The Jets have their franchise signalcaller already in place, but that doesn’t mean they kept Mark Sanchez out of their mind once the 2011 NFL Draft reached its seventh and final round. They invested in quarterback insurance and got great value with the selection of Alabama’s Greg McElroy (No. 208 overall) and then they came back 19 selections later and grabbed one of Sanchez’s closest friends in ultra-productive Colorado WR Scotty McKnight.
McElroy, who wore No. 12 at ‘Bama in honor of his dad’s favorite player, also led the Tide to a national championship just as Jets great Joe Namath did. The 6’2”, 225-pounder started 27 games for the Crimson Tide, ranking third in school history with 39 touchdown passes, and his 1.52 interception percentage was the lowest in school annals.
Last season McElroy completed a sterling 71 percent of his passes for 2,987 yards and 20 touchdowns with just five interceptions. That followed an undefeated championship campaign as he threw for 2,508 yards and 17 TDs.
“That’s where the draft process is not perfect — we were definitely surprised he was there,” Schottenheimer said. “But you look at a guy who broke his thumb in the Senior Bowl and was not able to do many things in the offseason like the combine. Sometimes those guys fall through the cracks. It’s crazy to think of a guy that I think has lost maybe four games throughout his high school and college career falling through the cracks. We were thrilled when he was there and you can never have enough quarterbacks. The guy’s a winner. The guy’s extremely bright.”
Since seventh grade, McElroy owns a 40-3 mark as a starter and was 24-3 while leading the Tide. He completed his undergraduate degree in three years, posting a 3.86 grade-point average in business marketing. But the well-rounded McElroy, who threw for 56 touchdowns in his one year as a starter at Southlake Carroll HS in Dallas, has physical skills that shouldn’t be dismissed.
“He has great arm talent. I think the guy is extremely accurate. He has plenty of arm strength, arm velocity, throws the deep ball, throws the nine [go route] really well,” Schotty said. “He is maybe not as tall as you would like, like a guy 6’3”, 6’4”. But he knows how to move in the pocket and that’s what you need. It’s similar to the way we have it with Mark Sanchez — able to move around and find throwing lanes. The guy’s truly underrated when it comes to his physical ability because he has a lot of strong traits we’re excited to work with.”
McElroy also has worked under the same QB guru as Sanchez. Born in Los Angeles, McElroy began training with Mission Viejo head coach Bob Johnson in his pre-teen days.
“That should be an easy fit chemistry-wise and camaraderie-wise,” Schottenheimer said. “We think maybe we got an awfully good player to work with and develop over the years.”
While McElroy will compete behind Sanchez, McKnight hopes he’ll be in position to catch plenty of his passes from his childhood pal. The 5’11”, 185-pound McKnight, not invited to the combine, is the all-time Colorado leader in receptions (215) and receiving touchdowns (22). He was the 10th player in NCAA history to catch a pass in each game he appeared in and the Jets were quite aware of his receiving prowess.
“I remember I think it was our bye last year, Mark flew out to Colorado to watch him break the Colorado receiving record for the number of catches or yards,” said the Jets’ offensive mastermind. “You start taking notice of that. And then Mark goes out to help out with Colorado’s pro day.”
While the Buffaloes will transition from the Big 12 to the Pac-12 without McKnight, his elevation to the pros will be made easier by Sanchez.
“I think we’re getting an awfully good football player, a guy who can play in the slot and a guy who produced in a very good conference,” Schotty said. “We’re excited to add Scotty in there, and to know Mark and him will have that ‘me-to-you’ factor immediately is a benefit.”
Up Next: The Jets’ talented backfield adds Bilal Powell
Tags: Alabama, Brian Schottenheimer, Colorado, Greg McElroy, Joe Namath, Mark Sanchez, Scotty McKnight
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