Two years ago, running back Kevin Jones fell to the 30th pick of the draft because he displayed poor technique in running the 40-yard dash. Fortunately for the Detroit Lions, football is not a track and field event.
Three years ago, Larry Johnson fell to the 27th pick of the draft because, obviously, most teams needed more than one season's worth of proof that a big, fast, athletic running back can become a star in the NFL. Fortunately for the Kansas City Chiefs, one season's worth of proof was good enough for them.
Draft mistakes, which means errors in scouting, too, are not uncommon. Consider the Jones saga: At his Virginia Tech pro day, Jones made the mistake of raising his hand from the ground before starting his feet in motion in running the 40. The scouts begin timing prospects on their first movement and that made Jones a couple tenths of a second slower than his real speed. Jaguars Director of College Scouting Gene Smith made the correction on Jones' second run and started timing Jones on the first movement of his feet. All of a sudden, he was a 4.4 again.
The Jaguars have the 28th pick of this year's draft and they're hoping a "Jones" or a "Johnson" falls through the cracks of the system and makes it all the way down to the Jaguars. Some think that's exactly what's going to happen to Memphis running back DeAngelo Williams, whose lack of size may cause teams to overlook his production in college. Williams rushed for nearly 2,000 yards in each of his last two seasons.
"Good player; he's a guy who has speed and quickness. He's a guy who can be a feature back in this league," Smith said of Williams.
What if he's available when the Jaguars step up to the plate on Saturday? Do the Jaguars make Williams the team's future at the feature back position? Or do they look at his just-under 5-9 stature and decide nearly 4,000 yards rushing was a mirage?
Don't expect an answer, of course, until late Saturday afternoon.
The Jaguars' draft braintrust met with reporters on Tuesday in the annual predraft exercise of ask and don't answer. Hey, it's Tuesday of draft week. Information is passed only in harmless generalities.
"I think the draft is deeper than 27 players," coach Jack Del Rio said.
Translation? Del Rio thinks the Jaguars will get a good football player at pick number 28.
"I think it's best to stay in the best available player category early in the draft, when there's a big difference (in players' talent levels)," Del Rio added. "It's always a projection of what you think that player can do in your system and in your environment."
Williams is a player who can run and catch. He has the speed and elusiveness to run in the open field and the compactness (214 pounds) to hit it up inside. He's been compared to Barry Sanders and he's a player who's expected to be discussed in the Jaguars' draft room when the team goes on the clock Saturday.
There will be other names, of course. What about UCLA tight end Marcedes Lewis, Alabama linebacker DeMeco Ryans, Georgia tight end Leonard Pope? They are possible prospects.
"I think overall it's a strong draft, except for the receiver group," Smith said.
The Jaguars, however, are not in the best of positions to take advantage of the draft crop. The Jaguars have only six picks and all of them are low. That's the price you pay for 12-4.
Expectations should be adjusted accordingly. The goal is to select players who will become every-downs starters in each of the first two rounds, then find substitution-package starters, special-teamers and role players in rounds three and on. That's the way it's expected to be for teams drafting near the bottom of the order.
"When you're drafting that late in each round, you're looking for players who can contribute and give value," Smith said.
They are considered to be safe picks; guards who can play center and a little tackle, too, and safeties who can cover kicks and return them, too. The Jaguars may find themselves looking for those kinds of safe picks on Saturday, but they'd love for one of those Jones/Johnson mistakes to fall right into the team's lap.