FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The clock was ticking down and the phone inside their war room rang a few times, making for a few anxious minutes for Rex Ryan as the Jets prepared to make their first-round pick last night.
Ryan’s guy was still available and he kept chirping in Mike Tannenbaum’s ear, hoping to persuade his general manager to go ahead and get the pick in — immediately. “Rex was breathing down my neck. ‘Would you turn the card in already?’ ” Tannenbaum said. “So we had a little drama there.”
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But the Jets got their man, a player they think will help address a need in their defensive backfield. With the 29th overall pick in last night’s NFL draft, they selected Kyle Wilson, a New Jersey product by way of Boise State.
The Jets had Wilson rated high on their draft board, and Ryan was basically mumbling to himself as he saw a slew of teams ahead of the Jets pass on taking Wilson, who had a solid Senior Bowl week that had some scouts believing he had elevated himself into potentially a top-15 pick.
“We’re looking at that board, and I think I said, ‘Hang in there, just hang in there,’ ’’ Ryan said. “And that’s exactly what happened.’ ”
He added, “If we take a guy in the first round, he’s definitely going to play. And Kyle is definitely going to play for us.”
Wilson essentially has been handed the starting nickel back job and is expected to compete for the punt returner gig as well. The Jets just love the 5-10, 194-pounder’s versatility and think he’s athletic and physical enough to fit right into a secondary that includes Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis and offseason acquisition Antonio Cromartie.
Wilson, who turns 23 next month, actually was on the phone with the Vikings about five minutes before the Jets plucked him off the board. By the time he got off with Ryan, he was floating somewhere in the clouds over his home in Piscataway, N.J., still trying to come to grips with the perfect scenario that had unfolded right before his very eyes.
“I feel right at home,” said Wilson, who helped lead Piscataway High School to three state championships and a 33-3 overall record from 2002-04. “Personally, one of the best visits I had. One of the best connections I had was with the staff. I couldn’t have dreamt it any better. It’s just pretty surreal right now.”
A three-year starter who started 45 consecutive games at Boise State, Wilson stockpiled 11 interceptions, combined for 160 tackles, deflected 27 passes and recorded two sacks and two forced fumbles in his four-year career. He also did his thing on special teams, averaging 12.6 yards on 63 punt returns.
Wilson showed off his physical attributes at his pro day, running a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash. He also displayed a 38-inch vertical and bench-pressed 225 pounds 25 times.
The Jets’ brass had seen more than enough from Wilson to convince them that he was their guy if he was still available when their turn to pick came.
“He’s an athletic corner that’s also a punt returner,” Jets vice president of college scouting Joey Clinkscales said. “He’s physical, he’s a good tackler. So there were a lot of characteristics that he had that we coveted a lot. He’ll help in our sub packages and he’s a great kid.”
Wilson immediately strengthens a secondary that was a bit thin behind Revis and Cromartie. Ryan just can’t get enough defensive backs, and now he has another one to help create some havoc in his aggressive schemes.
“As I’ve said many times before, Rex has always asked for depth at the corner position,” Tannenbaum said. “So between trading for Antonio Cromartie and now adding Kyle Wilson, we feel like we’ve done that. We still feel good about Dwight Lowery and we feel that with that set of four corners, that gives us a better chance to face the passing attacks that we have to face each year in the AFC. We’re excited about Kyle.”