Ellis, a first-round pick of the Jets in 2000 who racked up 72.5 sacks in 11 years with the green-and-white.
Tannenbaum and vice president of college scouting Joey Clinkscales echoed Ryan's thoughts and said they were excited by both Coples' talent and his character. Clinkscales complimented Coples on remaining "above the fray" at North Carolina, where head coach Butch Davis was fired last July in the midst of an NCAA investigation that landed the Tar Heels on probation and forced the vacation of their wins from 2008 and 2009. Coples said he felt more comfortable with the Jets than with any of the other teams - whom he described as "kind of iffy" - he spoke to leading up to the Draft. "I think I'm going to fit in well here," Coples said.
While some chatter linked the Jets to a blockbuster draft day trade for Alabama running back Trent Richardson - the lone surefire first-round back - Tannenbaum refrained from joining the flurry of activity that dominated the draft's first hour (during which the third through seventh picks involved trades) in favor of holding on to all 10 of the Jets' picks. Tannenbaum said the Jets did field some calls for the No. 16 pick, but in the end he made it three years in a row without swapping within the first round.
"Once we got to 16, we felt really good he was there," Tannenbaum said