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Jets focus on offense on draft’s last day
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) - The New York Jets went on the offensive during the draft’s final day.
After beefing up their defensive line in the first few rounds, the Jets focused on the other side of the ball Saturday by taking offensive players with their four remaining picks.
“It is funny when you look at the draft, the first two years, we only took one defensive player,” coach Rex Ryan said. “This year, we have, what, two players on defense? That’s a record for me being a head coach.”
New York drafted Louisville running back Bilal Powell in the fourth round, giving the Jets some depth in the backfield. He joins LaDainian Tomlinson, Shonn Greene, Joe McKnight _ last year’s fourth-round pick _ and fullback John Conner, the team’s fifth-rounder a year ago in the Jets‘ solid rushing attack.
“I just want to come in and compete,” Powell said moments after being drafted. “I just want to get under those guys and learn the system and compete everyday.”
It’s uncertain when that will be, though, given the NFL’s uncertain labor situation with an on-again, off-again and now on-again lockout.
The Jets traded up eight spots in the fifth round, swapping places with the Philadelphia Eagles and taking TCU wide receiver and special-teams ace Jeremy Kerley. They also sent a sixth-round selection to Philadelphia for the Eagles’ seventh-round pick in the deal.
In the seventh round, the Jets took Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, who helped the Crimson Tide win the national title as a junior in 2009, and Colorado wide receiver Scotty McKnight, a childhood buddy of quarterback Mark Sanchez and the school’s career leader in receptions and touchdown catches.
The Jets addressed their defense early in the draft, taking Temple defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson in the first round Thursday and Hampton nose tackle Kenrick Ellis in the third on Friday.
Powell ran for 1,405 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 18 passes for 158 yards and three more scores in his senior season, his first as a starter for the Cardinals. He took on a more prominent role in the offense last season under new coach Charlie Strong, who replaced Steve Kragthorpe.
“My role changed and they gave me a different opportunity to play,” Powell said.
Powell didn’t run at the NFL combine because of a pulled right hamstring that he said is still healing, but the Jets are confident he’ll be fine when football starts up again. An excited Ryan, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and several other team officials were shown congratulating each other in the team’s draft room on NFL Network after the pick.
It was a curious selection if only because the Jets already have a few versatile pass-catching threats in the backfield in both Tomlinson, who’ll be 32 but wants to come back, and McKnight, who is expected to play a bigger role this season.
“It was a position of strength and we made it better,” Tannenbaum said.
“I almost felt like, the other teams, they never wanted us to take this guy,” Ryan said. “Sometimes, it’s, ‘Here’s the strength of your team.’ Well, we just added another.”
By Joy Overbeck
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