The post-draft grades aren't likely to be kind to the Jaguars. The general perception is that the Jaguars reached in making Tyson Alualu the 10th overall pick and, with that, the Jags' fate was sealed.
General Manager Gene Smith shrugged his shoulders at the warning, as much as to say, so what else is new? It was that kind of weekend for Smith. Just about everything he did met with criticism, beginning with the decision not to select Tim Tebow. Immediately, half of the local fan base hated him.
"I can deal with it because in this position you have to. If that's something you can't endure, then you shouldn't be doing it," Smith said as he left his final media conference of the draft.
His voice trailed off; his eyes gave him away. Fatigue had settled in. The emotional drain on general managers and personnel directors is staggering. Their livelihood literally depends on the delicate draft decisions they make.
The worst they'll say about Smith is that he reached on Alualu. It's not the truth because according to Smith's board Alualu wasn't a reach, but they'll say it nonetheless. What will they say next season? That's the real issue because how Smith picked will be determined solely by how Alualu plays.
Smith was vilified last year for his selection of Derek Cox. Remember that? He was accused of reaching big-time for a little-know cornerback from William and Mary. What wasn't known is that Cox was little-known only to Mel Kiper. All of the teams at Cox's workout knew about him. The Steelers were hot on his trail. As it would turn out, Cox led the Jaguars in interceptions.
So, if you're one of those who puts a lot of stock in post-draft grades, then please consider that Smith pulled off a blockbuster of a deal with the Raiders in trading a fourth-round pick for a player, Kirk Morrison, who is likely to become the Jaguars' starting middle linebacker, and a fifth-round pick. A pick for a player and a pick? How good is that?
Smith's work over the last three days will change the face of a very bad Jaguars defense. Veteran defensive tackle John Henderson is likely to be released, meaning the defensive tackle position will be entrusted to three players acquired in the last two drafts: Terrance Knighton, last year's rookie star, and the first two picks of this year's draft, Alualu and third-rounder D'Anthony Smith
"We've had a lot of dialogue with teams," Smith said of attempts to trade Henderson. "We're certainly going to have conversation about his status and I will make a decision."
When it was suggested that Henderson might be released, Smith said: "That's correct."
How's that for reconstruction? In just two years, only Derrick Harvey remains from an old and failing front four, and Harvey would do well to take note of the two defensive ends, Larry Hart and Austen Lane, Smith selected in the fifth round on Saturday. Competition up front has been elevated significantly.
"We wanted to create more rush. I did not envision drafting four defensive linemen. It just worked out that way," Smith said.
"Hart is the same size as Robert Mathis when we visited him coming out of college. We didn't want to pass on that again. He's a 4.6 guy who can close to the quarterback. Lane is more of a left end. Better run-stuffer. A little tighter in the hips. Not as fast as Hart," Smith added.
The Jaguars defense was awful last year. There isn't a coach, including the head coach, who would tell you differently. A massive effort has been made to fix it and Smith thinks it has been fixed.
"I think so," he said. "Joe Cullen (new defensive line coach) is smart enough to know good players are going to make him a better coach. I do think you'll be very impressed," Smith said.
The harshest criticism is the one Smith couldn't avoid because it involved an intense divide among his team's fan base. Half of the fans wanted the Jags to draft Tim Tebow. The other half didn't. Feelings were intense. It was the number one topic of discussion in Jacksonville since the end of last season. It transcended sports. It was socio-political, and Smith faced the responsibility of deciding it.
"We had a lot of talk about him through the whole process," Smith said when asked if the Tebow issue was treated with the sensitivity that it represented. "In fairness to him and because of our location, we scouted every (Florida) game (last season) and we know as much about him as anybody. We felt very strongly about Alualu at our selection and we felt very strongly about Tim."
Reading between the lines shouldn't be required.
"I wish him the best. I was so happy when Tim got picked in the first round. I hope he does well. I'll be rooting for him, except when he's playing against the Jaguars," Smith added.
With that, Smith began the waiting game. The post-draft grades will come out tomorrow, he'll endure one more round of barbs, and then he'll retreat to the comfort of watching his second draft class as the Jaguars' personnel czar develop into the productive players he's sure they will become.
What will we say about those players next season? That's all that matters. Once the post-draft grades have passed, the hype will have ended and the real grading period will begin.