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Jet draft stock soars

Green on a roll with first-round picks

BY RICH CIMINI

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Thursday, April 26th 2007, 9:38 AM

Jets score in draft circles, but among recent first-round picks, only Jonathan Vilma has made Pro Bowl.

Picking 25th in the first round, the Jets probably will mull several options when they are on the clock in this weekend's NFL draft. If recent history is an indication, the player they choose will become a solid pro who enjoys a long career.

Over the last 15 years, the Jets have been bust-proof.

Once known for their first-round follies - do the names Blair Thomas, Roger Vick, Mike Haight and Russell Carter stir memories? - the Jets have quietly established themselves as one of the most efficient drafting teams in the league.

Their last 12 first-round picks, starting with Keyshawn Johnson in 1996, remain active - the longest streak in the NFL. All told, 14 former first-rounders still are playing, dating back to Aaron Glenn (1994). Only one other team - the Rams - has that many.

"When you look across the board, the Jets are above average in every category," said NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt, a former Cowboys executive who has compiled a statistical breakdown of the last five drafts. "They've done well. Last year was a very good draft for them. If Kellen Clemens (QB, second round) becomes a starter, it'll be very, very good."

Thirteen of the Jets' last 40 selections, from 2002 to 2006, have become starters, according to Brandt's study - a 33% success rate that ranks second in the league. Curiously, Brandt declined to reveal the top team. That the Jets have performed so consistently is a minor miracle, considering the amount of upheaval in the organization. Since 1994, they have had four different personnel chiefs and six head coaches.

GM Mike Tannenbaum, preparing for his second draft, is relatively inexperienced, but his war room is filled with "former heads of state," Mangini's description for the ex-bosses. Tannenbaum's predecessor, Terry Bradway, heads a scouting brain trust that includes former personnel director Dick Haley and two former college-scouting directors, Marv Sunderland and Jesse Kaye.

That's a lot of consiglieres in one room but, from all indications, it hasn't resulted in any major blowups.

"Their experience and wisdom have been great for us," Tannenbaum said.

Remarkably, only one of the Jets' last 15 first-round picks isn't playing - Hugh Douglas, 35, a defensive end who retired after the 2004 season following a successful career. His best days came with the Eagles, a trend among the ex-No.1s. Kyle Brady, James Farrior and Santana Moss all blossomed after leaving the Jets. Only seven remain on the roster.

The Jets have hit a dry spell in terms of Pro Bowl accolades. None of their last five No.1s has received the honor (Jonathan Vilma made it as an alternate in 2005), but they have high hopes for Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson.

Ferguson, chosen fourth last year, has received lukewarm reviews. There were "some inconsistencies" in his game last season, Tannenbaum said.

"It was okay, not where I want to be," Ferguson said in a phone interview, evaluating his rookie season. "Unless you make it so that no one can question you're the right person for the job, you keep working harder."

In recent years, the Jets' biggest scores have come in the fourth round (see Jerricho Cotchery, Kerry Rhodes and Leon Washington). Currently, they don't own a fourth-round pick, having traded it away. Tannenbaum has a remedy.

"We're going to pass at 89 (in the third round), wait four spots, wake up early Sunday morning and drive our car up to Radio City Music Hall," he said, smiling.

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In recent years, the Jets' biggest scores have come in the fourth round (see Jerricho Cotchery, Kerry Rhodes and Leon Washington). Currently, they don't own a fourth-round pick, having traded it away. Tannenbaum has a remedy.

"We're going to pass at 89 (in the third round), wait four spots, wake up early Sunday morning and drive our car up to Radio City Music Hall," he said, smiling.

Smiling? Meaning you are going to trade our first for the Bears, and get a 4th and a 5th from them? hmm??? say yes b!tch.

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