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Draft class will hold the key

Join *Jaguars Inside Report *Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Divad Nosnikta from Jacksonville:
Do you think Coughlin is being a little premature in declaring the Jaguars a team in ascension? He didn't even wait until they put the pads on before saying the Jaguars are an ascending team!
I have no problem with that statement. When I look at the Jaguars' situation, I see a team that is well on its way to salary cap repair. That's a major move upward. In terms of the roster, even though the Jaguars have lost several premium veteran players and that must be considered a negative situation, they have done a credible job of patching holes with affordable replacements. Their 2002 draft class will ultimately determine whether this team is in ascent or decline. If next season reveals a healthy nucleus of long-term players for the Jaguars' future, this team will clearly be considered to be in ascent. Tom Coughlin is counting on the emergence of those young players when he says the "arrow is pointing up."

Trip Stanly from Jacksonville:
Overall, did the Jags draft based on needs or did they pick the best available player? If they did not pick the best available player, who in your opinion was the best available player at that pick?
Albert Haynesworth may have been the top-ranking player on most team's value boards when the Jaguars made their first-round choice, but Haynesworth has no one to blame but himself for being passed over. Two days before the draft, Tom Coughlin conducted a lengthy telephone interview with Haynesworth and Haynesworth said all the wrong things. Coughlin was not comfortable with making him the Jaguars' selection, which then made John Henderson an easy choice. Henderson clearly fit where he was drafted. The Jaguars were high on Mike Pearson and believe he also fit where he was selected in the second round. There may have been better athletes still on the board, but the Jaguars liked him and he fit a critical need. You could make a point Pearson was a need pick. Most people believe Akin Ayodele was an absolute need selection in the third round. Coughlin was adamant in making the point that all of his second-day selections were best-available-player selections. I'm satisfied the Jaguars selected players where they fit, but it's also very apparent Coughlin's top priority was satisfying his team's greatest needs. He admits to being a needs-based drafter.

Ronald Shider from Jacksonville:
I really like what the Jags have done in this offseason. Do you think this team has a chance to be better than last year's team?
I think they have a chance to win more than six games, but I won't define improvement based solely on the final record. In my opinion, if the Jaguars are competitive in all of their games and identify a healthy nucleus of quality young players for their long-term future, they will have greatly improved their situation over last season. Don't forget, when last season ended, this was an old, capped-out team that was about to undergo a major facelift. If they finish next season as a young, cap-healthy team that is expected to add talent to its roster over the offseason, I would clearly consider the team's situation to have been improved.

Trey Sinclair from Macclenny, FL:
I think it's exciting the Jaguars are rebuilding; my problem is with the salary cap. Several players have taken the league minimum salary to prove their worth through playing time. What happens when they turn out to be great players? Will we be in a financial situation to re-sign them and, if not, will we be able to find more talent like them ready to play for a fraction of their worth?
What a great problem that would be. Trey, that's exactly what you want to happen.

Travis Dollar from Memphis, TN:
My question concerns the tight end position. Having watched Kyle Brady since his time at Penn State and knowing of his ability, what will a person like Ryan Prince have to do to be able to work into the 53-man roster this year?
Ryan Prince will have to prove his blocking and pass-catching abilities are worthy of an NFL roster, and he will have to prove he can be a valuable special teams contributor. The Jaguars tight end situation is likely to undergo change in 2003 and those young players who establish themselves as prospects worthy of development will not be ignored.

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