Even if the NFL lockout doesn’t prevent third-round pick Kenrick Ellis from playing for the New York Jets, the lockup might, the New York Post reported Saturday.
With the 94th overall pick in the NFL draft Friday night, the Jets took Ellis, a nose tackle from Hampton University who has more baggage than LaGuardia Airport. The massive 6-foot-4, 346-pounder is a space eater who will take up the middle of the Jets defensive line . . . if he’s not in prison.
Ellis was arrested a year ago after a campus altercation and is facing a felony charge, according to the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press. He faces a July 12 jury trial and a possible 20 years in prison.
He ended up at Hampton after being kicked off the team at South Carolina following two years as a Gamecock, reportedly for failing drug tests.
The Jets said they did their homework and found Ellis to be transparent and honest, and are satisfied that he doesn’t have character issues.
"We did rigorous background on him," said general manager Mike Tannenbaum, who would not discuss the legal situation. "We met with him. Based on all the information we have, we were comfortable taking him."
There is not much information available on the incident, but two online reports said Ellis broke a man’s jaw and nose. He sat out the first game of last season.
"The one incident he had this past year — I think anybody in that circumstance would have done that," Hampton football coach Donovan Rose told the Daily Press. "Someone kind of approached him over a young lady. Besides that, since he’s been at Hampton, he’s a kid that’s been a ‘yes sir, no sir’ guy. . . . He has been — I’m not going to say a model guy — but he’s been accountable."
Ellis, on a conference call Friday night, said he could not discuss the incident specifically because it’s a pending legal matter.
"The stuff I got into is in the past," he said. "I was young when I did those things. I’ve tried to tell people I’m beyond those issues, and I’ve learned from every mistake I’ve made."
As for what happened at South Carolina, Ellis said, "I thought I was somebody I wasn’t. I was very young and immature, and I was hanging out with a bad crowd."
Ellis could be a major project for Rex Ryan, who has not shied away from troubled players in his tenure as Jets coach. Ellis’ talent probably has Ryan salivating. NFL Network cameras caught Ryan pumping his fist in the "war room" after making the pick.
Ellis, much more talented than you might expect from a Hampton player, was an All-American last year, serving as a major run-stopper. He had 94 tackles as a senior, the most in school history for a tackle. He was second in the MEAC with his average of 9.4 tackles per game. His 15 stops for loss were third in the league, 17th in the country.
Ellis spent the first 11 years of his life in Jamaica. He played mostly soccer until high school before becoming an All-State defensive tackle as a senior at John I. Leonard High School in Greenacres, Fla. He went to South Carolina, redshirted as a freshman and then appeared in 12 games the following year.
Nose tackle was a need for the Jets with the departure of Kris Jenkins. Ellis likely won’t start right away, but could be part of a rotation on the defensive line.
The Jets have used their first two picks in the draft on defensive linemen. They took Temple defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson in the first round Thursday.
The Jets did not have a second-round pick after trading it to the Chargers last year for Antonio Cromartie.