Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jaguars Left with Choices; Picks Today, Tomorrow to Affect Years to Come

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jaguars Left with Choices; Picks Today, Tomorrow to Affect Years to Come

Article excerpt

Byline: Vito Stellino, Times-Union sports writer

This weekend will be the Jaguars' version of the Super Bowl for James Harris and Jack Del Rio.

The decisions made today and tomorrow during the NFL Draft by Harris, the vice president of player personnel, and Del Rio, a first-time head coach, are likely to have more impact on the future of the team than what happens on the field this season.

Harris and Del Rio face the task of replenishing a roster that has been eroded by the salary cap and the team's failure to draft a Pro Bowl player since 1996.

The result was three consecutive losing seasons that cost coach Tom Coughlin his job in December -- although Del Rio said recently the team was "very well-coached" last year. The problem, as Del Rio recently said, was a lack of talent.

If Harris and Del Rio are to turn this team around, they probably need to hit it big in the next two or three drafts. Most of the focus on this draft is on whether the Jaguars will land former Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich with the eighth pick.

Although many of the mock drafts have Leftwich lasting until the eighth selection, it wouldn't be a major surprise if another team decides to trade up for him. Then the Jaguars could find themselves in a bidding war for him.

The Jaguars also could be in a position to select former Utah offensive tackle Jordan Gross or Washington State cornerback Marcus Trufant.

There's much speculation that Baltimore, Harris' old team, might try to leapfrog ahead of the Jaguars by trading with Minnesota for the seventh pick to grab Leftwich.

Regardless of what happens with the first selection, it is just the start of the draft for the Jaguars. They have seven picks -- including two in the fourth round and none in the seventh -- and all the picks are important to their future. The draft also will be part of their promotion and ticket-selling campaign at their Fan Fest today at Alltel Stadium.

Del Rio said their decision to give defensive end Hugh Douglas $6 million up front, even though he'll be 33 this fall, has not changed the Jaguars' commitment to building with youth. …

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