46° Good Morning
46° Good Morning

Jets draft DE Coples in the first round

Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington (13) is hit

Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington (13) is hit by North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples (90) after releasing a pass in the fourth of an NCAA college football game in Atlanta. (Sept. 24, 2011) Credit: AP

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan stood by his promise.

After a whirlwind of trades up and down the NFL draft board Thursday night, the Jets were one of the few teams that didn't need to strike a deal to get the guy they wanted in the first round. With a plethora of pass-rush options at their disposal -- such as South Carolina's Melvin Ingram and Syracuse's Chandler Jones -- the Jets opted to go with North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, a 6-6, 284-pounder who, despite his versatility, has been criticized for his diminished production during his final season at UNC.

Despite the questions about his productivity and effort, general manager Mike Tannenbaum said, "Our process was very thorough. We're excited he's here. We're looking forward to him working with us."

The Jets were intrigued by Coples the moment they saw him at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. After spending more time with him at the combine and during his predraft visit last week, Ryan promised Coples that if he still was available at 16, the Jets would take him.

Ryan called the defensive end a "prototypical" pass rusher, adding that "it's unusual to get a guy this athletic."

"He's probably athletic enough to stand up and play linebacker. [But] that's not what we brought him here to do," said Ryan, who likened Coples to former Jets Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce. "He's going to have his hand in the dirt."

Though Jets vice president Joey Clinkscales acknowledged that Coples' stats dipped from 10 sacks his junior year (when he was a defensive tackle) to 71/2 last year, Clinkscales called him a "phenomenal athlete."

Three trades were made within the first five selections of Thursday's first round, with Cleveland, Jacksonville and Dallas moving up to the third, fifth and sixth spots, respectively.

That left the door wide open for the Jets to stand pat and ultimately select the guy Ryan wanted.

"It's unbelievable," Coples said in a conference call shortly after the pick was announced.

Coples said the Jets were the only team that was "straightforward" with him regarding their interest.

Asked about his detractors, he said: "I'm just working hard and doing the best I can to be the best athlete in the NFL as possible. And I think I'll be great for the Jets."

Tannenbaum said he sought the advice of 2011 draft pick Muhammad Wilkerson, a high school teammate of Coples' at Hargrave Military Academy. Wilkerson, according to Tannenbaum, raved about Coples and said, "He's a great teammate and a better player than me."

Coples has played several defensive line positions. The Jets, who utilize a 3-4 scheme, hope he'll develop into a pass-rushing nightmare for opponents.

Ryan was quick to point out that the Jets didn't make the same mistake they did with Vernon Gholston, whom they selected eighth overall in 2008.

Said Ryan: "We don't have a Vernon issue here."

New York Sports