JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars ended Dawuane Smoot's stress later than he wanted.
But once his 2017 NFL Draft wait was over, Smoot left little doubt about his role and the reason the Jaguars selected him in the third round Friday.
"I'm a pass rusher," Smoot said.
And the Jaguars – like the great majority of NFL teams – always need those.
"One of my specialties is getting to the passer," Smoot said in a Friday evening conference call with Jacksonville media. "I feel like that is the best asset to my game."
Smoot (6-feet-3, 264 pounds), selected by the Jaguars with the fourth selection of the third round – the No. 68 selection overall – was the Jaguars' first defensive selection in in this draft. They drafted Louisiana State running back Leonard Fournette No. 4 overall and Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson No. 34 overall.
While offense has been the early focus, there were defensive needs entering the draft, too. Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas had been among four players the Jaguars liked with the No. 4 overall selection. He went No. 3 to San Francisco.
Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said Smoot likely will backup veteran Calais Campbell at the strong-side defensive end spot opposite pass-rushing ends Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr.
"This guy, he's a little bit more stout, stronger, run-down presence type of guy – thicker build," Caldwell said when asked if there were similarities between the second-year veteran Ngakoue and Smoot. "He [Smoot] is probably going to play about 265 or so. Where Yannick's got quicker edge speed, this guy can power rush you and collect the pocket, but he also can play inside too on passing situations and you see him do that at University of Illinois."
Smoot, a third-team All-Big Ten selection as a senior when he had 15 tackles for loss, registered 2.5 sacks as a sophomore and eight as a junior before finishing with five sacks as a senior.
The Jaguars drafted Illinois defensive end Dawuane Smoot in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
"I think sometimes – and you guys know this with the college guys – is once they make their presence felt their junior year they draw a lot more attention their senior year, especially in the conference," Caldwell said.
Smoot called his senior season, when he played under former Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith, his best at Illinois.
"I was able to really learn from pro coaches and really able to work my craft more by working on my hands and stuff, so I feel like this past year was one of my better years," he said, adding of Smith, "He prepared me to be professional. How he treated the whole team, including me – he treated us like men. There is a slim line. You either do what you have to do or there is going to be consequences, so just treating me like that and preparing me to be a professional."
Caldwell said Smoot's weight may have played a factor in his drop in production as a senior. Smoot said he lost about 15 pounds for his senior season.
"I think he'll gain some weight for us this year," Caldwell said.
Smoot, a team captain who played four seasons at Illinois, finished sixth in Illinois history with 16.5 career sacks and had 38.5 career tackles for loss.
Caldwell, who called Smoot a "a good base end" with a high motor and good inside and outside pass-rush skills, called him a value selection at No. 68.
"We want to wave that defensive line, so we want to be able to go in there with eight guys fresh on a Sunday and play them all equal amounts," Caldwell said. "You guys [the media] tell me enough to win in the trenches so that's what we're trying to do."
Smoot said he was surprised he wasn't selected earlier.
"I was getting a little stressed that I didn't get picked up yet, but you guys came at the right time," he said. "I felt like talent-wise, I should have gone a lot higher, but I was just happy that I was able to get picked."