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49ers had the best draft

Join Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Jay from Las Cruces, NM:
I just got done watching the "Outside the Lines" about Ben Roethlisberger and the locker room issues the Steelers have had the past few years. With the six-game suspension against Roethlisberger and teammates thinking he is a prima donna, what do you think this will do to this season and the remainder of Ben's career?

Vic: Well, so much for the importance of good chemistry in the locker room, right? They won two Super Bowls with bad chemistry, so maybe they should keep it that way. As far as Roethlisberger's career, however, that's where it could get tough because he is going to face major challenges and adversity and he did it to himself. He's going to be booed and mocked by fans that will cheer his failures. His recent misdeeds have already put his team in a position that making it into the playoffs will be difficult, and when he finally does make it back into the lineup the pressure on him to perform will be intense. You bet he has regrets. He has gone from the pinnacle of his profession to its depths in one short year, and he did it all to himself.

Richmond from Jacksonville:
Will you explain to me how on earth the Jaguars were able to trade a fifth-round pick for a fourth-round pick? Am I missing something here?

Vic: Getting a player now for a pick later comes at a cost. For example, the Jaguars traded a two from 2010 to get a three in '09, which they used on Derek Cox. Having that player on your team for a year comes at a cost. The Saints used the fifth-round pick on center Matt Tennant, a player they probably targeted at a position where they had need now.

Trey from Jacksonville:
"I take back what I said about Tennant." Why?

Vic: You're referring to my blog. I wanted the Jaguars to take Tennant with that pick because he was outstanding value at 158 and the Jaguars clearly have need in the interior of their offensive line. I expressed regret that they didn't take Tennant, but when I saw what they acquired in the trade, I changed my mind. I like the value exchange. I like getting a fourth-round pick next year in a draft that's going to be loaded with quarterbacks. Getting that extra pick immediately gives the Jaguars some trade-up ammunition, should they need it to move into position to get the quarterback they want.

Jim from Jacksonville:
"Alualu is going to make Smith famous." Just out of curiosity, why do you say so?

Vic: I think the Tyson Alualu pick will make Gene Smith famous for two reasons: 1.) Mel Kiper brought the pick to prominence by harshly criticizing it. 2.) Alualu, in my opinion, has star potential. The comment is really born of what Kiper has done for some players and personnel directors in the past, when he has harshly criticized their picks. He's a man of significant media presence. He's long been America's draft guru. Hey, he was the guy for whom ESPN created the idea of televising the draft, which seemed laughable at the time. When Kiper rips you, you become famous. Ask Jeff Lageman and Bill Tobin. If Alualu is the player the Jaguars think he is, no one will question GM Gene again.

Mike from Gallitzin, PA:
It looks as though the Pirates are in midseason form. Currently, they are on a seven-game losing streak, which includes losses of 20-0 and 17-3. Additionally, they have a firm hold on last place.

Vic: They rallied in the ninth inning last night for a win that ended a 22-game losing streak in Milwaukee. It also ended arguably the worst week of baseball in major league history. Eighteen seasons in a row is in the bag already. This could be their worst team ever.

John from Charleston, SC:
Is it okay to be sad about "Big John's" release? Tell him we love him, Vic.

Vic: You bet it's OK to be sad when these guys have to leave. That's why I pound on the it's-a-young-man's-game theme. It's a way of conditioning the mind to the inevitable because the moment you get hurt or old in this game, you're gone. I didn't have a chance to say goodbye to John, but I was able to catch Clint Ingram as he was on his "Green Mile" return voyage. He stopped in my office and I wished him well. I felt a lump in my throat; I always do. Every time this happens, I'm taken back to a poignant moment in my career. It was training camp and I was a young reporter who had been told that a player named Reggie Harrison had been cut. Reggie blocked a punt that scored a safety in Super Bowl X. It was a turning point moment in the game. I went to his dorm room to get a comment from him. His door was open, he motioned me in and I said, "Gee, Reg, I'm sorry." He just stared at me and I knew immediately the Turk had yet to arrive. My heart sank. I've never been able to get that out of my mind. I hate it when the good guys get cut and Clint and John are good guys. It's just the way it is.

Dan from Orlando, FL:
What is the purpose of mini-camp?

Vic: To teach rookies how to practice the NFL way.

Ryan from Clyde, OH:
Every year I ask you this question. Who, in your opinion, had the best draft class and why?

