Posted: Thursday April 26, 2012 11:05 PM

Jets take North Carolina DE Coples with 16th pick

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) - Rex Ryan kept his promise to Quinton Coples.

The New York Jets coach told the North Carolina defensive end last week that the team would draft him if he were still available at No. 16 overall. Coples can repay him and the Jets by being the dominant pass rusher they think he'll be.

"He told me that if I were still there, he was definitely going to take me,'' Coples said during a conference call Thursday night. "I'm just thankful he was a man of his word.''

Ryan made that promise to Coples during his visit to the Jets' facility, although general manager Mike Tannenbaum joked that the team "told that to 16 players.'' But Coples was the highest-rated player left on the Jets' board when it came time for them to make their selection.

"I think with this addition,'' Ryan said, "we'll push the quarterback back.''

Coples tied for third in Tar Heels history with 24 sacks, including 17 1/2 in his last two years. The Jets finished fifth in defense last season, but New York's 35 sacks ranked tied for 17th in the league, and Aaron Maybin led the team with just six. The 6-foot-5, 284-pound Coples should help fill that need immediately playing alongside veterans Sione Pouha, Mike DeVito and Muhammad Wilkerson, the team's first-round pick last year.

Wilkerson and Coples were teammates at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia for a season, and Wilkerson gave him a glowing endorsement to the Jets.

"He said that he's a good teammate,'' Tannenbaum said Wilkerson told him. "And he said, `He's a better player than me.'''

That still didn't make some fans happy - many of whom booed the pick at the draft site at Radio City Music Hall. They had been chanting for the team to take South Carolina's Melvin Ingram, while others thought Syracuse's Chandler Jones would be a better fit.

Questions about Coples' work ethic and so-so senior season had some Jets fans comparing the pick to the one New York made in the first round four years ago when they selected Vernon Gholston sixth overall. Gholston was expected to be a dominant pass rusher for the Jets, but wasn't able to make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker for the Jets. There were also questions about his love for football, and he finished his career in New York after three seasons without recording a sack.

"Those are two totally different situations,'' Ryan said. "This young man, he's going to put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer.''

Coples went through some adversity while at North Carolina as the program was involved in an agent payment scandal In 2010, and he was also investigated by the NCAA for attending a draft party for some teammate last year. He was cleared of any wrongdoing, and the Jets said everything checked out favorably for Coples.

"He stayed above the fray,'' said Joey Clinkscales, the Jets' vice president of college scouting. "This kid stayed clean.''

It's the fifth time in the last six drafts that the Jets have gone with defense with their first-round pick: Darrelle Revis (2007), Gholston (2008), Kyle Wilson (2010) and Wilkerson. The only time they took an offensive player first in that span was when they traded way up and took Sanchez with the fifth overall selection.

 
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