Tannenbaum puts talent above need in draft

Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum watched pre-game warm-ups.

Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum watched pre-game warm-ups. (Sept. 1, 2011) (Credit: John Dunn)

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- For Mike Tannenbaum, superior talent supersedes team needs. Echoing the sentiments of coach Rex Ryan, the Jets general manager said during a predraft news conference Thursday that he'll go after the best player available rather than someone who can fit a potential hole.

"They're all important," Tannenbaum said when asked about the Jets' weak pass rush and lack of depth at safety and wide receiver. "Those are areas we certainly could add, but . . . I think it always comes back to: take the best player."

The Jets, with the 16th overall pick, have been linked to Alabama safety Mark Barron, North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw and Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd. With 10 picks (including four compensatory), Tannenbaum said he has more flexibility to take advantage of every opportunity.

"We'll have 16 names we're comfortable with," said the GM, who traded up to get Darrelle Revis, Dustin Keller and Mark Sanchez. "Could we slide up or back? We're certainly going to be open to all scenarios. That's certainly been our track record."

Despite carrying three quarterbacks, he said he wouldn't rule out drafting another. He also said he could be interested in a running back and a receiver.

He said the versatility of Tim Tebow, who potentially could be used as a running back, fullback and H-back, won't affect the Jets' draft board.

"He's our backup quarterback, so that's how we're listing him, and that's how we're going to carry him on our roster," Tannenbaum said. "That could be more like a subtle tiebreaker, knowing that he has unique skill sets and athleticism.''

In the midst of discussions about potential newcomers, Tannenbaum put his current players on notice. This could be a make-or-break offseason for the 2010 draft class, he said. Namely, tackle Vladimir Ducasse. "This is a critical offseason for him," Tannenbaum said. "We have high expectations for him. We think he should help us and contribute."

Tannenbaum is expecting to see major strides from Ducasse this season.

"I've told this to a bunch of guys: 'There's a Jeremy Lin story in the NFL, and why can't it be in that locker room?' " he said. "Why can't it be Caleb Schlauderaff? Why can't it be Ricky Sapp? We're looking forward to those stories being told this year."

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