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Another Fred Taylor?

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Lorenz from Germany:
One of the experts has Heyward-Bey going to the Raiders at seven, when he's normally rated behind four or five other WRs and sometimes even falling to the second round.

Vic: Maybe he has information that the Raiders really like Heyward-Bey. The Raiders have always been big on deep speed and Heyward-Bey has it. The big mistake fans make in digesting pre-draft information is that they want it all to agree so it'll establish a universal board from which it can then be predicted how the draft will fall. It doesn't work that way. Every team has its own board and the boards differ in opinion. Vince Young is the poster player for that difference in opinion. It's unfathomable that any team could draft him with the third overall pick, but they did.

Joe from Chelmsford, MA:
Any idea when we will get a peek at the new uniforms?

Vic: They will be unveiled at a press conference on April 22.

Lawrence from Omaha, NE:
I used to sit in dread of the NFL becoming a no-cap league, but the more I read your column, the more I look forward to it. I can't see it being much different than it is today.

Vic: For small-market teams, it stopped being a maximum-cap league and became a minimum-cap league years ago. The last time the Jaguars had to concern themselves with getting under the cap was 2002. The only concern now is getting over the minimum, and that was never the intent of the salary cap system. The cap is dead. It's been dead. The only thing left to do is to take off the minimum-cap constraints and allow teams to manage themselves according to their finances and their philosophies of football operation, instead of according to other teams' finances and philosophies.

Doug from Jacksonville:
Your comment that eliminating the cap will eliminate mediocrity makes me wonder. Wasn't mediocrity (AKA parity) one of the things the cap was intended to create? My understanding was that parity was important to the league because it (supposedly) made every team closer to being a contender, which made every game closer to mattering. Is parity no longer a priority for the league?

Vic: Parity was not the main intent. Parity existed in the league long before the salary cap did. The intent of the salary cap was to control salaries and, in the process, maintain league-wide parity, but parity was not the main intent, controlling salaries was. There are several ways of achieving parity without having a salary cap. The draft and waiver wire orders are one way, but it can be done most effectively through scheduling and revenue-sharing. I agree with you that a league of haves and have-nots will be a concern in a no-cap league, but the league has means for closing that gap and more ways could be created. Here's a Vic idea: Once a team spends over a certain number, it begins forfeiting draft picks. The league is vigilant about maintaining parity.

John from Jacksonville:
You mentioned three pass-rushers moving up boards. Who are they?

Vic: Brian Orakpo, Aaron Maybin and Everette Brown are on the move, as you would expect of guys who are thought to be premier pass-rushers. What would any draft be without late-rising pass-rushers? If one of the quarterbacks is going to fall to the Jaguars' pick at eight, which the team might then use to trade down, it would be the result of these pass-rushers moving into the top 10. These are players the Jaguars are also likely to consider candidates for their pick. Don't dismiss them. They are potential impact players at the most premium position on defense.

Kelvin from Atlanta, GA:
Vic, you've got to realize that people are just trying to figure you out with the running back conversation and possible Jags selection. The seasoned Vicsters know you're throwing hints, we just need to catch them.

Vic: The simple fact of the matter is that I can't tell you who I would pick, only who I would've picked. When you're a BAP guy, you can't say who you'd pick without knowing who has already been picked. When I come out with my final, all-important value board, I will have, in fact, locked in my pick because at that point there's no turning back. My pick will be the best available player. That's one of the things I like about BAP; you can't lie about who your pick should be if you published your board, which I have and will do again. I can tell you that my pick last year would've been Ryan Clady because he was the highest-rated player on my board who was still available when the Jaguars picked, but I can't tell you who it will be this year, for the obvious reason. When the draft is over, we'll know and I'll have to stand by it. Teams, of course, don't make their boards known to the public. I do and that means all of the fun is looking back, not forward.

Mark from Jacksonville:
How were college players allocated before the AFL/NFL merger? Did each league hold its own college draft?

Vic: Yes, each league held its own draft. The NFL draft was made known to the public; the AFL draft was a secret event, for strategic reasons. How can a player ask for first-pick money if nobody knows who the first pick is, right? The bottom line is the AFL draft wasn't as much a draft as it was a strategic assigning of players rights. The talent was allocated in such a way to maximize the potential for signing players to contracts. Joe Namath is a perfect example. I don't think it was an accident that he ended up in New York.

