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"We don't think we have all the answers"


A lot of work has been done.

But while Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith said that's true, he said what is just as true with a week remaining before the NFL Draft is this:

There's a lot more left to do.

Smith, preparing for his third draft as the Jaguars' general manager, said during a meeting with the media early Thursday afternoon that that's the reality of the NFL Draft:

You can prepare all you want – more than anyone else even.

But you're never really, really finished.

"That's what I like about the draft," Smith said during a media session at EverBank Field that also included Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio and Player Personnel Director Terry McDonough.

"Once you think you know something, something different may happen. We don't ever try to think we have all the answers. We just want to make sure we have the ones we need to make a good decision."

Smith, who also discussed extensively the possibility of trading up and down and several position groups, discussed the team's philosophy of taking the best available player rather than drafting for need.

"You have grades ranges – what I call levels – within a round," Smith said. "When you get farther down the board, you get more players who become more similar. You take the greatest need within a grade range, but you're going to take the guy who is a level above if he's still there.

"You're not going to go through the draft taking seven running backs in a row. Some of it is predicated on what you've acquired to your next selection."

Smith and Del Rio each discussed the prospect of off-season roster building, a process that involves both the draft and free agency. Because of the ongoing NFL lockout, free agency will take place after the draft this year.

"It wouldn't affect anything for us in the draft," Smith said. "Pro free agency not occurring before the draft is the same for all 32 teams."

Del Rio said there is a possibility roster needs, particularly on defense, will be addressed in veteran free agency.

"We may not be able to fill them all through the draft, and likely won't," Del Rio said, adding that that's where free agency likely will be used as a supplement. "I feel really good about the process."

Del Rio said a focus of the off-season remained on improving defensively.

"We're definitely working very hard at that," he said. "We understand we have some issues we need to address. We're working hard to do that. It will take a blend of draft, of free agency and us working the guys we have and making the guys we have who are going to return better.

"We're committed to getting that done. We're accustomed to playing good defense here. We absolutely must get that back."

Smith said trading could be a "viable option on draft day."

"Certainly where we're at there's still some very good players on the board," Smith said. "Terry and I, in particular, have been in contact with every team in the NFL. We do that in a very aggressive manner from the standpoint of making sure people know – who need to know – that we will have interest in every round to make a move."

But Smith said he's not one to trade for the sake of trading.

"I've said this before," he said. "I'm not about getting cute and moving around in the draft. I'm about executing and trusting our work and getting guys we feel are Jaguars. . . .

"We're going to trust the work we've done. Some people who are moving around in the draft don't trust their work. We trust our work. If we can move to make a situation better in the best interest of the team, we certainly will."

The 15 players from Smith's first two drafts remain on the roster, and while Smith said that's a positive, he said the reality is because the team has finished 7-9 and 8-8 in those seasons it remains difficult to judge the two classes.

"It's still tough to tell," Smith said. "I tell our scouts this and I truly believe it: The draft grade is how you perform on the field. We have not competed at the highest level. We're not there yet. We need some more players – through the draft and we'll certainly utilize pro free agency again this year.

"I'm hoping we can continue to draft and develop. Not to say we're going to win it all every year, but we want to be in the hunt and we want to be competing to win it all. You want to do it the right way so we can sustain it.

"We know it's a little more of a methodical process. We're trying to draft and develop because we did change over the staff. There's been a changeover in the roster. We're trying to create a team profile and acquire players to take us where we want to go."

Also on Thursday:

*Smith discussed Ryan Kerrigan, a defensive end from Purdue many observers have speculated could be the Jaguars' selection at No. 16: "Good player. He certainly is one of many defensive ends in the first round who have the opportunity to come in and impact a team early." Smith said comparisons with Aaron Kampman and Kyle Vanden Bosch were "good names." "There's a lot to like about him," Smith said.

*Smith, asked what it was like to be picking 16thand have many media speculating he will select Kerrigian, replied: "I'd like to think there are a few players who are our type."

*Smith and McDonough said the defensive line group as a whole was one of the better in recent memory. "It's one of the better D-line groups," Smith said. "There are certainly a lot of defensive ends, so whether you're a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, there are guys who can play both. It's a good group in the first round in particular."

*McDonough said he expected the first round also to be heavy at offensive tackle.

*Smith discussed how character factors into the draft-day decision. "Every decision on the draft is a calculated risk," Smith said. "My job is to minimize that risk."

*Smith addressed the possibility of selecting a quarterback in the second round. "At this point, I think there are a number of teams looking for quarterbacks," Smith said. "It's obvious there are some teams at the top who have done a lot of work on them. The draft comes down to having a little luck, too. Not only at the quarterback, but at other positions. You set the draft board up trying to target certain players, ensuring you're not only looking at need, but also garnering value. It takes a little good fortune to get the players you want."

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