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If you like a guy…


The theme of the Jaguars' 2011 NFL Draft is now clear.

If you like a guy, you not only take him, it's OK to trade up to do so.

The Jaguars, one night after trading up for a potential franchise quarterback, on Friday traded up four spots in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, selecting Lehigh University offensive guard/tackle Will Rackley No. 76 overall.

The Jaguars traded the No. 80 and No. 182 (sixth-round) selections to San Francisco for the No. 76 selection.

"We feel like he is a potential starter," Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith said.

Rackley, who started 45 of 46 games in college, started at guard as a true freshman, and left tackle thereafter. He likely will play the interior line with the Jaguars.

Smith said he has the skill set to potentially start quickly.

"To be drafted at all is a very humbling experience and truly a blessing," Rackley said moments after his selection.

One factor in the decision, Smith said:

Jaguars Offensive Line Coach Andy Heck is close with Lehigh Offensive Line Coach Brett Sawyer, with the two having served as graduate assistants together at Virginia.

"The things I like best about him are his versatility, his work ethic and his character," Heck said.  "I've been hearing about this young man since he was a freshman in college.

"I trust the character references we've gotten on him."

Smith said a reasoning behind trading up was a run on potential starting interior linemen in the third round near where the Jaguars were selecting.

"We were running out of guys people thought would be early starters in their career," Smith said. "In that particular round, there was strength at the guard/center position."

Smith said Rackley was the best available player at the time of the selection.

"You've got to trust your board," he said.

Smith also said Rackley was simply significantly higher-graded than any player on the board when the Jaguars selected.

"This guy was a level above," he said. "He was the last guy at his level."
Heck added that Rackley eventually could also play center.

 "He plays with good leverage and leg drive," Heck said. "That will serve him well on the interior line. He's athletic and smart. He's versatile."

Of the return inside, Rackley said, "It's just dealing with bigger guys and shorter distances will be the biggest thing. I don't think I will have too much trouble with that. I wouldn't necessarily say different mentality.  You definitely go in there with a mauler mentality.

"You go against this guy across the ball that is three feet in front of your face.  You have to get after him and maul in."

Rackley, a team captain, will earn his degree from Lehigh in product design on May 23. He said he didn't visit the Jaguars in the pre-draft process, nor did they come to his Pro Day, but he had a private workout with the team.

"I thought my private workout with them went pretty well so I was hoping," he said.

While Rackley played in the Patriot League in college, Smith said he was one of the best offensive lineman at the East-West All-Star game in January.

"It gave me a great deal of confidence," he said. "It was really exciting to play against Division I-A talent and stacking up pretty well against them definitely built up my confidence level." 

Smith attended the draft at Radio City Music Hall Friday, but did so with his father as a viewer rather than an invitee.

"My agent had some tickets so we figured we would go up there and soak up the experience," he said. "It was cool seeing all those fans going crazy, seeing some of the guys I saw at the combine.  It was kind of cool."

Smith said another reasoning behind the decision was to add youth and talent to an interior line position that had been showing signs of age in recent seasons. Guard Vince Manuwai is entering his ninth NFL season, and center Brad Meester is entering his 12th season.

The selection meant the Jaguars have not addressed defense in the first two days of the draft. The Jaguars traded up six selections on Thursday to select Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert with the No. 10 overall selection.

They used their second-round selection to trade up for Gabbert.

Smith said the opportunity to select two future starters outweighed the need for multiple selections in later rounds and defensive players early.

"We do have a lot of needs on this football team – for talent," Smith said. "We're going to stay with our board. Certainly, we understand there are some things we need to address on defense, which we will. I feel very good about our team's selections thus far.

"We got two eventual starters. They're people we did a lot of work on. We feel like where we got them they'll be good players for us."

The Jaguars have three selections Saturday – two in the fourth round and one in the fifth. While Smith said he understands the Jaguars' needs on defense, he said late Friday his approach Saturday will be the same as it has been his first two seasons as general manager – and the first two days of this year's draft.

"It's the draft," Smith said. "It's who's there when we're picking. We're not going to manufacture guys. We're not going to push guys up and have them come in here and underperform. You don't overdraft and overpay and have guys come in and underperform.

"You trust your grading and your system. You stay with the plan."

Smith said to do otherwise would be foolish.

"We put a lot of work into formulating the plan," Smith said. "When you get into the draft or you get into a game as a coach, you work the plan. . . . I'm for trusting our work. If that means an offensive player is our next selection, that's what it means. If it means three more defensive players – if we're fortunate enough for the draft to work out that way, that would be great.

"There's only so much we can control."

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