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Sanchez draft's pivotal player


Never has one player influenced the Jaguars' pick in the first round of the draft as USC quarterback Mark Sanchez is expected to influence what the Jaguars do this Saturday.

"He's the guy the whole league wants to know where he's going. Is it Seattle at four? The whole league is saying he's a pivotal player," Jaguars Director of Player Personnel Terry McDonough said of Sanchez.

McDonough, General Manager Gene Smith and coach Jack Del Rio met with reporters on Tuesday in the annual draft preview question and answer session. What had traditionally been an exercise in withholding information seemed to take on a degree of transparency this year.

Smith talked about the willingness to trade down in the order and collect extra draft picks, and that dialogue between the Jaguars and teams interested in trading up has already begun.

"It's certainly a consideration," Smith said when asked if he'd like to trade back. "We look at draft picks as being something very special. We look at draft picks as something that can sustain your team and help you manage your salary cap better."

Though Smith said Sanchez isn't the only player about whom teams have called to talk trade, Sanchez is clearly the player who would most likely cause a trade-down move by the Jaguars. He's the bait in this draft.

Will he be available when the Jaguars go on the clock at pick eight?

"Unlikely," McDonough said.

Every team in the top five has hinted at interest in Sanchez, in what McDonough termed the great misinformation of this draft. Intrigue is always a part of the pre-draft process.

What if Sanchez is not there when the Jags go on the clock? What if they can't trade back and all they can do is pick?

"It's the best available player and then there are other things that factor in, such as character and medical," Smith said.

If character and medical check out, do you take the guy at the top of your board?

"Yes," Smith said.

The players who've been most mentioned as a potential first-round pick for the Jaguars are Sanchez, Alabama tackle Andre Smith, Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree and Ohio State running back "Beanie" Wells.

"Wide receiver is a position on our team that we'd like to see what's available when we pick. We're not going to force a pick. You still want to stay with garnering value and getting the best available player," Smith said.

Crabtree recently underwent foot surgery in which a screw was inserted into his foot. As an underclassmen who hasn't worked out for scouts because of the foot injury, Crabtree could become the first wide receiver in memory to be picked in the top 10 without posting a 40 time. Because of that, McDonough believes Crabtree could fall to the Jaguars at eight.

Smith said Crabtree's injury "doesn't cloud" the Jaguars' opinion of him. "He had the top surgeon do the surgery. It's a common surgery. The arrow is up on his health."

Wells is a player for whom Smith and running backs coach Kennedy Pola have affection, but it's important to note the Jaguars signed Maurice Jones-Drew to a rich contract last week to serve as the team's feature running back.

Does that take a running back off your board in the first round, Smith was asked?

"I do feel like you need two backs, a feature back and a companion back," Smith said.

The Jaguars could be in the driver's seat on Saturday, especially if Sanchez is available to stimulate trade offers, or they could find themselves in a tough spot if Sanchez isn't available.

What are the positives and negatives to the eighth pick?

"The positive is we feel like we can get a very good football player. The only negative is there are a lot more financial ramifications so you have to make sure you're right," Smith said. "Does that player make your roster better?"

There may, however, be another negative to drafting in the top 10.

"This draft does not have a lot of great players at the top. It has a lot of good players in the draft," McDonough said.

"If you draft good players it's a good draft," Smith countered.

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