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Everything but the receiver

Jets load up on defense, add QB Pennington

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Posted: Saturday April 15, 2000 06:49 PM

  Chad Pennington The Jets were surprised that Chad Pennington dropped to the 18th pick. AP

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -- Stripped of a marquee wide receiver after trading away Keyshawn Johnson, the New York Jets used a record four first round choices to plug in some defensive help, a quarterback for the future and a tight end in Saturday's NFL draft.

But no wide receiver.

The Jets tried to trade up to replace Johnson but coach Al Groh said the price was too high. So New York went in a different direction, choosing Tennessee defensive end Shaun Ellis with the 12th pick and following that with linebacker John Abraham of South Carolina at No. 13.

Then they pulled a shocker at No. 18, selecting quarterback Chad Pennington of Marshall and took West Virginia tight end Anthony Becht at No. 27.

"With our first two players, we had a common formula," Groh said. "We were looking for players with power and speed. Both have excellent potential to be starters. If we stayed at 12 and 13, those are the two players we wanted."

As for Pennington, Groh said the Jets didn't expect to be available at No. 18.

"We were a little surprised to find him at that position," he said. "Pro football is a game of quarterbacks. We gave ourselves an excellent player at the position for years to come. We were able to improve at other positions and ended up with a first-round level quarterback. He was too good to pass up."

Jets First-Round Draft Picks
Year  Player  Pos  School 
2000  Shaun Ellis  DE  Tennessee 
2000  John Abraham  LB  South Carolina 
2000  Chad Pennington  QB  Marshall 
2000  Anthony Becht  TE  West Virginia 
1999  NO PICK       
1998  NO PICK       
1997  James Farrior  LB  Virginia 
1996  Keyshawn Johnson  WR  USC 
1995  Kyle Brady  TE  Penn State 
1995  Hugh Douglas  DE  Central St. (Ohio) 
1994  Aaron Glenn  CB  Texas A&M 
1993  Marvin Jones  LB  Florida State  
1992  Johnny Mitchell  TE  Nebraska 
1991  NO PICK        
1990  Blair Thomas  RB  Penn State 
1989  Jeff Lageman  LB  Virginia 
1988  Dave Cadigan  T-G  USC 
1987  Roger Vick  FB  Texas A&M 
1986  Mike Haight  T-G  Iowa 
1985  Al Toon  WR  Wisconsin 
1984  Russell Carter  CB-S  SMU 
1984  Ron Faurot  DE-DT  Arkansas 
1983  Ken O'Brien  QB  Cal-Davis 
1982  Bob Crable  LB  Notre Dame 
1981  Freeman McNeil  RB  UCLA 
1980  Johnny 'Lam' Jones  WR  Texas 
1979  Marty Lyons  DE-DT  Alabama 
1978  Chris Ward  Ohio State 
1977  Marvin Powell  USC 
1976  Richard Todd  QB  Alabama 
1975  NO PICK       
1974  Carl Barzilauskas  DT  Indiana 
1973  Burgess Owens  CB-S  Miami 
1972  Jerome Barkum  WR-TE  Jackson St. 
1972  Mike Taylor  LB  Michigan 
1971  John Riggins  RB  Kansas 
1970  Steve Tannen  DB  Florida 
Since 1970
X -- No. 1 pick
 
 

Vinny Testaverde, who will be 37 this season and is coming back from a torn Achilles' tendon, is New York's No. 1 quarterback. Ray Lucas replaced him last season, but the Jets felt they needed more protection at the position.

That was fine with Pennington.

"It's a win-win situation for me," he said. "I go into a great football town, where I've got one of the best [position] coaches in Dan Henning being my mentor, and Vinny Testaverde being my teacher."

Pennington said his selection by the Jets "is surprising, because that wasn't the talk." He had expected to be taken by either the 49ers, Steelers or Broncos.

If he was surprised, Abraham was shocked, so stunned in fact that he confused teams, saying that he was anxious to come in and make an impact "for the Giants."

Abraham had 23 1/2 career sacks but he expected to go lower. "It was a shock to me," he said. "It was a total surprise to me. I bring a lot as a pass rusher. I can play."

So can Ellis, who came back after fracturing his hip in a 1998 car accident to post 8 1/2 sacks and 42 tackles last season at Tennessee. He ended his career with six tackles and a sack in the Fiesta Bowl against Nebraska.

Ellis was unsure where he fit in as the draft began.

"I had a good feeling but I really didn't know," he said. "I'm just coming in to do the best I can, pressure the quarterback and stop the run."

Groh said the Jets would have picked Becht at No. 18 if Pennington had not been there. "He does fall into the same category as Ellis and Abraham in that he's a big, tough player," he said. "He's got size and power and demonstrated toughness."

"I'm happy to be a Jet," Becht said. "It's a great opportunity for me."

The Jets would have liked a shot at one of the high-profile receivers like Peter Warrick, Plaxico Burress or Travis Taylor to replace Johnson. But they all went in the first 10 picks, leaving the team to address other needs.

Groh said in the 48 hours before the draft the Jets "talked about a lot of movement. A lot of possibilities were discussed," he said.

In the end, none of them materialized. "The asking price was too pricey," Groh said. So the Jets will find Johnson's replacement elsewhere.

Groh spoke publicly about the Johnson trade for the first time, saying he had hoped to have him for the final two years of his contract and beyond. "Then a set of events, all financial, changed that circumstance," the coach said. Johnson's contract demands caused the Jets to listen to trade offers and they came away with the 13th and 27th picks from Tampa Bay, becoming the first team in history to have four first-round picks.

Groh bristled a bit when he talked about the deal.

"Do you think we traded him because we don't think he's a good player?" the coach asked. "I have great appreciation and understanding of how important and valuable he was to us.

"Do you think I made the trade because it would make me more popular or because I don't want to win? This was not a unilateral decision. A lot of good minds worked on this. This was a `we' decision. I was probably the last one to cast a vote. It was a unanimous decision amongst all the major decision-makers on the team."

There were reports that the Jets had talked to Cincinnati about wide receiver Carl Pickens. Groh was asked if that deal was dead.

"I don't know how dead it can be since it was never alive," the coach said. "Any discussion didn't involve me and was of such superficial nature that it didn't have any life."


 
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