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Evening with the scouts


Gene Smith saw it simply.

Smith, in his third year as the Jaguars' general manager, said while he understands that there are questions and criticisms about the team's 2011 draft this past weekend, his approach came down to a simple philosophy.

He said that was true over the weekend, and remains so.

In the first round, the Jaguars had a chance to get the best player available.

They did what it took to do that.

"First and foremost, it was the ability at that point in the draft to get the top guy on the board," Smith said Tuesday during the team's Evening with the Scouts event at EverBank Field in downtown Jacksonville.

That meant trading up from No. 16 to No. 10 with the Washington Redskins – and giving the Redskins the Jaguars' '11 second-round selection -- and it meant acquiring a potential franchise quarterback, Blaine Gabbert of Missouri.

"He started to slide and we had an opportunity – based on the value that we placed going in – to move up in the first round to get a player of his talent," Smith said. "We made the move and we had a team willing to deal."

Smith discussed that move and others at Tuesday's event, as did Director Player Personnel Terry McDonough. Assistant Director College Personnel Tim Mingey and Assistant Director Pro Personnel Louis Clark also spoke at the event.

The Jaguars not only took Gabbert No. 10 overall, they selected offensive guard Will Rackley of Lehigh in the third round and wide receiver Cecil Shorts of Mount Union with their first selection in the fourth round.

They selected Wyoming safety Chris Prosinski with their second fourth-round selection, then finished their draft by selecting cornerback Rod Issac from Middle Tennessee State.

"If anybody can come in and help us (offensively), it's going to help our defense," Smith said. "The better our offense gets, the better our defense will play. We have some work yet to do on that side of the ball in terms of acquiring players."

Other topics discussed Tuesday:
*Smith on Shorts: "He can run sub 4.5. He's a tremendous athlete. He's a two-sport athlete there."

*McDonough on moving up to take Rackley. "There were teams above us who needed offensive linemen. So, do you sit there and wait and lose this player, or do you go up and give up a sixth-round pick and get a guy you think can eventually start for your football team?"

*Smith on the added dimension Gabbert's mobility will bring. "He puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses," Smith said. "He can threaten a defense with his arm and with his feet." Smith also said Gabbert has a "high football IQ."

*Smith on Gabbert moving from a spread offense in college to a pro-style offense: "This is not something a quarterback can't be trained to learn." He also cited other quarterbacks such as Sam Bradford who have made the transition. "This is commonplace," he said.

*Smith on collegiate free agency: "When it opens, we will be ready to go," he said. Smith said the pre-draft visit process, headed by Mingey, assists the rookie free agent process and "is one of the best things we do." Smith added, "We look at it as the eighth round for us. A lot of those guys in the seventh round are very similar to the guys who are undrafted. We trust our grades and go very aggressively to try to get the best ones."

*Mingey on collegiate free agency: "We call it organized chaos. It's a long process. People think the draft is over with (during a normal off-season), but it's two o'clock in the morning and we're still dealing with the contract part of it."

*Mingey on small-college players: "As a scout, I learned some time ago: I don't care if it's Jackson State, if it's Millsap or if it's the University of Alabama. You have to evaluate the player. If you go in with some kind of prejudice that the kid can't play, you already have a negative feeling going into the evaluation. It shouldn't be that way. You should be going in giving the fairest evaluation like you do everybody else. There are a few people in the Hall of Fame who went to small schools."

*Clark on small-college players: "It just happens. There are good football players at all levels. There players at the Division I level, Division II and Division III. Our motto is, 'If you can play, we'll find you and if you're productive, we'll give you a chance.'''

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