Jacksonville's John Henderson became the team's highest drafted defensive tackle in franchise history when the Jaguars picked him with the No. 9 pick in the 2002 draft. But Henderson's days with the Jaguars could be numbered now that the team selected Tyson Alualu with the No. 10 pick this year.
Jacksonville general manager Gene Smith made it clear that he's not trying to win a fans' popularity contest with his selection. Some called the selection of Alualu a surprise, a reach. Not that he went in the first round, but that he went at the No. 10 spot. Most mock drafts had the 6-feet-2, 295-pound defensive tackle going late in the first round. Others had him lasting to the second round.
"I understand people are going to have questions. I'm about winning Super Bowls," Smith said. "The work that we've done on this guy, we're going to allow that body of work to drive our decision-making.
"I am a calculated risk-taker. I'm not going to gamble or try to get cute. I'm going to try to take calculated risks and execute. You have to trust your system and the people driving it. If you don't have courage for your convictions, I think you're in the wrong business."
Smith wouldn't even call the Alualu selection a gutsy decision. He cited his staff's diligent work in studying tape, watching Alualu's work at the combine and in postseason play as key factors with the pick.
It's not the first time Smith has had to defend his draft selections. A year ago, the Jaguars selected two offensive tackles with their first two picks, even though they had veterans Tony Pashos and Tra Thomas at those spots. Smith then traded away the team's second-round draft pick for the 2010 draft in order to take Derek Cox, an unknown cornerback from William & Mary. All Cox did was to win a starting job and start all 16 games as a rookie.
Whether Alualu can match that feat remains to be seen. Certainly he'll move into the starting lineup when he arrives in Jacksonville. Chances are Henderson will be gone by the time Jacksonville opens training camp. Smith made it clear that he would be calling all of the other NFL clubs in the next day or two, likely to try to trade away the eight-year veteran for a draft pick.
Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio likes his newest member of the defense, which accumulated a league-low 14 sacks in 2009. Del Rio feels Alualu has the ability to impact the pass rush from the inside. He called Alualu a passionate football player who plays with a high motor.
Alualu will need to play with a high intensity to appease fans who were looking for a high-profile type of player. Alualu doesn't fit that mode, playing for a West Coast team that received little attention in the state of Florida. Alualu will need to let his play on the field speak for his talents. It had better be loud and clear for the Jaguars sake.
Smith Explains His Pick
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