FLORHAM PARK, NJ — While many football expects may say there’s a start and an end to every season, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum doesn’t take that same approach. The 2011 NFL Draft is not and has not been the first step in the off-season for him, and with his logic it never will. But whether the NFL Draft is the first step or final touch, there are still plenty of obstacles to climb before the Jets are on the clock.

“I’ve said this before, and I believe this sincerely, I look at the off-season as a big continuum,” Tannenbaum told a group of New York media members at the team’s practice facility in Florham Park Thursday. “From where I sit, I think Ari Nissim and Jackie Davidson in particular have done and outstanding job to get our 2011 off-season to a great start. Last year they extended D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Darrelle Revis and Nick Mangold. David Harris signed a one-year contract in February. The two of them spearheading our negotiations have started our off-season off in a tremendous way. The draft is just the next step. We’re going to continue to build our 2011 off-season based on what Ari and Jackie have started for us.”

While Tannebaum was outspoken in his praises for his staff, he was mums the word about releasing any real insight as to which direction they were going with their 30th overall selection in next Thursday’s draft. “We’re going to draft the best player available … We could add some depth, competition on the defensive side of the ball if the opportunity comes along … Maybe we’ll move up, maybe we’ll move back,” Tannenbaum said.

Jets G.M. Mike Tannenbaum spoke in front of New York media members Thursday for a pre-draft presser. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

That may be misdirection, but it may also be the truth. Due to the current lockout, there are a lot of issues regarding what the Jets want to do and what they are able to do come April 28th. With three of their top four receivers all restricted free agents, the level of uncertainty regarding the return of all of three is high. And unlike in year’s past, the free agency period will not begin until after the lockout ends and a new CBA deal is struck. Do the Jets draft a receiver as a contingency plan if they are unable retain Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Brad Smith or a combination of the three?

“Its the judgment of the best player on the board versus what’s going to happen in free agency. Even if you don’t get your first or second choice in free agency or the draft, there’s going to be other opportunities. If we feel like down the road we’re going to have trouble getting a player back, that may break the tie in the draft room,” Tannenbaum said.

The likelihood of the Jets trading to pluck a receiver from the top-15 (see Green, A.J.; Jones, Julio) is highly unlikely, but with “Trader” Mike at the helm nothing is out of the range of possibility. Tannenbaum has a propensity to swap picks with frequency to get the player that he wants (see Sanchez, Mark; Greene, Shonn; McKnight, Joe). However the new tier rule regarding the capping of rookie contracts based on draft positioning will add another wrench in the Jets game plan. There is uncertainty as to where the capping will be for top-tier draft picks, which may cause teams like to Jets to stay clear of moving into the top 15.  But Tannenbaum has left the door open to the situation as well as trading down, citing flexibility and an open-mind as the keys to a great draft.

“We’ve run a lot of different scenarios. When you’re at 30, there’s going to be a few trades before us. We have to be as prepared as possible, see if we can move up a few spots or back a few,” Tannenbaum said.

The addition of not being able to trade players in this draft is something that Tannenbaum and his team will also have to work around. In year’s past, that has been a good tool to execute the deals they’ve wanted. In avoiding throwing in their 2010 first-round pick in the 2009 draft day trade that allowed the Jets to take Mark Sanchez, they traded away Abram Elam, DB; Kenyon Coleman, DL; Brett Ratliff, QB. Unlike past drafts, however, the Jets hold six picks — which could make for a busy weekend in their war room.

“It’s nice to have six picks for a change, but we’ll see how long we have six picks,” Joey Clinkscales, vice president of college scouting, joked in reference to “Trader” Mike.

Other Notes:

  • The only two names mentioned by Jets personnel, although the names were first brought up by the media, were Brooks Reed — a defensive end from Arizona — and Phil Taylor.
  • In regards to what they are looking for in a conversion player, Tannenbaum said a player “needs to be smart, needs to have good hand use, needs to have quick feet and have a demeanor to be hungry to get to the quarterback”.
  • Regarding Taylor’s foot injury, they didn’t seem to be worried about it. “If you’re looking for a guy that can help you know, he and many others have a chance to do that,” Clinkscales said.
  • Scouting Staff  Statistics: Combined 223 years NFL experience, 166 with Jets. Over 5,500 scouting reports. Over 1,200 player evaluations, and roughly 250 schools visited.

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