Jets likely to target defense at No. 30

Mike Tannenbaum has a tough time sitting still on draft day.

Whether it’s trading up or down, or for future picks, the New
York Jets general manager is as big a wheeler and dealer as there
is in the NFL. So, the fact the team has almost as many draft picks
this year as it has the last two combined might just be a temporary
luxury.

”It’s nice to have six picks for a change,” vice president of
college scouting Joey Clinkscales said with a smile before turning
to Tannenbaum. ”We’ll see how long we have six picks.”

Clinkscales and the rest of the Jets front office know
better.

New York had four picks last year after a handful of deals, and
ended up with just three the year before when Tannenbaum pulled off
two big draft-day trades to move up and take quarterback Mark
Sanchez at No. 5 overall and running back Shonn Greene two rounds
later. New York has the 30th overall pick this time around and
Tannenbaum said the Jets will have about 10 players in mind to take
at that spot – if they stay there, of course.

”We’ve run a lot of different scenarios,” Tannenbaum said.
”Our guess is as good as anybody’s. When you’re at 30, there’s
going to be a few trades ahead of us. We try to be as prepared as
possible, see if we can move up a few spots or back a few. I think
you have to have a pretty good number to start with just because
you’re sitting at 30.”

Tannenbaum has earned a reputation for being aggressive since
becoming the Jets’ general manager in 2006. Some of the team’s most
important players have come to New York through the draft as the
result of trades, including Sanchez, Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold,
Dustin Keller and David Harris.

While preparing to make their picks, the Jets examine their
depth chart with coach Rex Ryan and evaluate their needs.

”It’s really more just checking the boxes off,” Tannenbaum
said. ”If we can do that with three picks, great. If it’s nine
picks, that’s fine. I don’t think we’re ever fixated on the number
of picks. To me, I’m always thinking about solving the problem of
the need.”

After six of the seven picks the last two years were offensive
players – cornerback Kyle Wilson, last year’s first-round pick, the
lone exception – it’s likely the Jets will target a defensive
lineman or a pass rusher to help Ryan’s already-solid defense.

Ryan’s defense was solid last season, but far from dominant, and
a major culprit was not putting enough consistent pressure on
quarterbacks. New York might hope Auburn’s sack-happy Nick Fairley
falls to them at No. 30 – or maybe a little higher if Tannenbaum
can swing a deal – amid questions about his work ethic.

UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers, Arizona defensive
end-linebacker Brooks Reed, Ohio State defensive end-tackle Cam
Heyward and Temple defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson could also be
options.

New York might also look at a run-stuffing defensive tackle to
replace Kris Jenkins, who was released. While Sione Pouha has done
a terrific job filling in the last two years when Jenkins was
injured, the former third-round draft pick is 32. Illinois
defensive tackle Corey Liuget and Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor
might be players the Jets target.

”We feel great about our process,” Ryan said. ”We feel great
about our board, and we are excited about the draft.”

Because of the lockout, teams haven’t been able to fill holes
through free agency, something the Jets have done a lot of to help
them reach the AFC championship game the last two years. Tannenbaum
has pulled off major trades – Jenkins, running back Thomas Jones,
wide receiver Santonio Holmes and cornerback Antonio Cromartie – as
well as big-name signings – right tackle Damien Woody, running back
LaDainian Tomlinson, guard Alan Faneca and linebackers Calvin Pace
and Jason Taylor during the last few offseasons.

”The longer I’m in this, the more you realize the only part you
can control is the preparation,” Tannenbaum said. ”They’re
telling us we’re going to draft now, so we’re prepared for
that.”

The Jets have also benefited from finding unsigned free agents
after the draft who have become key players, including right guard
Brandon Moore, defensive lineman Mike DeVito and safety James
Ihedigbo. Teams won’t be able to sign any of those players, either,
until the lockout is settled.

”Really our plan is once the draft is over,” Tannenbaum said,
”we’ll wait to get more information of what we can do and when we
can do it.”

New York also has quite a few question marks they can only
speculate about. Wide receivers Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad
Smith are scheduled to be free agents, as are Cromartie and
defensive end Shaun Ellis.

”We’re not sure what the rules are moving forward,” Tannenbaum
said. ”How many of our guys eventually we’ll be able to keep, it’s
hard to say.”

Tannenbaum won’t be able to trade players during the draft,
either, as he has done in recent seasons; only draft spots can be
dealt. That might make it seem as though Tannenbaum could be a bit
handcuffed this year. No worries, he says.

”There’s other ways to get creative, swapping picks, future
years,” he said. ”If you’re trying to solve a problem, you still
have other clubs in the bag to use. You may not have your driver,
and if you’ve ever seen me play golf, that’s probably a good thing.
You use your utility club, and you just figure out ways to solve
problems.”