Ryan: Newton can throw fruit through steel

When I sat across the table from New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan a few weeks ago in New Orleans, I said "I assume you're not going to draft a quarterback this year."

"I'm assuming that, too," said Ryan, leaning forward with a laugh.

RyanRyanThe reason I mentioned quarterbacks during the annual coaches' media breakfast at the NFL owners meeting is because I wanted Ryan's take on Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

I figured Ryan was one of the few men in the room who would give an honest take because he didn't have to pretend to be interested in either prospect.

So which does Ryan believe is better? He spoke more highly of both, but was more effusive with Newton.

"It depends on what kind of system you have and all that, what kind of offense you have," Ryan said. "I really like the kid from Auburn, Cam Newton. That's a big, talented, athletic kid. He can throw a strawberry through a battleship. He's got all the tools.

"Then I think the kid Gabbert is an excellent athlete. Florida State kid [Christian Ponder] is good. There's some good quarterbacks this year. But I think you've got to look at your system."

Chances are Newton or Gabbert -- perhaps both -- will be on the board when the Buffalo Bills pick third. Who would Ryan be most concerned competing against within the division?

"I would love to see any of the rookies in there, short-term," Ryan said with a bright smile. "Long-term? Not so much.

"Those guys kind of get the deer-in-the-headlight looks. As a defensive coach, you're like 'Oh!' You know, they think they've seen every coverage, and they think they've seen this and that. They haven't even come close. There's a lot to learn.

"The kid from Harvard, this [Ryan] Fitzpatrick kid, is a pretty good quarterback. It's going to be interesting to see what Buffalo does there."

So if the Jets aren't going to draft a quarterback, as Ryan said, then why did TCU quarterback Andy Dalton work out for Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer last week in Fort Worth, Texas?

Probably the same reason the New England Patriots not-so-secretly welcomed Washington quarterback Jake Locker last week and reportedly will meet with Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett this week.

The likely objective is to drive up the value of their draft picks by giving teams who might want Dalton -- or Mallett or Locker -- something to think about.

The Jets own the 30th selection and probably would love to trade back to acquire more picks. They lost their second-rounder in the trade for cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

Mark Sanchez is the Jets' quarterback. They don't need another young prospect there. They also will have difficulty identifying a specific player who will help them immediately at No. 30.

Might as well trade back a little and accumulate multiple draft picks.