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Speed not only thing

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

Cary from Orlando, FL:
I may have heard you wrong but I thought you said Arrington would need to be acquired before the draft. Wouldn't it be better to go into the draft without him and then if we did not draft a starting LB in the first round, go after him again? I know it may drive his price up a little but why pay him a lot of money and then draft a future starter at the same time?

Vic: If you're a true best available player team, it shouldn't matter whether you sign him or don't sign him; you'll pick a linebacker if he's the best available player. I would prefer to make a decision on LaVar Arrington before the draft. That's just my preference. When you're talking about the kind of money required to sign Arrington, I would like to make that decision before the draft so I have all of the information available to me about my team when I make my choices, especially as it pertains to pursuing trades up or down. You could, however, do it your way.

Christopher from Williamsburg, VA:
I thought a team's position in the draft was a reflection of how well they did the previous season. Could you explain how the Broncos ended up with the 15th and 22nd picks of the draft?

Vic: The 15th pick is from Atlanta and the 22nd pick is from Washington. The Broncos' own pick, 29th, was sent to the Jets. Original draft position is determined solely by teams' records in the previous regular season. The postseason only pertains to the two teams in the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl winner drafts 32nd and the Super Bowl loser drafts 31st. Everybody else is slotted according to their regular-season record. The Broncos finished 13-3, which put them one pick behind the 12-4 Jaguars. Teams with the same regular-season records are slotted according to their strength of schedules in the previous season. The team with the weaker schedule drafts ahead of the team with the stronger schedule. That tie-breaking order rotates from round to round.

Fergal from Kingston, Ontario:
With such a sensational running back coming into our division, will the Jags have trouble stopping the run against the Texans? Like you said, it's a crystal ball business, so why don't you look into yours for a few minutes?

Vic: Reggie Bush's impact is likely to be felt in all phases of the Texans' offense if, in fact, the Texans draft him and Bush is as advertised. Bush isn't a pounder. I don't see him carrying the ball 25-30 times a game. He's going to be used in such a way as to spread the field. That's going to be his major impact. His speed and big-play ability are going to spread defenses out and, yes, that should help the Texans run the ball, but it should also help them throw it. If Bush turns out to be the big-play guy in the NFL that he was in college, he will impact the game in several ways. He'll cause defenses to play softer and blitz less often. Safeties won't be as aggressive in attacking the line of scrimmage and defensive coordinators might be hesitant in getting that eighth man in the box. That's what a field-stretcher does for an offense. He gets defenses back on their heels. He makes defenses play scared. Now, the question is: Will Bush be able to do that in the NFL? A lot of players were able to do that in college but weren't able to do it in the NFL. Peter Warrick immediately comes to mind.

Mike from Jacksonville:
What happened to Alan Zemaitis' draft stock? The kid seems to be a heady ball hawk with big plays in big situations. Too small?

Vic: His size is fine. His speed is suspect. Zemaitis has great ball skills and instincts. If he doesn't have the speed to play cornerback, I would imagine he'd be a natural at safety. He's a quality kid. He's worth drafting and if what he lacks in speed causes him to fall, he could become a steal in, say, the third round. The other Penn State cornerback, Anwar Phillips, also ran slow on a fast track at the Penn State pro day and that'll probably cause Phillips to drop in the draft, too. So what should a pro team do, pass on Phillips because of his 40 time, or draft him based on his scintillating performance in the Orange Bowl against tall Florida State receivers who can run? It's a decision the pro teams often face; workout performance vs. game performance. What'll probably happen in both cases is that teams that play a lot of zone with their cornerbacks, which is to say teams that play 3-4 defenses, will draft Zemaitis and Phillips and they'll each play 10 years in the league. That's another reason I like the 3-4. That extra linebacker allows you to play a lot of zone, which deepens the pool of cornerbacks from which you can draft. DeShea Townsend is the perfect example. Townsend played with Fernando Bryant at Alabama and Townsend had much better ball skills than Bryant but Bryant had prototype speed while Townsend was a full step slow. So what happened? Bryant went in the first round and ran step for step with everybody he covered but his difficulty in playing the ball in the air limited him to five interceptions in his five-year Jaguars career. Townsend, a fourth-round pick playing in a 3-4 scheme in which he plays a lot of zone, has had 14 interceptions in the last five years. Speed is what you want, but how you use players can make a big difference.

