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75° Good Afternoon

Jets brass won't rule out drafting a first-round quarterback

Geno Smith (7) prepares to pass during warmups

Geno Smith (7) prepares to pass during warmups before a game against the Miami Dolphins. (Dec. 29, 2013) Credit: AP

INDIANAPOLIS -- Rex Ryan rattled off reasons why Geno Smith is, as he claims, "headed in the right direction." The one thing the Jets head coach refused to do, however, is discuss the overall state of the Jets’ quarterback situation.

Ryan again stressed that he’s pleased with the growth Smith showed over the course of his rookie campaign. But the Jets still aren’t ready to name Smith the outright starter heading into their offseason program.

“When you look at it, there’s really no need to right now,” Ryan said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We don’t know what the deal is. Let’s see what our roster looks like and then we’ll make those statements. I don’t think there’s a need right now, with any player. I think over the six years, maybe I’ve learned that’s probably the best way to handle it.”

And if the Jets aren’t officially set at quarterback, that means they very well could draft a QB in the first round. Right?

“Hey, I think right now, anything’s a possibility,” said Ryan.

Asked point-blank if he’d take a first-round QB, general manager John Idzik said: “We’re open to drafting the best player for the New York Jets. You witnessed it last year. I think we raised some eyebrows last year with someone a lot of people didn’t anticipate us drafting who we did. And that was purely a function of we’re going to draft who we believe is the best player for the Jets, regardless of position.

“That said, I’ve always said draft is a talent-based operation and that’s what I tried to just summarize, whereas free agency you focus on your needs. In an ideal world, you’d like to be able to draft need, but you don’t want that to force the issue. Part of it is aligning the board, getting all the information you need, through the combine, April meetings, through pro days, all the workouts and interviews you go through and then you stay true to what you believe in your board.”

Idzik praised Smith for finishing 2013 “on a strong note,” but also made it clear “we don’t anoint starters in February. We don’t anoint them in March.”

But Smith certainly doesn’t need a vote of confidence from his front office. In an interview with Newsday during Super Bowl week, the quarterback said: “Regardless of anything, as long as there's a season next year, I'll be starting.”

Though the Jets have yet to confirm that will be the case, Ryan had no problems with Smith making the claim. In fact, he said he liked Smith’s confidence.

“That’s what you want from your players,” Ryan said. “You want that, especially at that position and corner. Those are two spots that you better have that makeup and that mentality. So no, I’m happy that he feels that way.”


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