Quarterback is absolutely important to Gene Smith in the 2011 NFL Draft.
But while Smith, preparing for his third draft as the Jaguars' general manager, said that's without question true, he said that doesn't necessarily make this year different than any other.
Obtaining a quarterback?
Yes, Smith said, it's key this year. And it will be true next year.
And the year after and the year after, too.
"You'd like to add a quarterback every year if you could," Smith told jaguars.com. "I know that's not always possible. People say, 'Why would you try to add a quarterback every year?' Well, you're not going to get one every year. You're just going to go into the draft with that mindset.
"If I was a college coach, I'd try to recruit a quarterback every year to make sure I had one."
Smith has said he would like to add a quarterback to develop during the April 28-30 NFL Draft, but he and Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio each have said during the off-season veteran David Garrard is the team's quarterback, and that whatever the team does in '11 will be done with him as the starter.
While speaking with jaguars.com, Smith discussed a variety of issues – his philosophy on trading down or up on draft day and the overall strength of the '11 draft class among them – but emphasized that pursuing a quarterback on draft weekend won't supersede the team's philosophy of drafting the best available player at a given spot.
"I'm not going to manufacture one," Smith said. "If one's there when we're drafting, I'll take them. I'm about executing. I'm not about trying to get too cute. We do so much work on these players. If there's one we feel is value at that position and happens to fill a need, great."
Smith also discussed:
*General draft approach:"You can't get locked into thinking everybody's draft board is like yours. Typically, in the top half of the first round, I would say maybe 12-to-16 players are the same players on most boards, maybe a different rank. After that, it varies. There are teams where the philosophy is to stay with best available player and there are other teams where the philosophy even in the first round is to go to the greatest need of their football team. For me, I'm going to take advantage of the system the NFL employs – the opportunity, based on where you're slotted, to acquire the best available player. It's a very good process and it's a very intensive process. If you trust the tape, I think that's the key."
*More on best-available-player approach:"When we go out in the fall as a scouting staff, we don't sit down in training camp and say, 'These are our needs.' Needs can change daily. We want them to go out and grade the players for who they are. That, in itself, allows us to go out and accurately grade players. If you have this mindset that you're grading to a need you tend to skew grades. That's what we don't want to do. We grade players for who they are and stay with the value line. There are certain players, whether it's medical or character, who dictate whether we take them or not, but it does start with talent. Then, it's character, because people who maximize their talent are people with good character – not just in football, but in other professions. And certainly competitiveness. You have to be a highly competitive person to play at a high level in this sport."
*The strength of the 2011 NFL Draft:"It varies based on the position. Different rounds have different position strength. People focus too much on the first round with players. People say, 'It's a good draft at this position. Well, it might be in the first round, but they don't focus on Round 2-7 like scouts do."
*On approaching the final month before the draft:"I think you have to trust the tape. You always have to back to the tape. You have to go back to the weight of what your talent grade should be – that's how they play the game, how productive of a player are they? The process is one where a lot of people think it's all in the month of April. Yes, April is a big month. This is our Super Bowl for scouting, but I like to think we do it in chapters the same way you should prepare for a test. We're in our final chapter and we're trying to prepare our very best so we can get an A for the final exam. We want to try to thrive on draft day, not try to survive. That's our objective."
*More on trusting the board:"It is the only way to do it. I believe if you have a sound process that should enable you to make good decisions. We stack our boards and try to make rational decisions before draft day so we're not making irrational ones when we're on the clock. We stay with our board, so if we stack our board properly, it's like having a game plan each week from a coaching standpoint. This is our draft plan."
*On trading up or down:"Some people think you have to move all over the place. Some people who move all over the place don't have a conviction for a player. If you have a conviction for a player, stay and take the player. If you don't, then move and try to garner greater value. I'm for moving in the draft, for sure. I'm for acquiring more picks. But I'm also for using common sense and trusting our work."
*More on trading up or down:"Our pro scouting department studies all of the teams certainly in front of us and behind us – the teams that are most realistic to move. You have to have the ability to do so. We study how many picks teams have and where they have them – and who they may be targeting. We do an extensive amount of work on knowing all of the other teams in the league. You have to know your team best and we're going to do what's best for the Jaguars. From my standpoint, we put a lot into it and we expect to get a lot out of it."
*On improving the defense in the draft: "There's certainly a chance to do that, but again, we're never going to manufacture a player. We're going to take the best players who can upgrade this team. It takes a little bit of luck. I'm a firm believer that if you work hard, you make your own luck, but it does take a little luck. It takes some of that."
*What the Jaguars are doing entering April:"We're in the process of finalizing our grades, and certainly building our value line. That's the ranking of the players regardless of position based on grade. We still have the combine rechecks, medical rechecks. We still have security check information coming in. We still have some injured players that we'll be working out in April as they get 100 percent. Everyone's still continuing evaluations and collecting information and certainly we're narrowing down the players we have interest in to upgrade our football team."