Steve from Maitland, FL:
I understand the Jags board includes Greenway, Maroney and Ryans, but do they take the time to include players who will not make it to the 28th pick, such as Bush, Hawk or Leinart?

Vic: All draft prospects are graded and ranked.

Scott from Brandywine, MD:
Is it evil to secretly hope that Ralph Wilson is not exaggerating and that the Bills are in financial trouble with the new CBA? That way the Jaguars won't be the first in line to move to Los Angeles.

Vic: I wouldn't say it's evil but I would say it's naïve and unrealistic to think the new CBA would put the Bills in financial difficulty but wouldn't hurt a dozen other small-market teams. Let's not forget that the Bills led the league in attendance when they were winning and that just to the north of Buffalo is Toronto, a huge Canadian market from which the Bills draw a lot of fans. This isn't only about which teams go to Los Angeles. What good does it do to keep your team if it doesn't have the financial resources to compete? That's the situation the Bengals were in through the 1990's. They didn't have the financial resources to compete. Who wants to be the Bengals of the '90's?

Ryan from Lincoln, NE:
Who would you rather have the Jags take, Bobby Carpenter or DeMeco Ryans? My pick would be Carpenter.

Vic: They are opposite kinds of players, but they're both very productive. Ryans is a smallish, chase linebacker. He has the speed to run around blocks and blow up plays. His speed, aggressiveness and instincts give him the potential to be disruptive. Carpenter is a big, burly linebacker who can take on blocks, stuff the hole and knock people around. He's a more physical guy and should hold up much better against the run. I don't think he's a blow it up guy, but it's possible he could turn in to that kind of linebacker. Carpenter didn't have a great senior season. I thought he played poorly in the loss to Penn State and then he got hurt against Michigan, didn't play in the Fiesta Bowl or the Senior Bowl and that dropped his stock. Carpenter has good speed and could become a Mike Vrabel type of player. Carpenter is an interesting guy. He's not a polished player so I think he has a lot of upside. In Ryans' case, he had a super senior year and he's ready to go, but he might be as good as he's going to get. They would represent an intriguing choice. If I wanted a player who would be disruptive, which is what I think the Jaguars want at weakside linebacker, I would probably lean toward Ryans, but I like Carpenter's size and upside more.

Evan from Jacksonville:
Compare and contrast a pro head coach and a college head coach.

Vic: It's all about recruiting in college football. You have to get the top players to be a top team, and a college head coach has to be recruiting conscious at all times. That means he has to be willing to do speaking engagements and public appearances because he has to be a person of high visibility. He has to get his name and face out there. Pro head coaches don't recruit, they pick. That's the big difference between being a college head coach and a pro head coach; one recruits, the other picks. The pro head coach doesn't have to concern himself with speaking engagements and public appearances. All he has to do is pick and win, so all of his time can be spent on evaluating talent and putting that talent in winning schemes. If you're going to be a college coach, you better have a social side to you. In the NFL, just win, baby, win.

Mike from Orange Park, FL:
If you could build a team from one entire first-round class, which would it be? In other words, which is the greatest first round from a single draft in your opinion?

