Jacobs latest Gator in Redskins' huddle

Surprised he's available, team grabs wide receiver

Nfl Draft

Pro Football

April 27, 2003|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Another Florida player can call Washington home.

Less than a year removed from bringing in seven players from Steve Spurrier's University of Florida Gators, the Washington Redskins went back to their coach's stomping grounds and selected Gators wide receiver Taylor Jacobs with their first pick - No. 44 in the second round - in yesterday's NFL draft.

With its second choice - No. 81 in the third round - Washington drafted Texas offensive guard Derrick Dockery.

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder - aided by director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato, vice president of football operations Joe Mendes and Spurrier - made the decision to choose Jacobs with the team's first pick, but Spurrier was quick to quash any notion of nepotism.

"Obviously, some of the other Florida guys didn't work out," said Spurrier, who jettisoned all of his former Gators except for running back Robert Gillespie. "That has nothing to do with Taylor Jacobs. Taylor Jacobs is his own person. It doesn't matter right now where he went to college. He's going to stand on his ability if he makes it."

The 6-foot, 205-pound Jacobs caught 71 passes for 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns at Florida. An All-Southeastern Conference first-team choice by the league's coaches, Jacobs was a semifinalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the nation's top receiver.

Draft experts agreed Jacobs' strengths lie in his explosive speed and his ability to run precise routes. There was, however, some concern that he shied away from catching passes across the middle and sometimes became depressed when he dropped a pass.

Still, Jacobs was widely regarded as the third-best wide receiver in the draft, trailing Michigan State's Charles Rogers (who was taken by the Detroit Lions with the No. 2 pick) and Miami's Andre Johnson (the Houston Texans at No. 3).

But after those two were gone from the board, the Arizona Cardinals passed on Jacobs and drafted Penn State's Bryant Johnson (City College) with the 17th overall choice in the first round.

Jacobs' freefall to the second round stunned Redskins officials, who had originally toyed with the idea of selecting Jacobs with the team's first-round pick at No. 13 - a pick that was eventually awarded to the New York Jets as a result of Washington's signing of restricted free agent and receiver Laveranues Coles last month.

"We said, `Gosh, we were thinking about drafting him with the 13th pick. Now, we've got a chance to get him with the 44th. Let's do it,' " said Spurrier, who said Jacobs will compete with Darnerien McCants, Patrick Johnson and Cliff Russell for the No. 3 receiver role in his Fun `N' Gun system.

"We all agreed in our board room that Taylor Jacobs was the best player we could pick. We're excited to have him."

On the question of whether he feels pressure to perform at a higher level than the former Florida players did last season, Jacobs said, "I really feel I'm my own person. I'm at ground zero. I don't feel like I have any pressure on me. I can come in there and do my best."

It was widely thought that the Redskins would choose a safety such as Ohio State's Mike Doss with their first pick, but Spurrier said the option of passing on Jacobs was unimaginable.

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