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Monroe was an easy pick for Jags


Shortly after making the first draft decision of his career as a general manager, Gene Smith was able to stand in front of the media and announce that the Jaguars had selected the best available player on their board, and everyone knew Smith was telling the truth.

It was widely accepted that Virginia offensive tackle Eugene Monroe was at the top of the Jaguars' board. There was veritably no need for the announcement, but it felt good to say it.

"He was the best player on our board when we selected. For me, it was an easy decision," Smith said.

The state of Missouri made it all happen. When the Rams picked Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith with the second overall selection and the Chiefs made Tyson Jackson the third overall pick, the Jaguars knew they were going to get a better pick than they should've expected. Neither Smith nor Jackson are players the Jaguars had ranked as high as they were picked, and what their selections meant is that they conspired to push Monroe down to where the Jaguars got lucky.

That's what it is, luck. When Monroe fell to the Jaguars, Smith's first official draft-day decision became a solid marriage of need and value.

"For it all to come together today – it doesn't happen very often – was nice to see. We stayed with our board. We let the process work. We're very fortunate," Smith said.

Heading into the day, the Jaguars hoped quarterback Mark Sanchez would fall to them at pick number eight, which would've stimulated a trade down with a team wanting to come up and draft Sanchez. As it turned out, the Jets made that trade with Cleveland, swapping first-round picks and giving the Browns a second-round pick.

Left tackle is such a premium position that it's unlikely the Jaguars have any regrets.

"He's a guy we would anticipate being a starter here for a long time," Jaguars offensive line coach Andy Heck said. "I think we're going to be in good shape there."

The Jaguars were not in good shape there last year. Injuries caused a meltdown on the offensive line and it sabotaged the Jaguars season. Monroe's reputation for being an accomplished pass-blocker should instantly give quarterback David Garrard a warm feeling.

"Immediately," Heck said. "When you add that kind of talent, you're better as a group and better as a football team."

Defensive tackle B.J. Raji and wide receiver Michael Crabtree were the next two players selected and each at a position of considerable need for the Jaguars. Monroe, however, was head and shoulders above each player on the Jaguars' board.

"Some people think I should smile more and I probably should, but I'm happy on the inside," Smith said.

There would seem to be only one criticism of Monroe: His run-blocking is said not to be the equal of his pass-blocking.

"I want to be clear on this point," Heck said when asked if he could turn Monroe into a tough guy. "Eugene is a tough man. It's true he's an elite college pass-blocker. He possesses skills in pass-blocking you don't find often."

The hope is that Monroe's penchant for run-blocking was hidden in Virginia's two-point-stance scheme. He will immediately put his hand on the ground in next weekend's mini-camp, and the transformation from college finesse blocker to NFL drive-blocker will begin.

"He does have the hip strength to develop into a good run-blocker," Smith said.

There were rumors in recent days about a lingering knee injury, but Smith said the Jaguars were satisfied that Monroe is completely healthy.

"The last two years he missed two games due to a (knee) sprain. Our medical staff felt awfully good about him," Smith added.

Monroe is also said to be a "top-flight character guy," as Heck said, and that was especially attractive to a team that desperately wants to improve the off-the-field image of its players.

"He's an outstanding individual. He's a total team guy. He comes highly recommended by a coach who was in the NFL," Smith said.

Yeah, it was an easy pick.

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