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Jaguars may be in gap area of offensive tackles


The Jaguars are almost certain to select from a deep crop of offensive linemen in the first or second round of the draft. Drafting 13th, the issue is: Will a tackle fit where the Jaguars are picking?

Leonard Davis of Texas and Kenyatta Walker of Florida are the top tackles, but both are expected to be long gone by the time the Jaguars pick. The next group of tackles would seem to begin with Jeff Backus and Maurice Williams of Michigan, but 13th may be a little high for each of them.

Unless the Jaguars trade up or down, they may find themselves in a gap area between tackles, which could force coach Tom Coughlin to wait a round until he pulls the trigger on a tackle the Jaguars absolutely must have.

Only two of the Jaguars' five offensive line positions are set: Left tackle with Tony Boselli and left guard with 2000 second-round pick Brad Meester. Center John Wade is attempting a comeback from a foot injury that cost him most of last season, and Zach Wiegert is attempting to overcome ACL surgery that probably will move him back to his natural position of right guard. Meanwhile, right tackle is wide open, and that's what the Jaguars want to address in the draft.

Beyond Backus and Williams, there is Penn State's Kareem McKenzie, Illinois' Marques Sullivan, Washington's Elliot Silvers and LSU's Brandon Winey. They are all first-day prospects.

Michigan's Steve Hutchinson is the top guard prospect and Nebraska's Dominic Raiola is a long-term solution at center, but the Jaguars' need is clearly at right tackle. The gap that exists where the Jaguars are picking is a problem Coughlin may not be able to address until teams begin jockeying into position to get the player they want.

To the Jaguars' advantage is the depth of the offensive line crop. With patience, they should be able to find long-term offensive line fixtures in the second and third rounds. Of course, the Jaguars have two third-round picks.

Mike Gandy of Notre Dame, Matt Light of Purdue, Kenyatta Jones of South Florida, Chad Ward of Washington and Jonas Jennings or Georgia are guards who carry first-day-of-the-draft grades, and first-day centers include Robert Garza of Texas A&M-Kingsville, Bernard Robertson of Tulane, Ben Hamilton of Minnesota and Casey Rabach of Wisconsin. Light, Jones and Jennings have also played tackle, and Rabach has played guard.

The Jaguars are likely to spend more than a couple of picks on offensive linemen, and the lower ranks of linemen include several prospects with distinct upside. Florida State's Tarlos Thomas and Jacksonville native Char-ron Dorsey are interesting prospects.

Coughlin almost certainly will entertain trade discussions. Does he have his eye on one tackle for whom he will trade away an extra pick to move up? Or would the depth of the crop make him consider moving down and acquiring an extra pick?

That would seem to be an issue of major suspense as the Jaguars prepare for the draft.

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