We all know the huge decision that the Jacksonville Jaguars faced in the first round of the NFL Draft—“reach” for local hero Tim Tebow with the #10 pick, or take a higher-rated prospect like Clemson running back C.J. Spiller or Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan. The shrinking fan base would have loved the hometown kid pick, but football insiders would understand the addition of a Top 10 playmaker. Instead, Jags general manger Gene Smith shocked the NFL world with the selection of Cal defensive tackle Tyson Alualu.
Nothing against Alualu, who may turn out to be a great player, but this draft probably alienated more fans in the Jacksonville area than it excited. No one saw the California defensive lineman going before the 25-30th pick, so even if the Jaguars had Alualu higher than most on their draft board, they missed out on the value of trading back and acquiring additional picks. Smith said there was no interest from other clubs in trading up, but strangely Picks 11, 12, 13 were all traded for great value. After reaching for another defensive tackle (goodbye John Henderson) in the third round, Jacksonville finished the Draft with four straight FCS (not Division I) players. The few fans they have left may be ready to desert at this point.
Predictably, the Florida media was amazed by the Jacksonville choice. Pat Dooley belives that there are a lot more Denver Broncos fans in the Sunshine State now, and that Alualu is Hawaiian for "TV blackout”. Mike Bianchi believes that NFL GMs like Gene Smith let their egos get in the way of making picks that might help save the franchise:
“General managers and team executives are not about to let fan “popularity” or media speculation enter the equation of who they should select. They like to prove they are smarter than the rest of us so they take guys like Tyson Alualu instead of the one guy who would have given fans and media a reason to care about the Jaguars again.
I know, I know, we have to see how this all plays out. Tyson Alualu might turn out to be the next Merlin Olsen and Tebow might turn out to be the next University of Florida quarterback who flops in the NFL. But, still, this is baffling. Why didn’t the Jags, like the Broncos, have the guts to pull the trigger on Tebow – a hometown kid who just happens to be the most iconic player in the history of college football.”
With the current direction of the Jaguars, it’s hard to see the empty seats filling up at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium or the television blackouts being lifted. Ironically, the first game of the 2010 season might be a rare sellout because that’s when the Denver Broncos—and Tim Tebow—come to town.