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Getting their guy


There's an old NFL Draft adage that sometimes trumps all philosophies.

If you like a guy, go get him.

For a second consecutive April, that adage won the night for the Jaguars, who traded up two spots in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft on Thursday, using their earliest selection in 16 years – the No. 5 selection of the first round – to select Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon.

The Jaguars, after entering the night with the No. 7 overall selection, traded that selection and the No. 101 selection – a fourth-rounder – to Tampa Bay to move up to No. 5.

"I'd rather say, 'I'm glad I did,' than, 'I wish I would have,''' Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith said.

The Jaguars hadn't selected in the Top 5 since selecting Tony Boselli and Kevin Hardy No. 2 overall in 1995 and 1996, respectively.

Blackmon had been generally regarded as the best player available at a position of need for the Jaguars, who finished 32nd in the NFL in passing last season.

"It was a complete shock to me," he said of the selection. "I did know their needs were a receiver but I didn't know exactly when or how they were going to do it."

It was a shock that came true after a frenzied first half hour of the NFL Draft.

The Indianapolis Colts selected Andrew Luck first overall, and the Washington Redskins selected Robert Griffin III. But while the selections of the two quarterbacks had been anticipated for weeks, the next few selections were anything but expected.

The Browns surprised many analysts by trading up to select Alabama running back Trent Richardson, while the Vikings – who swapped selections with the Browns – used the No. 4 selection on a player many had projected them taking No. 3, Matt Kalil.

The Browns' approach was clear.  Because they wanted Richardson, they didn't want to risk a team moving past them to select him.

Two selections after the Browns, the Jaguars took the same approach.

Jaguars Director of Player Personnel Terry McDonough spoke to every team in the NFL in the weeks leading to the draft, but when he and Smith spoke publicly in recent weeks, they spoke often of trading back, but rarely of moving up.

It's the second consecutive year the Jaguars have traded up for an offensive skill player. They traded a second-round selection to move up from No. 16 to 10 last year to select quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

"When you're looking at top players, you don't know if it's realistic from a trade value standpoint if you can acquire a player in front of you," Smith said.

Smith said when you move back, you do so with a list of several players who could be options. When you move up, he said you target a player. The targeted player throughout Thursday night, he said, was Blackmon and only Blackmon.

"It's tough for me to give one up (a draft selection) unless we're going to get a starter or a guy like this who can certainly impact this football team," Smith said. "When you have a consensus on a player, like we did on Justin, it makes it easier to do things like this."

Smith said he believed early in the draft there would be an opportunity to trade back, but he said it became clear quickly that wasn't the best option. He said he thought before the draft it would be equally attractive to move up or down.

Smith also said the Jaguars didn't enter the day necessarily targeting Blackmon as the move, but said he was the only player the Jaguars considered moving up to get. Smith also said the belief was that if the Jaguars didn't move up, the Rams likely would take Blackmon at No. 6

Smith said there was more misinformation than good information circulating shortly before the trade, and that while the Jaguars talked to many teams all day, the primary conversation about moving up was with Tampa Bay.

"That's what makes it so challenging, because there's so many things that can happen in front of you – like happened today," Smith said. "You don't know how much it's going to impact your position, to have a chance to trade up if a player gets within reach. If it doesn't work out and you stay and pick, you've got a chance to do that."

Smith stopped short of calling Blackmon an immediate starter.

"He's a guy who can impact this team," Smith said. "He's certainly going to come in here and earn his way with the rest of the receivers."

Blackmon said that's the approach he wants to take.

"I'm going to try to work as hard as I can to put myself in that position, and if not, I know there's something I need to grow on because maybe I wasn't working hard enough," Blackmon said. "So I'm just going to work as hard as I can to put myself in the best position to get in."

Blackmon said that's how he has gotten here, and that that's how he will continue to approach football. His approach in recent weeks, he said, was pretty simple – steer clear of the analyzing and prognosticating and just trust that he would be playing somewhere.

"I really tried to stay away from the mock drafts and all that so I really didn't know who was going to take me," he said. "I knew once they traded and the phone rang that they were calling."

When it did ring, he said it was more than just shock he felt. Surrounded by more family than he could count, he said he realized that what happened was real, and that his future was at hand.

 "Sitting on the phone my hand was shaking with the phone and everything," he said. "It's just something that you dream for, want it for so long, and it's finally here. It's a big milestone in my life."

For the Jaguars, it's more than a milestone, it's a critical one – and one that came on a night when they once again followed one of the draft's oldest adages.

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