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Backs highlight Sunday workouts


INDIANAPOLIS—This is the day that makes the scouts' hearts beat a little faster. After having spent Saturday observing the offensive line workouts, scouts will spend Sunday evaluating quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers, the glamour boys of the National Invitation Camp.

General Manager Gene Smith isn't ruling out any position for the Jaguars' first-round draft pick, and even though the team has a desperate need at left tackle and most scouting services have a tackle fitting at the number eight spot in the draft, Smith's eyes light up when he talks about this year's crop of running backs.

"They have piqued my interest. It's going to be an enjoyable day for me to see what kind of an impression these underclassmen can make," Smith said.

He's referring to possibly the strongest crop of underclass running backs in scouting combine history. Georgia's Knowshon Moreno, Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells (pictured) and Pitt's LeSean McCoy headline a group that also includes UConn's Donald Brown and Iowa's Shonn Greene.

"They can make game-changing plays. They can change momentum," Smith said of the running backs in this draft class.

Running back, in recent years, has become an underdrafted position. The feeling is that you can find running backs later in the draft; that you don't have to spend a high pick on a position that doesn't carry the premium regard it once did.

As a result, the Jaguars could have their pick of the running back class when it's their turn to select, and that makes today's workouts flavorful for Smith, who has a void at running back on his roster following the release of Fred Taylor.

All eyes will be on Wells, whose size and impressive physique has already piqued running backs coach Kennedy Pola's interest. Should Wells turn in a top workout on Sunday, he would likely climb the Jaguars' board and could even become a targeted player.

That leads to this question: How will tackle Andre Smith's absence from Saturday's workout and wide receiver Michael Crabtree's reported foot injury impact the top 10 picks in this year's draft?

"They're certainly alerts," Smith said. "On Crabtree, I have to wait for our medical staff's evaluation. He does plan to do position drills here today. He's planning on working out at his pro day and then have his foot taken care of. It's something he's been playing with. He came here and they said he needs to get it resolved."

Crabtree, considered to be the top wide receiver in the draft and a near-certain top 10 pick, reportedly was found to have a stress fracture in his left foot and will have a screw inserted. The injury could prevent teams from getting a reliable 40 time on Crabtree, for whom speed concerns already existed.

Smith left the scouting combine without informing camp administrators. Why? That's the big question.

"I'm going to research the situation," Gene Smith said of the Alabama left tackle, considered to be a logical prospect for the Jaguars' number eight overall selection. "It's like I said, one of the reasons we come here is for the personal workouts.

"The draft's not next weekend. There's a good period of time to follow through," Smith added.

How might Crabtree's injury and concerns about Alabama's Smith impact the draft? Will they cause others to rise, as Crabtree and Smith fall? That would seem to be the likelihood.

"There are more teams in the top 15-18 that feel a great player might fall to them," Gene Smith said.

Crabtree's and Andre Smith's travails may also cause a stellar group of running backs to climb the board, especially should those backs light it up at Sunday's workout.

"The running back group, on film, is a good group. Anything they do here will help sort out the guys. There are a number of feature backs," Gene Smith said.

Moreno is a do-it-all type. He's big enough to run between the tackles and pound out the tough yardage, and athletic enough to be a big-play receiver out of the backfield.

Wells is a pounder; a classic big back. The Jaguars believe Wells has barely scratched the surface of his potential.

McCoy is a scatback type who's sensational as a receiver, yet, durable enough to run between the tackles. He's suffering from effects of the flu, which must be taken into account when he works out on Sunday. What makes McCoy interesting for the Jaguars is that he could last into the second round. Moreno and Wells are certain first-round picks who, with top workouts on Sunday, will begin climbing toward the Jaguars' eighth overall pick.

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