The Jets talk a lot about taking the best player available in their pre-draft comments, and we're getting close to finding out if they practice what they preach. If they come out of the first round with a quarterback, the Jets have drafted for need above talent.
Matthew Stafford was an ordinary college quarterback. He's got great physical skills, enough that he was the top quarterback coming out of high school, but couldn't translate them into great results until Georgia's 2008 season fell apart in the first few weeks. Why did it fall apart? Because Stafford played poorly.
Not that it's worth worrying much about Stafford because the Jets would have to offer a king's ransom in trade for the right to pay him a king's ransom. Matt Sanchez of USC and Josh Freeman of Kansas State are the guys worth discussing, and they both smell a lot like last year's first pick. Vernon Gholston was a reasonably productive player at Ohio State who shot up draft boards because of predraft hype and because he looks like a prototypical football talent.
Sanchez is the first half of that equation. He's gone from a guy ridiculed for going pro to a top 10 pick in the last three months even though he hasn't thrown a meaningful pass in that time. He's very well-spoken and sounds like a franchise quarterback, which might explain why people are falling in love with him but it hardly explains why the Jets should trade up to keep him from going to someone else.
Freeman is the guy who looks the part. He's 6'5", 245 pounds with speed and strength that's at the top of the charts. He's also called a boom-or-bust project who needs time to learn, and that's by people who like him. Can the Jets really afford to risk their future there, while they don't do anything to help themselves in the near term?
Clearly the Jets need help on offense, so that's where creativity comes into play. Pat White from West Virginia was much more accomplished than any of the three quarterbacks listed above in college, and has done nothing during workouts to diminish his stock. He can run and pass with skill, and could probably catch passes if that's what he was asked to do. With an offensive coordinator who is as fond of trickery and misdirection as Brian Schottenheimer, the Jets could find plenty to do with White next season.
Go for the player with the most talent, not the most hype. That may even mean you wind up with a defensive player in the first round, but that's better than taking the trendy choice because everyone says you should.
Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.