Vic: How far back do you want to go? There have been some great draft classes in NFL history but, sticking to the Jaguars' years of existence, two draft classes jump out at me, 1995 and 2004. The '95 class produced Tony Boselli, Steve McNair, Kevin Carter, Joey Galloway, Kyle Brady, Warren Sapp, Reuben Brown, Ellis Johnson, Hugh Douglas, Luther Elliss, Ty Law, Korey Stringer, Derrick Brooks and a whole lot more. That draft produced several above average running backs (Tyrone Wheatley, Napoleon Kaufman, James Stewart), but the top guy (Ki-Jana Carter) blew out his knee in his rookie camp and was never the same. The '04 draft is a real winner. Start with two quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Steven Jackson and Kevin Jones are the running backs. Robert Gallery, Shawn Andrews and Vernon Carey are the offensive linemen. That draft produced defensive linemen Tommie Harris, Vince Wilfork and Will Smith, linebackers Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams, defensive backs Sean Taylor, Dunta Robinson, DeAngelo Hall, Ahmad Carroll and Chris Gamble, wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Lee Evans and Michael Clayton. Tight end Ben Watson was the last pick of the first round. How's that for depth?

Jay from Green Cove Springs, FL:
I understand each team is allowed to bring in a limited number of players to evaluate prior to the draft. What is the limit and who have the Jaguars brought in?

Vic: Teams may bring in 30 draft prospects and all of those prospects who live in or played within the team's metropolitan area. The Jaguars brought in about 45 guys, which means the full 30 plus 15 local kids.

Greg from Jacksonville:
I understand your position about it being difficult to draft players in the first round that are hurt. How strongly were you against the John Henderson pick a few years ago?

Vic: John Henderson had a bad back. That raised immediate red flags for me because Henderson played so high and, of course, that's what guys with bad backs do, they play high. I wasn't crazy about the pick because of the bad back/play high combination. Of course, my information is superficial, whereas Tom Coughlin invested a ton of research into Henderson and came away with the belief that the back was treatable and Henderson was the right guy. Coughlin, of course, was right on the money. Henderson was a great pick. There are concerns about every player. Football is a physical game and nobody comes into the draft without some sort of injury from their past. Teams do a full medical on their prospects, but sometimes they do buy damaged goods. How about Don Mosebar? The Raiders were unaware that Mosebar had back surgery just a few days before drafting him in the first round. In other words, you're gonna hit on some and miss on others. Don't try to build a case either way.

Greg from Memphis, TN:
Last year at this time, who were you projecting the Jaguars to take in the first and second rounds?

Vic: Khalif Barnes was widely projected to be the Jaguars' pick in the first round. Fabian Washington got a lot of mention, too, as did Mark Clayton and Heath Miller. We picked Clayton for our mock draft but shortly after making that pick I can remember getting some information that made it clear the Jaguars were going to pick Matt Jones. I remember walking into the radio studio and saying to Brian Sexton, "They're going to pick Matt Jones." As far as the second round was concerned, none of us thought Barnes would last that far. The Jaguars had a lot of interest in Odell Thurman, but it was expected he would be gone before the Jags picked and he was. We were having a much tougher time getting a handle on the second-round pick. Little did we know Barnes would last.

Simon from Oxford, United Kingdom:
I recently read on another web site that LenDale White's injury was, in fact, just an excuse for his poor workout on his pro day. The author also suggested White had been told to act as damaged goods by an NFL team in order to fall far enough in the draft for this team to pick him. Is this at all possible? If it is, is it illegal on the part of the NFL team?

Vic: Prove it. That's the tough part. Does this kind of stuff happen? I'll bet it does. The Bernie Kosar situation was clearly manipulated by the Browns. I remember a specific case, Brent Jones, who had a mysterious injury through his rookie training camp that caused him to be cut. San Francisco jumped all over him when he was cut and the rumor was the 49ers "loved" Jones and wanted him in the draft, and cut a deal with Jones to tank it in training camp so he would get cut. Did anyone ever prove it? No, but people I know were sure it happened.

Chris from Hudson, FL:
Those Pittsburgh fans are jerks and classless idiots and I hope the people of Jacksonville have the common sense to purchase most of those tickets so we don't have their scum in our stadium.

Vic: Yeah, I hate people from Pittsburgh.

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