TOJ – “What If”, Episode 2: New York Jets Don’t Draft Vernon Gholston

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There were many questionable draft choices made by now former New York Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum, but none more so than former Ohio State Buckeye Vernon Gholston. The 2007 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, Gholston was one of two players to record a sack against his draft’s top pick, left tackle Jake Long, in his entire college career. Gholston was drafted in 2008 sixth overall, and was expected to be the Jets primary pass rusher out of the 3-4 outside linebacker position. We all know what happened next: Gholston did not record a single sack during his time with the Jets, and was released after the 2011 season. From the time Gholston was drafted to the time he was released by the team, 606 players recorded at least one sack. What if the Jets never drafted Gholston?

Date: April 26th, 2008
Place: Radio City Music Hall
Time: 3:07 PM.

Eric Mangini, entering his second season as the New York Jets head coach, is on the phone with new Jets running back Thomas Jones. Jones, acquired last year in a trade with the Chicago Bears. He is asking Mangini what the plan is for the Jets during the draft. Mangini, a Bill Belichick disciple, tells Thomas that the Jets want to trade down, add depth, and leave the league surprised. Jones chuckles, tells Mangini that he could use some fat guys up front to block for him, and quickly hangs up.

Mangini walks over to Mike Tannenbaum and asks him what he’s thinking. Tannenbaum says that he really likes the kid from Ohio State and thinks that he could be a real difference maker. Mangini tells Tannenbaum that he thinks the Jets would be better served by trading back and trying to recoup the second rounder that they lost in the Jones trade the year before. Tannebaum tells Mangini that he agrees. Tannenbaum turns to defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and asks him if he agrees with this line of thinking. Sutton says “you don’t draft defensive ends to play linebacker. You draft linebackers to play linebackers. That’s all I’m going to say.”

Mangini asks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer if he thinks the Jets should draft on the offensive side of the ball or the defensive side of the ball. Schottenheimer says “Chad’s a game manager and if he goes down, we go down, so we need to keep him upright.” Mangini agrees. Mangini tells Tannenbaum that they should call Detroit, since word is Detroit would like to target a defensive end and see if they want Vernon. Mangini says that he thinks that the Jets can target a defensive end in the second or third round. Tannebaum agrees and calls Detroit Lions General Manager Matt Millen. After speaking to Matt Millen for about 5-10 minutes…

Cut to the Commissioner…

We have a trade to announce. The New York Jets have traded the sixth overall pick to the Detroit Lions in exchange for the 15th pick in the first round and the 45th pick overall, pick number 14 in the 2nd round..

The Detroit Lions, and Matt Millen, draft a Wide Receiver (Donnie Avery, from Houston…cause Matt Millen, right?) with the 6th overall pick in the first round. Vernon Gholston ends up being drafted 8th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, causing Derrick Harvey from Florida to fall all the way to number 28 in the draft, where he is selected by the Seattle Seahawks. The rest of the first round until the Jets selection is as follows:

6. Detroit- Donnie Avery, WR
7. New Orleans- Sedrick Ellis, DT
8. Jacksonville- Vernon Gholston, DE
9. Cincinatti- Keith Rivers, LB
10. New England- Jerod Mayo, LB
11. Buffalo- Leodis McKelvin, DB
12. Denver- Ryan Clady, OT
13. Carolina- Johnathan Stewart, RB
14. Chicago- Chris Williams, OT

With the 15th pick overall, the New York Jets select Brandon Albert, offensive tackle from Virginia..

Once the pick is announced, footage from the Jets war room is shown, where Eric Mangini is shown drinking chocolate milk and exchanging slow handshakes with his staff. During an interview with ESPN, Mangini reveals that Brandon Albert will move to left guard, where he will join a line of D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Anthony Clement, and Brandon Moore. Mangini says that, when the Jets scouted Albert, they realized he “fits much better at Guard where his lack of foot speed will not hurt the team.” Mangini says that “Brandon’s a good, young kid, that will compete for us, and hopefully make holes for Thomas Jones.”

The rest of the first round goes the way you remember it, with the Jets still trading up with Green Bay to draft Dustin Keller. The beginning of the second round breaks the same, until it is time for the Jets to draft with the second round pick they acquired from Detroit.

With the 45th pick in the 2008 NFL draft, the New York Jets select defensive end Calais Campbell from the University of Miami..

Back to the New York Jets war room we go, where Mangini, Sutton, and Tannenbaum are all smiles while drinking tea and eating croissants. We cut to an interview with Bob Sutton and Eric Mangini, where both say that they “are thrilled to add a player of Calais’s potential”, and that they “can’t wait to see him with Shaun Ellis, Mike DeVito, Sione Pouha, who we really like, and big Dwayne Robertson.”

What If…

The Jets would’ve had an offensive line of Ferguson at LT, Albert at LG, Mangold at C, Moore at RG, and Clement at RT that would’ve paid immediate dividends for running back Thomas Jones, who was coming off an 1100+ yard season. Drafting Albert would’ve prevented the signing of either Damien Woody or Alan Faneca the following offseason. Adding Calais Campbell, who has had at least 6 sacks in every year except his rookie year, would’ve helped the Jets generate a pass rush fairly consistently, and would’ve led to the front of Kris Jenkins, Shaun Ellis, and Calais Campbell in 2008, with DeVito and Pouha on the roster as depth. Instead, the New York Jets drafted one of the biggest busts in NFL history. Until next time Jet fans…

  • Steven S. Lawler

    The Jets addressed a need at running back on March 6,2007 by acquiring running back Thomas Jones from the Chicago Bears. In addition to Jones, the Jets received the 63rd pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, in exchange for the Jets’ 37th pick, which the Jets acquired from the Washington Redskins last year. Jones then signed a four-year, $20 million deal with the team. Source “Wikipedia”.

  • Dalbin

    You’re right Steven; I got the date that Jones was acquired wrong, which would in turn change the scenario. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • KAsh

    Draft a tackle to play left guard in the middle of the first round? Everyone would have eaten the team alive. This would have made the Jets worst drafts with footage of the talking heads saying that the Jets did not have a clue about how to draft.

    We first need to ignore MT’s aversion to trading down. Then, we need to ignore that Mangini, by all accounts, was an awful coach that could have turned gold into grime had he gotten his hands on it. With those picks, the best we could have gotten is DRC and Desean Jackson. Hopefully, we would not have ruined their careers.

    Honestly, would you not rather we just got Jared Meyo? A linebacking corps of a younger Pace, Thomas, Harris, and Meyo would have been a strength for several years. A Harris and Meyo tandem would have rocked and the linebackers today would not have so many problems then.