INDIANAPOLIS—The hope is that in this, the city of the team that has set the standard the Jaguars continue to pursue, the one or two players the Jaguars need to re-energize that pursuit will be on display this weekend.
A collection of 328 draft prospects have submitted themselves to examination this week, and a 40-man Jaguars contingent is in Indianapolis to record the information. It's a group headed by coach Jack Del Rio and General Manager Gene Smith, a dye-in-the-wool draft man who is committed to repairing the Jaguars roster via the NFL draft.
"Good drafting should be defined by how it translates to the field and relates to winning," Smith told jaguars.com as he headed to Indy.
Coming off a 5-11 season, the Jaguars are facing two challenges: 1.) Their roster needs an injection of young talent. 2.) The Jags only have six draft picks to find that needed talent.
Smith, who was given full command of personnel when owner Wayne Weaver promoted him to General Manager last month, would like to trade down and acquire more draft picks, but not at the cost of trading out of the first round. This is thought to be a draft that is strong at the top and the Jaguars have a desperate need at a minimum of one premium position, left tackle.
It is possibly the most over-drafted position in the game. An offensive tackle has been drafted in the top four picks in four of the last five drafts, and tackle Jake Long was the first pick of last year's draft. This year, four tackles –Michael Oher of Ole Miss, Jason Smith (pictured) of Baylor, Eugene Monroe of Virginia and Andre Smith of Alabama – are poised to be high picks. As soon as the first of the four is selected, the run on tackles is likely to begin, and the Jaguars are expected to be part of that run.
Tackles are never sexy picks. They don't excite fans as wide receivers, running backs and quarterbacks do, but the Jaguars' first-ever draft choice was a tackle, Tony Boselli, and he's also the first and only player to be inducted into the team's 'Pride of the Jaguars.' Yeah, they may not be fun picks, but try having any fun without one.
"It's an over-drafted position because it's a premium position. I think we have the potential to draft for need and value," Smith said.
Was he giving us a hint? If he was, it's a hint we shouldn't need. Smith believes in drafting the best available player and four tackles are crowding the top of his board. The odds are a tackle will sit at the top of the Jaguars' board when they go on the clock, provided they don't trade down.
All of this makes Saturday an eventful day for the Jaguars. The offensive linemen workout at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday, and the eyes of the Jaguars' scouts and coaches will no doubt have an intense focus on the big guys. Which one of these prospects will lead the Jaguars into the team's most recent new era?
Monroe is ready to go. He's a sensational pass-blocker whose skills were good enough to keep Branden Albert at guard when the two were teammates at Virginia. Should Monroe be the Jaguars' guy, David Garrard's blindside will immediately become a safer place.
The negative on Monroe is that he's considered to be more of a finesse player than a physical run-blocker. His upside may not be as high as Andre Smith's, a savage run-blocker whose pass-blocking needs improvement. Smith is also a little shorter than ideal for a left tackle, but the Jaguars love the way he physically dominates opponents.
Gene Smith professes not to put too much stock in the combine workouts, electing to rest on a player's playing grade from last fall. He's looking for more subtle information on prospects while at the combine.
"I want to see if they show up on time, how they compete and how they comprehend," Smith said.
Eight of the top 26 picks in last year's draft were tackles. One of those tackles, Jeff Otah, was a guy the Jaguars loved and had high among their list of potential picks. Had the Jaguars selected Otah last year, they wouldn't be desperate at left tackle this year. All they did was delay the need and it's not likely they'll delay it another season.
Yeah, value and need are likely to collide, and it would have to be a very rewarding trade for this team to turn its back, again, on the left tackle it has to have.