Vic: Aside from the Jaguars, there are nine other teams whose draft classes I especially like. They belong to the Panthers, Texans, Chiefs, Saints, Giants, Eagles, Steelers, 49ers and Bucs. I really like what the Bucs did. Their defensive line of the future is set with Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. That's a great one-two punch in big guys. Arrelious Benn is sensational big-play value and Mike Williams in round four could be even better. I love Cody Grimm and Dekoda Watson in round seven. The 49ers, however, top the charts, in my opinion. Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati and Taylor Mays would be a great 1-2-3 start to any draft, but then add Navorro Bowman in round three and Anthony Dixon and Nate Byham in round six and I don't know how any team could top that haul of talent. Mike Singletary will straighten out Bowman and, when he does, watch out. Bowman can flat play. Dixon is a big, pounding back who'll fit perfectly with Iupati. Byham is a fantastic blocker whose pass-catching ability was hidden behind the emergence of Dorin Dickerson last season.

Shawn from Jacksonville:
Can we not worry about that anymore?

Vic: I said it over and over but the questions wouldn't go away. They just kept pounding on me and pounding on me. Well, the Jaguars didn't draft him and tickets are selling just fine. Should we have worried about it? No.

Dave from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Mel Kiper graded the Jags lowest in the league for this year's draft. Out of curiosity, I looked up last year's grade. He gave the Jags a middle-of-the-road grade of C for the 2009 draft (a draft which produced four starters), even calling Derek Cox a "big reach" in the third round.

Vic: Then don't listen to him.

David from Tuscaloosa, AL:
I respect you as both a sportswriter and as an expert on the game of football, however, I am dismayed that you would respond to extremism by being extreme yourself. You are in a great position of influence among the Jaguar community. I implore you to reconsider this stance of with us or against us. There are some very narrow-minded people in the state of Florida. I believe that we can do better than that.

Vic: You're referring to my demand that fans declare their allegiance to either pro or college football because you can't be a fan of both. It's kind of ridiculous to tell people for what team they may root, isn't it? It's about as ridiculous as fans telling a team it has to pick a certain player or they won't root for that team, isn't it?

Clell from Bee Branch, AR:
"Toad Suck Daze" will be held in Conway, Ark., this weekend. I know that's one of your favorite times of the year.

Vic: I wish I could get there, but we have mini-camp. I vacation every summer at a place where there's a part of town called "Frog Level." I guess it's my Toad Suck.

Joe from Jacksonville:
Out of Christian Ponder, Jake Locker and Ryan Mallet, which quarterback is best-suited for the Jaguars?

Vic: They're all good, but I've got a thing for Ponder. He reminds me of Matt Ryan, who I really like. When the Florida State fans do the "Draft Ponder" thing next year, they won't get any resistance from me. I like what's going on at Florida State. I think they're positioning themselves to take back the state.

Dave from Jacksonville:
Yes, how about we grade Gene from last year? Right now it's a "C," at best. While you and Gene seem to be breaking your arms trying to pat each other on the back, these guys have done nothing special, as of yet. No one reached Pro-Bowl status. Not one player outperformed his predecessor, for which he was given that position by having his competition cut before haven beaten the previous starter out. We did not make the playoffs. No receiver of this draft class caught more than previous rookies. No lineman gave up fewer sacks. No corner defended or intercepted better than the prior year. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. The jury is still out here. Management, coaches and the whole franchise are on the line.

Vic: I don't even think Kiper would agree with your assessment of the draft class.

William from Jacksonville:
Kent State had three players named to the 2010 Pro Bowl. Did you know that? I was surprised to find, too, that the Gator alumni drew a blank for 2010. I am tired of the mythology that gets thrown around this town. Can we look at some facts? I just went through the list of players who were either selected originally or eventually named to play in the 2010 Pro Bowl. I marked them down by conference. I excluded kickers, punters and long-snappers. Here are the results: ACC, 22 (Miami had 11); SEC, 15; Pac 10, 13; Big 10, 13; Big 12, 10; Big East, eight, and then 30, yes, 30 came from non-power conference schools. Joined by Kent State are such notable football powers as John Carroll, Monmouth, Bloomsburg, William and Mary, and Eastern Kentucky. These are the facts. Where is it, then, that Gene Smith and the Jaguars scouts should go if they are looking for future Pro-Bowlers?

Vic: This is why I read this column.

John from Macclenny, FL:
The final grade on Alualu vs. Tebow will obviously not be final for several seasons. Tyson has to be hands-down better or it would have been a mistake.

Vic: It was never Alualu or Tebow. Tebow was never a consideration with that pick. Your question, however, caused me to think, who would it have been had it not been Alualu? I don't know the answer. Brandon Graham? Earl Thomas? Jason Pierre-Paul? Bryan Bulaga? I'd love to know. I think I'll try to poke around a little bit on that one.

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