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Harris expects options


They spent their money in free agency on defense, which is leading some to think the Jaguars will turn to offense in the draft. Coach Jack Del Rio, however, makes no promises.

At today's draft preview media luncheon at Alltel Stadium, Del Rio was asked if he was OK with his personnel on offense. The Jaguars, of course, were a disappointing 29th in the league in points scored last season.

"I'm OK with us not panicking and manufacturing a player who's not there," Del Rio said, referring to the fact that the crop of offensive players available in free agency was not especially attractive or deep. "We have not tried to manufacture a player who is not there. We've been responsible with the salary cap."

It has been one of the consistencies through the first two-plus years of the Del Rio/James Harris regime. Under Del Rio and Harris, the team's personnel boss, the Jaguars have established one of the healthiest salary caps in the league. The Jaguars have been extremely responsible in their spending.

So what will this weekend's draft offer in the way of talent available to the Jaguars? Will the best available player this Saturday play offense or defense? And at what point would the Jaguars consider addressing need?

"If the players are graded the same, we'll go for need. If there's a difference in the grade, we'll go for the best available player," Harris said.

With the 21st pick of the draft, the Jaguars could face a major decision between needs on both sides of the ball. The team clearly needs a cornerback, and as many as two or three top-rated corners could be available. The Jaguars might also like to address offensive tackle and wide receiver, and worthy prospects at those two positions could also be available.

Who would they choose? Well, that's the question Del Rio and Harris wouldn't answer at today's gathering. For the answer to that question, we'll have to wait until late Saturday afternoon.

"Aside from quarterback and defensive tackle, we feel there isn't a position on the team we couldn't upgrade," Del Rio said. "Our approach has been consistent through the years. We believe the draft is the lifeline of a team. We've been involved in free agency, but selective. We've been gearing up for the draft.

"We feel we've positioned ourselves to go into the draft and select the best available player," Del Rio added.

That player, of course, could be on the defensive side of the ball.

Del Rio defended the Jaguars' first-round pick of a year ago, wide receiver Reggie Williams, whose rookie-season stats were mildly disappointing.

"He's a young, talented wide receiver who's going to benefit from being here this offseason and from having been here last year. He's going to be the player we envisioned when we drafted him last year," Del Rio said.

One of the theories is that new offensive coordinator Carl Smith will provide the necessary fix on offense; maybe the personnel on offense is better than last year's rankings would suggest.

Jaguars college scouting director Gene Smith said this year's draft is deepest at wide receiver and running back on offense, and at defensive end and defensive back on defense. Smith also said this draft pool has some depth to it.

"We think there are some options at 21. We think we can get good value at 21. We should have a good option of a couple of players to pick from," Harris said.

Offense or defense? It's a pick 'em.

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