When most of us think of Draft needs, we think of positions where the Jets have a below average starter. Throughout his career as general manager, Mike Tannenbaum has displayed that he thinks differently. Tannnbaum has been willing to pick guys as positions where his team had an adequate starter in place. He seems to view any position where the team does not have an elite player as a need.
His picks display this clearly. He took David Harris in 2007 despite having Eric Barton and Jonathan Vilma starting at inside linebacker. He took Dustin Keller in 2008 despite having Chris Baker and Bubba Franks at tight end. He took Shonn Greene in 2009 despite having Thomas Jones and Leon Washington at running back. In all of these places, the Jets had adequate starters in place. Vilma was a difference maker but either in the wrong scheme or never given a chance to succeed in the scheme depending on whom you ask.
You could also expand this to Tannenbaum's first Draft in 2006 and look at less successful moves. He took Anthony Schlegel in the third round despite having Vilma and Barton. He took Eric Smith despite having Kerry Rhodes and Erik Coleman.
I can see both sides of his argument on his first Draft strategy of targeting specific players instead of stockpiling picks. I think he is totally right in his definition of Draft needs, though. A team either has an impact player at a position or it does not. If it does not, that position will be a need very soon. When a star declines, he usually declines to good player before average over the course of a few years. When an average player declines, he goes straight to bad.
Teams that define need solely as positions of weakness and pick accordingly make mistakes. That is how Arizona got Levi Brown instead of Adrian Peterson. They had a need at tackle and a seemingly adequate back in Edgerrin James. Tannaenbaum has found plenty of impact players at positions of desperate need like D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, and Darrelle Revis. He does not keep his definition limited, though.