Jets Chancing Fate If They Select McFadden
Weeb Ewbank Hall on the Hofstra University campus held a press conference that told us many things, while also saying absolutely nothing. Members of the New York Jets front office met with the media for a Pre-Draft session on Thursday, which - for obvious reasons - is practically next to impossible for predictions. The Jets own the number six overall pick and will look to add to the areas that were not addressed this offseason through free agency and trades. The draft is the final element for teams to make improvements before training camps open in the summer.
General manager Mike Tannenbaum opened up by stating that the team does not have either a third or fifth round pick due to the Kris Jenkins trade from Carolina. When asked if he will select players on talents or needs, Tannenbaum responded, "Primarily, we want to say that the board will dictate what we will do. But I think if you study the evolution since 1993, you at least have to factor in need and the value of the board.
"In a perfect world," he continued, "the two will mesh. But I don't think you can take the idealistic approach of saying it is the highest-rated player and we're going to take him. It's a factor in the decision making."
One of those decisions may include Darren McFadden, the running back out of Arkansas who has been the Heisman runner-up in each of the last two seasons. The Oakland Raiders, who are picking third, are rumored to be interested in him, but if he falls to sixth, will the Jets select the talented, but troubled back?
"I really don't want to get too specific on that, " said Joey Clinkscales, the Jets Director of College Scouting. "I will say that we've talked with him (McFadden). He's a great person to talk to. We've done our homework. If that is the pick that we choose to make, we will be comfortable with that decision."
Their homework must have included the fact that McFadden has been involved in two incidents outside nightclubs (in 2006 and more recently, this past January), as well as three paternity tests in question. His running ability notwithstanding, McFadden's stock has fallen due to his off-the-field issues.
Then there is Thomas Jones, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season behind an atrocious Jet offensive line. The 29 year-old will be entering his ninth NFL season and is not an explosive runner, but definitely one that can give you a good ground game.
Back in 1996, the Jets held the first overall selection in the draft and were seriously contemplating taking Lawrence Phillips (above, during his playing days in the CFL), a very talented running back out of Nebraska. As a sophomore, he led the Cornhuskers to the 1994 national championship, rushing for a school record 1,722 yards. A year later, he was suspended by the team for assaulting his ex-girlfriend and two years later was drafted sixth overall by the St. Louis Rams. Teams that passed on him admitted that his character issues kept them from selecting Phillips.
By 1997, the Rams had released Phillips due to run-ins with then-coach Dick Vermiel after he refused to show for a team meeting and practice over playing time. The Miami Dolphins picked him up off the scrap heap for two games before they, too, had enough of Phillips' antics, which included him pleading no contest to assaulting a woman outside a nightclub.
In 1999, Phillips attempted a comeback in NFL Europe and later with the San Francisco 49ers. He then signed with the Florida Bobcats of the Arena Football League, but was cut after going AWOL. His got back on the field north of the border in 2002 in the Canadian Football League, where he helped Montreal win the Grey Cup by rushing for 1,022 yards and 13 touchdowns. The following year, he was cut in training camp for insubordination, only to sign with Calgary, who finally sent him on his way for good after he argued with their head coach.
Since then, Phillips has been in more trouble with the law, including two domestic abuse incidents, and an arrest for allegedly driving an automobile into three teenagers, in which he faces up to 20 years in the can.
Of course, there is no way to know how someone will act once they receive the big payday. Not all athletes are going to be like Phillips, but character issues are very important and a team that cannot afford any first round busts such as the Jets have to make a sound selection. McFadden's off-the-field issues would seem to be much less that Phillips', but the Nebraska product only had one incident while in college. Certain behavioral patterns rear their ugly head early on in a person's life.
12 years ago, I'm sure that Jet fans were relieved that the team chose wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson and let Phillips slide down. Johnson may have been a lightning rod in certain aspects, but was not a liability as far as legal issues go. They should tread water very carefully this time around, as they did back then.