Tom Coughlin has long-maintained the draft is "all about needs," but yesterday's first round may prove to have been all about fate.
Had fate not intervened, the Jaguars' first-round selection would likely have been Miami offensive tackle
Bryant McKinnie. It was decided by Dallas, Kansas City, Minnesota and a tenacious Chiefs equipment manager McKinnie would not fall to the Jaguars. Here's how it happened.
In the process of consummating a trade with the Chiefs, Dallas owner Jerry Jones expired his allotted 15 minutes. That meant the Vikings, the next team in the order, could have made their pick had they immediately handed NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue the Vikings' draft card when the Cowboys' time expired.
North Carolina defensive tackle Ryan Sims' name was on the Vikings' card and their representative was said to be on his way to the podium, but was blocked by the Chiefs rep, which allowed the Cowboys to submit their trade card and for the Chiefs to make Sims their man. It, then, immediately followed that Minnesota selected McKinnie, the Cowboys (in the Chiefs' former spot) picked Roy Williams, and the Jaguars decided on John Henderson.
Sims, McKinnie and Henderson are the three players affected by the trade. Had the Vikings beat the Chiefs to the podium, Sims would be a Viking, Henderson or Albert Haynesworth would likely be a Chief, and McKinnie would be a Jaguar.
How will fate have altered the fortunes of those three players and their three teams? Will all of them become NFL stars, or will it be only one of them? Will the Vikings win for having lost? Will the Jaguars have benefited from McKinnie not having been available? Or will the Chiefs' equipment manager step into draft lore?
At the end of yesterday's proceedings, with the clock nearing the midnight hour, Coughlin surveyed his three-round take and decided it was to the Jaguars' advantage fate intervened. After selecting Henderson, the defensive lineman the Jaguars desperately needed, Coughlin grabbed the left tackle he coveted, Mike Pearson, in the second round. All of a sudden, two needs were satisfied, but that would not have been the case had the Jaguars selected McKinnie in the first round.
Coughlin agreed with a reporter who suggested the defensive lineman the Jaguars needed would not have been available in the second round. Had McKinnie been the Jaguars' first-round pick, Alabama-Birmingham defensive tackle Eddie Freeman would likely have been Coughlin's second-round choice, and defensive coordinator John Pease wrinkled his nose at that prospect.
Are you better off with Henderson and Pearson than you would've been with McKinnie and Freeman, Coughlin was asked?
"Absolutely," he answered.
The Henderson pick has come under mild criticism because Haynesworth is thought to offer more athletic ability and greater upside, but Pease said he and defensive line coach Lucious Selmon signed off on the Henderson choice.
"This guy a year ago, when he was healthy, was spectacular in the open field. In the open field, there's no question Henderson has more talent (than Haynesworth). Heart is a talent. The ability to fight through injury is a talent," Pease said of Henderson, who rose above Haynesworth in Coughlin's estimation as a result of superior intangibles. Henderson has leadership qualities and he plays hurt. Coughlin loves that.
What the draftniks don't love is that Henderson is a high-cut guy who often plays too high for a defensive tackle, which may qualify him for a move to defensive end, but there are concerns he may not be quick enough to be an end.
"If he can play like he did (in 2000), he can be as high as he wants," Pease said, but then confessed he will make an effort to lower Henderson's center of gravity. "He's not a natural knee-bender. Marcus Stroud is not a natural knee-bender," Pease added.
How do you lower a 6-6 man?
"Sled work," Pease said. "In the SEC, he's been able to play a little higher and control people. There's a possibility he could be a defensive end for us."
Coughlin was chipper as he reviewed his first day's work. He joked with reporters and clearly gave reason to believe he was satisfied with the Henderson-Pearson one-two punch. It was reminiscent of the previous year's draft, when Coughlin grabbed Stroud in the first round and offensive tackle Maurice Williams in the second round. So, in the last two drafts, Coughlin has drafted his long-term defensive and offensive tackles.
"We went into the draft knowing we had to address the offensive and defensive lines. We may do that again (on the second day); perhaps a receiver or corner, or a developmental quarterback," Coughlin offered as a preview. "We've accomplished the objective of the defensive line in the first round, the offensive line in the second round. I think we got a lot accomplished (Saturday). Let's just hope we can have a solid day (Sunday) and put it all together."