With a strong emphasis on character and solid football players, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected nine players in the 2002 NFL draft on April 20-21, as they look to improve a team that went 6-10 in 2001 and finished below .500 for the second straight year. With 46 new players on the squad since the end of last season, head coach Tom Coughlin sees better days ahead.
"What we've accomplished in the draft, in addition to what we did in the offseason, as I look at it, I see optimism. I see an arrow that goes up," said Coughlin. "I think the down part is over and the ascending part is here. That excites me."
The Jaguars chose four players on offense, four players on defense and a placekicker, who will join six new veterans and 11 undrafted rookies on the 92-man roster. They made two trades in the two-day draft, picking up an extra selection and middle linebacker Wali Rainer, a three-year starter for the Cleveland Browns.
"We wanted to bring people here who displayed the characteristics of toughness, focus, purpose, high work ethic and solid character," said Coughlin. "But that has to be matched up with being good football players - I don't want to get away from the understanding of that. Everyone is speculating on our football team in a negative way. Most of us, as humans, when they put you in the corner or put you in that position, you bull your neck and you want to do something about it. It's time for production and for playing a better brand of football. That's a great challenge."
The Jaguars' first-round selection was defensive tackle John Henderson from Tennessee, marking the team's highest selection ever for a defensive lineman and the second year in a row a defensive tackle has been selected in the first round.
"John Henderson is the kind of football player we wanted," said Coughlin. "He's a guy with very strong intangibles. He's a leader. He's a worker. He's been the spokesman for the Tennessee defense for a couple of years. He won the Outland Trophy as a junior. He came back to win the national championship at the University of Tennessee (in 2001). He had a high ankle sprain in his first game of his senior year, but the key that I look at is he played with the high ankle sprain, and he had 70 percent playtime. He can come in be an immediate impact guy on our football team."