Jets new draft approach

To say that new Jets coach Eric Mangini and general manager Mike Tannenbaum have been burning the midnight oil the last few months would be an understatement.

Since taking over the Jets' ship in February, "Tangini," as one paper has dubbed them, have been going at it as hard as they can.

They have totally overhauled the philosophy and approach of the Jets personnel department.

"Eric and I joined the process in February, and we tried to make some changes," said Tannenbaum. "We tried to increase the amount of information we're getting and the quality of information we're getting."

The Jets interviewed 450 prospects who are eligible for the upcoming NFL Draft. However, they didn't ask them the type of questions the organization would have asked in the past. Since most prospects are coached prior to interviews to answer the same cliche questions, the Jets veered off that path.

"We tried to put the players in uncomfortable situations, and we wanted to see how they would respond," said Tannenbaum. "See if they could learn in an uncomfortable environment, and see what type of people they could be in that environment -- what kind of character they have. We got away from the scripted interview that a lot of people have."

"Tangini" decided to have prospects break down film the second they sat down in the interview room.

"Eric and Mike came up with the idea of bringing in interviewees we had and putting their film right on," said Jets scouting director Jesse Kaye. "Rather than talking about family matters, personal stuff, we put them basically under the gun, and asked them what they were doing [on film] and asked them to explain what was going on. Get a real football sense of what they could tell us from watching film. It was very informative for us."

"We wanted to get them off the script, make them uncomfortable, creating a sense of urgency," said Tannenbaum. "Tape goes on -- 'Defensive player, what is the defensive call, what is the responsibility? It was kind of a rapid-fire approach. It was fascinating to see how quickly each person could distinguish themselves, and their respective depth of knowledge was pretty enlightening."

The Jets are putting a major emphasis on intelligence, character and work ethic. So a lot of players who might have been on their draft board in the past won't be there this year. For instance, it's highly unlikely cornerback Justin Miller, who the Jets picked in the second round last year, would have been on the board this year. Miller was arrested twice while in college.

"[We want] players who are tough, smart, competitive; the ones that are the first in and the last to leave," said Tannenbaum. "We want leaders. We want to know -- are they mentally tough, can they play in the Northeast? What kind of coaching can they take?"

Players who would fit perfectly into the Jets' new criteria are Virginia offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Boston College defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, two smart, tough, hardworking players loaded with character.

So will Tannenbaum pick "the best player available" or pick for need?

"I would say since 1993, if you studied the process, there has been a general evolution towards drafting for need," said Tannenbaum. "I think that's on account of free agency and the salary cap. As much as we can, we're going to try and marry the value of the board and the need we may have."

There have been a lot of rumors that the Jets might trade up from the four spot in the first round. It's unlikely that will happen, and this answer from Tannenbaum basically confirmed this.

"We're by no means one player away coming off a 4-12 season," said Tannenbaum.

If the Jets were to trade up from four to two, they would likely have to give up the 29th pick of the first round. This is something they don't want to do since they have so many needs.

And after all the work the Jets' new brass has put in preparing for their first draft, they feel very confident.

"I think preparation breeds confidence," said Tannenbaum. "I feel very good about our preparation."

"This has been a little different process with Michael and Coach Mangini," said Kaye. "When there is changeover, you don't know what to expect. [The scouts] were pleasantly, pleasantly surprised during these meetings."

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