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Why You Shouldn't Be Down on Joe McKnight

A lot of people were surprised by the selection of Joe McKnight. I was one of them. Initially I was a bit turned off by the pick, but it is growing on me. I started thinking of the reasons I didn't like the pick at first.

The most obvious is probably the Reggie Bush comparison. Bush has been a disappointment as a pro by almost any standard. He was the last really athletic running back to come out of USC. The two have been compared from the second McKnight set foot on USC's campus. We associate Bush with disappointment and underachieving.

Is it really fair to hold McKnight accountable for Bush's failures, though? The answer is no. They are two separate people. They may have gone to the same school. They may have similar attributes. They are not the same player, though. Because of their similarities, there is a tendency to think they will turn out the same, but think about it. Did Matt Leinart's failures as a pro mean Mark Sanchez would be a bust? Did how Curtis Ennis, Blair Thomas, or Ki-Jana Carter failed as pro running backs prevent fellow Penn State runner Larry Johnson from becoming a good pro? How about Jeff Tedford quarterbacks Kyle Boller, Joey Harrington, and Akili Smith? Should they have made teams pass on Aaron Rodgers?

McKnight should be judged on his own merits. Can he carry it 25 times per game? Maybe not, but that's not what the Jets need. It's not why they took him. They want a speedy outside runner who can receive out of the backfield. They want a homerun hitter dangerous in space to compliment Shonn Greene. McKnight can do all of these things. I think back to when he played in the Rose Bowl his freshman year, and he looked like he was playing two gears faster than Illinois defenders who didn't belong on the same field. I remember how he kept making clutch play after clutch play on the final drive last year at Ohio State facing the eventual Big Ten champion in one of the most difficult road venues in all of sports. He lifted a team with a true freshman quarterback on his back. I think of his almost super human agility. It's better than Bush's. He makes people miss like he was born with an innate ability to do so.

The Jets got a back capable of taking over a game with a few touches. They felt he was a better bet than a back coming off a catastrophic injury who team doctors weren't confident would be ready to start the season. McKnight was a fourth round pick. In hindsight, that may have been where a specialist like Bush should have gone. Had he, we may not have this subconscious fear McKnight will be a disappointment.