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Drafting DEs is risk/reward

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

Jon from Ocala, FL:
Would you let us know what defensive ends were selected in the top 15 in past drafts, as you have with other positions?

Vic: In 1995, Kevin Carter, Mike Mamula, Derrick Alexander and Ellis Johnson (Hugh Douglas was the 16th pick of that draft); in '96, Simeon Rice, Cedric Jones, Regan Upshaw; in '97, Peter Boulware; in '98, Andre Wadsworth, Grant Wistrom and Greg Ellis; in '99, none (Jevon Kearse was the 16th player chosen); in 2000, Courtney Brown and Shaun Ellis; in '01, Justin Smith, Andre Carter and Jamal Reynolds; in '02, Julius Peppers and Dwight Freeney; in '03, Terrell Suggs, Michael Haynes and Jerome McDougle. As you can see, drafting a defensive end introduces a major element of risk and reward.

Mike from Orange Park, FL:
I've figured the average level of experience of the Jaguars roster is something just under 4.5 years. In your opinion, is this a good ratio of youth to experience? How does our average years of experience stack up to, say, the New England Patriots? Is this a trend brought about by coach Del Rio?

Vic: There is very little difference between the average age of the youngest team in the league and the average age of the oldest team in the league. The bulk of every team's roster is comprised of young, aspiring players who represent the second half of a team's roster. Teams with older, star players also tend to be cap-heavy at the top and really need to turn to cheap youth in the second half of their rosters. With that in mind, I don't put a lot of stock in the "average age" statistic. It is easily skewed by circumstances and doesn't reflect the true age of the top half of a team's roster. In determining the relative age of a team, I tend to look at the age of that team's star players. For example, in 2002 the Jaguars committed themselves to rebuilding, which introduced a lot of young players to the roster, but Mark Brunell and Jimmy Smith remained the stars of the team, and you couldn't consider Brunell and Smith young players. In contrast, last year the Jaguars brought in a lot of older, veteran players to play special teams and provide depth, but several critical positions were turned over to youth. That fact was highlighted last season by the move to Byron Leftwich at quarterback. Players such as Leftwich, Rashean Mathis, Marcus Stroud, John Henderson, Vince Manuwai, Maurice Williams and other young starters make the Jaguars a young team. The Patriots take a big "average age" hit from older veterans such as Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Roman Phifer and Rodney Harrison, but the Pats' future is protected by young stars such as Tom Brady, Richard Seymour, Eugene Wilson, Daniel Graham and David Givens. The Pats' future is also protected by a mother lode of draft choices. Don't just look at the average age. To determine a team's true age, you have to examine several factors, then ask this question: If all of the players eight years in the league or older (years 4-7 are considered to be a player's prime) were cut, would the team collapse? If the answer is yes, you got an old team. If the answer is no, don't bother with the "average age" stat.

Jake from Jacksonville:
I am getting very excited as the draft is getting closer. My question is, what type of numbers did Kenechi Udeze put up for USC? Who would you compare him to?

Vic: Kenechi Udeze tied for the NCAA lead in sacks last season with 16.5. He was third nationally in tackles for loss with 26. He also made 56 total tackles, forced five fumbles, recovered one fumble, batted down three passes and blocked a field-goal attempt. In USC's Rose Bowl win over Michigan, Udeze rose to prominence with a performance that included four tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble. His three-year USC career stats show 28 sacks, 51 tackles for loss, 135 total tackles, 14 forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, four passes batted down and two blocked field-goal attempts. His history is clearly that of a play-maker. To whom would I compare him? I don't know because the East Coast bias that exists in college football has forbidden me from seeing Udeze play more than a couple of times.

Robert from Daytona Beach, FL:
What is the word on Tony Brackens? Is he gone or close to being signed by someone else or are there on-going talks with the Jaguars to return next season? And if so would his loss or return effect the draft selection of either a DE or WR?

Vic: My understanding is that Tony Brackens has sparked very little interest in free agency, which leads me to believe he might show interest in returning to the Jaguars. If that happens, however, I wouldn't expect it to have any effect on the team's draft-day decisions.

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