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Special draft-day edition

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Cade from Orlando, FL:
I read an article in the paper today that said Jimmy Smith was pulled over and charged with possession. I talked to Jimmy one time when I was 13 and he told me to stay in school and stay off drugs. That meant a lot to me. Now he is in jail because of drugs. Being 17 now, this disappoints me a lot. Personally, I believe this may have been why he decided to retire without warning; he was getting in too deep. I have a signed jersey from him but after this I don't know if it's worth keeping. What do you think about the whole thing?

Vic: I think that what he said to you when you were 13 should mean more to you now than it did even then because now you know he was truly speaking from his heart. What you may have been hearing were words from a person who had regrets; who wished he could do what he was telling you to do. Dependency has devastated a lot of families. None of us are immune to it. It's a terrible ill and I pray it doesn't afflict anyone in my family. Jimmy gave you good advice. You did the right thing by doing what he said and you should have no regrets. Keep the jersey. Give it to your son or daughter some day and tell him or her to stay in school and stay off drugs. You have a story that truly means something.

Sean from Albuquerque, NM:
Can you clarify why everyone says we have a lot of holes to fill? I understand depth on both lines, wide receiver and running back are needed but, as far as starters are concerned, are we really that far off?

Vic: The roster has been depleted and that's the big issue because strong rosters breed strong competition. "Holes to fill" is a metaphor for this team needs to collect talent, and I don't think there's any disputing that. This is a critical weekend in this team's future because it must produce players on whom the future of this team can be built. There's nothing wrong with optimism, but don't allow yourself to be blinded by it.

Tyler from Oradell, NJ:
How did our players perform in the Murray Bros. tournament?

Vic: I don't know and I really don't care. Hey, I've always been a big Bill Murray fan. The "Caddyshack" CD is one of my prized possessions. I know all of the lines in it and I use them in this column often, out of affection for the movie. So Ryan Robinson tells me on Friday that Murray is coming to the stadium and I got really excited and started practicing all of my Caddyshack lines so I could impress him. So what happened? Well, I'm in my office and all of a sudden "Mr. It's-in-the-hole" walks in and says, "Are you 'Ask Vic?'" I said, "Yeah, I'm Vic and I'm honored to meet you, Mr. Murray." He doesn't offer to shake my hand or anything. He just says, "Cut out the Caddyshack crap, OK?" I looked stunned, so he says, "You know, the 'so we have that going for us, which is nice' crap." And then he walks out. Well, "Mr. Soon-to-be-Masters-champion," I got news for you. I'm not cuttin' out anything. In fact, I don't think the hard stuff has started comin' down, yet, if you know what I mean. Hey, I got a pool and a pond, and the pond would be good for you. Au revoir, Murray.

Phil from Jacksonville:
Might we see some selections based on favoritism toward certain schools that the GMs or coaches are comfortable with or know a lot about?

Vic: That's a formula for failure. That's a regional approach to a nationwide talent search and any team that limits itself to a small pool of talent instead of using all of the talent available is guilty of laziness, being a fan or both, and there's no room for either. Finding football talent is a profession, not a hobby. You find football players where you find football players, and you must look everywhere.

Debois from Houston, TX:
Would it make sense to draft athletes that could play more than one position of need?

Vic: Pat White isn't the only versatile player in this draft. Cincinnati's Connor Barwin is a blue-chip defensive end and tight end, and I have no doubt he will be used in both capacities. The more things you can do, right?

William from Okinawa, Japan:
What are your thoughts on Matt Stafford's deal worth $41.7 million guaranteed? I personally hope there is a rookie salary cap in the new CBA.

Vic: There's been a rookie salary cap throughout the salary cap era, but the owners allowed their teams to subvert it by adding dummy years and deferring bonus money. Yes, the NFL has a major problem with the money being paid to rookies, but it's a self-made problem. If you go back to the beginning of the salary cap era, you'll see that the players association was agreeable then to a hard cap, especially as it pertained to rookies, but the owners went the soft-cap route because a few of the powerful ones at the top didn't want to see their teams dismantled. How's that for a lack of vision? That's the kind of lack of leaguethink that is hurting the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell has been "stumping" about rookie money measures. I haven't been real sensitive to what he's been saying because the owners had a great opportunity in 1993 to fix the situation – let's not forget that rookie salaries got way out of line in the 1980's, so this is old stuff – but I'm sympathetic to the commissioner's message now because the situation is out of control and it's hurting the draft. The whole concept of the draft was to reward losing teams and help create balance, but it's at the point now that the Super Bowl champion is being rewarded. That's right. The teams at the bottom of the order are happy to be there because of the money they'll save. In a flat-at-the-top draft such as this one, it is especially rewarding to be at the bottom and especially penal to be at the top. That's not the way it's supposed to be.

Jimmy from Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA:
The poll on the home page tallied 79 percent to BAP or trading down, as opposed to 21 percent draft for immediate need. There's no way the numbers would be like that if it wasn't for the explaining you do in this column. Thanks for making us all more educated fans.

Vic: I am stunned by those percentages.

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