The New York Jets made offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse the highest drafted Massachusetts football player in the National Football League since 1968, when quarterback Greg Landry was drafted by the Detroit Lions with the 11th overall pick.
The Jets selected him with the 61st overall selection (29th pick in the second round). Ducasse will be the second UMass player on New York’s squad, joining safety James Ihedigbo.
Mike Tannenbaum, the team’s general manager, is also a UMass alum.
Ducasse has the chance to start immediately; the Jets released nine-time Pro Bowl selection, Alan Faneca. He led one of the best offensive lines in the league last year, but is 33 years old and is due $5.2 million this season.
The former Minuteman will now get to compete with last year’s sixth-round pick Matt Slauson for the starting job.
“I’m a guy that [the Jets] can trust and rely on,” Ducasse said during his press conference. “Pretty much all I’m thinking about now is competing.”
If Ducasse gets the job, he will be playing in Faneca’s spot, left guard, which he hasn’t played since the spring football game of his sophomore year. However, he doesn’t see himself having any problems adjusting to the position.
Ducasse will report to rookie camp next week and could be a flexible member on the Jets offensive line.
“He’ll start out at right tackle and left guard,” Tannenbaum said to UMass Athletics. “We’re going to keep playing around with that. We feel we have some flexibility on the line with Rob Turner and Wayne Hunter, and Matt Slauson played some center at Tampa Bay last year.”
In addition to leading UMass with his blocking ability, he also impressed scouts at the NFL Scouting Combine and his school’s Pro Day. At the combine, he had 29 reps benching 225 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 5.21 seconds.
Ducasse said that from what he knew about the Jets, he feels comfortable with the offensive line’s style of play and believes he will make a smooth transition to the NFL.
“That’s the kind of offense I like, one that can run the ball over and over again. That’s what I’m used to,” Ducasse said.
The senior is from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but moved to Connecticut for high school, where he got introduced to football. Ducasse, who now resides in Stamford, CT, said his family will be in attendance to watch his first NFL game, as he is playing close to home.
While no other former Minutemen were selected in the draft over the weekend, five others were signed to NFL contracts following the draft. Wideouts Victor Cruz and Jeremy Horne were picked up by the New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively, while safety Jeromy Miles (Cincinnati Bengals) and fullback Chris Zardas (Philadelphia Eagles) were also signed. Kyle C. Harrington also got a tryout with the Miami Dolphins.
The details of the players’ contracts are unavailable.
Adam Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.