Rajesh from Jacksonville:
I was listening to the archived version of the March 25 "Jaguars This Week" radio show. Regarding your comment on rule changes, do you see more touchdowns scored by special teams and thereby increasing the importance of quality special teams players?

Vic: No, I don't see the wedge rule increasing touchdowns and big plays on special teams. In fact, the result is likely to be the opposite. In the case of special teams, the concern for player safety actually favors the coverage teams. The thing I see happening as a result of the rules changes, especially the one that further de-claws defensive backs, is an explosion in yards after the catch. Receivers are going to go over the middle without fear in 2009, whereas defensive backs are likely to be hesitant in making what I call "El Kabong" hits. Safeties will have to be form tacklers and I can probably count on one hand the number of form-tackling safeties in the league right now. Big-play, run-after-the-catch receivers such as Larry Fitzgerald and Santonio Holmes are going to go wild. Frankly, if I was an offensive coordinator, I wouldn't even bother throwing the ball outside the numbers. I'd live in the middle of the field – hey, who needs a strong-armed quarterback? – because I think you can do so without fear of getting your receivers killed. I could be wrong on all of this and, please, tell me if I am, but it's my opinion that quarterbacks and receivers are going to re-write their teams' record books this season.

Genebee from Jacksonville:
Wouldn't picking Beanie Wells or any running back with the number eight pick create a public relations nightmare, having to instantly pay him $18 or $19 million when Jones-Drew is looking for a new contract and after letting your most productive Jaguar ever, Fred Taylor, leave over $4 million?

Vic: That's why you need savvy fans. You need fans that understand that the integrity of drafting the best available player must be unaffected by political correctness. It must be understood that the draft is about collecting talent, not massaging or manipulating public opinion, bank accounts or egos. Don't look for easy ways out. Pick the best players available and let fate take care of the rest. Picking Ben Roethlisberger would've made for a sticky situation, right?

Phillip from Sierra Vista, AZ:
From what I've gathered, you're high on Gene Smith. What characteristics does Gene Smith possess that impresses or intrigues you?

Vic: He's a product of Blesto and the legendary Jack Butler, and I like Butler's Blesto guys because they were trained to be no-nonsense scouts and that's what Gene is, a no-nonsense scout. On the day of the running back workouts at the combine, I met Gene for an interview in the hotel coffee shop, at six a.m., and I got the feeling he had already done an hour's worth of work. There won't be any flying by the seat of the pants with Gene. He is disciplined in his preparation and thorough in his evaluation. I love his steadfast adherence to the value line. Some guys see the draft as an extension of the team and, therefore, they use the draft to complement the team. I see the team as an extension of the draft, which is to say the team is built through the draft and, therefore, it is the draft. I think Gene would agree with that belief and that tells me he's never going to cannibalize the draft for the sake of the team. Finally, it's Gene's obsession for collecting picks that I like the most. He's a draft guy, not a free agency guy, and anyone who has read this column for any period of time knows that I am very definitely a draft guy and not a free agency guy, too. When the draft is that important to someone, he's likely to draft well. That's my expectation.

Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I did not follow Chris Wells that much but after listening to "Jaguars This Week" I started watching his highlights to see why you liked him so much. He reminds me of Jim Brown; what a horse (Wells) is. A thick-legged, fast guy with very quick feet. How are his hands? Can he catch?

Vic: He has great hands. He has hands every bit as soft as another Ohio State running back, Keith Byars, except Wells has running skills Byars never possessed. Put on a Wells highlight tape and your eyes pop out of your head. Put on his lowlights tape and you see a guy who tends to get stuck in the hole. I talked about this previously. I would see it and I would wonder why. At first I thought he may lack vision, but that wasn't it. Then I considered the possibility that he didn't have the feet to bounce to another hole, but that's not it, either. I asked around and the answer I'm getting is that he has a tendency to get too upright at the line of scrimmage. He needs to be taught to drop his pads and play behind them. When I heard that I was immediately taken back 11 years to another running back prospect, a kid named Fred Taylor. That was the rap on him, too; he needed to learn to drop his pads. Another Fred Taylor? Give him to me. Wells has fantastic upside. He may be the best physical specimen in this draft. We're talking about a guy 237 pounds who ran a 4.38 at his pro day. If you draft him, however, it must be with the understanding that he needs development. He needs to be taught to drop his pads and hold the ball closer to his body. His hands? He doesn't need any development there.

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