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"We got better the last three days"


All in all, Gene Smith liked what he saw.

Smith, who on Saturday evening finished his third draft as the Jaguars' General Manager, said while he can understand the questions some may have about the team's 2011 NFL Draft, he said the reality is the Jaguars have a few goals in a draft:

1)Draft players who can contribute.

2)Trust the pre-draft work.


And when it was over, a weary Smith said he left this year's draft very much feeling as if that was accomplished during a weekend that featured the Jaguars selecting five players:

*Blaine Gabbert, quarterback, Missouri (1st round, No. 10 overall).

*Will Rackley, offensive guard/center, Lehigh (3rd round, No. 76).

*Cecil Shorts III, wide receiver, Mount Union (4th round, No. 114).

*Chris Prosinski, safety, Wyoming (4th round, No. 121).

*Rod Issac, cornerback, Middle Tennessee State (5th round, No. 147).

"The Jaguars certainly got better the last three days,' Smith said. "We're so happy about the players and people that we added to this organization. . . .

"We feel very good. We've got a group of players that have either graduated or are a semester shy of graduation. We've got leaders in this group, team captains, guys with tremendous play history, guys with some tremendous backgrounds from a family standpoint, a couple have dads who are coaches.

"We feel like when you talk about Jaguar traits and who've we added, it does start with talent but certainly character counts."

But while the Jaguars selected five players over the three days, four from non-BCS schools, Jaguars Director of Player Personnel Director Terry McDonough said the reality is the draft – and perhaps the current era of the Jaguars – will be judged by Gabbert.

"Blaine Gabbert, this is obviously the biggest decision that Gene's made since we've been here," McDonough said.

The Jaguars traded the second-round selection to trade up six spots with Washington, and while David Garrard is expected to remain the starter entering next season, Gabbert is clearly the quarterback of the future.

The franchise quarterback of the future.

"We just feel so confident that he can be not only a good quarterback, at least I do and you can write this, I think the kid's going to be a great quarterback," McDonough said. "And if you have a chance to get up and get a franchise quarterback, they can affect the city, the franchise, everything about Jacksonville in the next decade, and I feel strongly about that.

"If you get the guy and you believe he is the guy and he is the guy, tremendous things can happen for this organization and this city, and I feel that way about this kid. We did it because organizationally we thought this guy had limitless potential and we were so excited to get him. I'm trying not to act giddy but the guy is a stud."

McDonough said while other teams passed on Gabbert, such scenarios aren't unusual. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers slipped to No. 24 in 2005, and since has emerged as one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL.

"There are just different reasons why teams pass," McDonough said. "I don't know the answer to that. I just know again we really feel like this guy can be a franchise quarterback, and that's why we did it."

McDonough said the Jaguars' belief in Gabbert was evident with the trade.

"That's exactly how we feel," McDonough said. "That's exactly how I feel, and I feel like he's going to do great things here. He will do great things here.  I don't even want to back off that.  I think he's a special person, he's a special player and I think he's going to be an excellent NFL quarterback.

"Yeah, I think he'll probably define a lot about us.  This is a big one, this is the biggest one since we've been here and what a great kid. He's very smart, very tough, strong arm, accurate, competitive, leader, winner and to top it off he can really run. So I'm very happy, as you can tell."

The Jaguars traded up not only to get Gabbert, but to get Rackley, giving up their sixth-round selection to do so. That left the team with five selections, which tied 2008 for the fewest in franchise history.

But while only defensive end Derrick Harvey remains from that draft, Smith and McDonough said they believe they obtained starters with the first two selections this year, and potential early contributors with the other three selections.

"We felt like all of these players could come in and certainly upgrade our roster," Smith said. "They all have a future here. Again we're just happy to have five players wearing the Jaguar helmet that we feel have the profile that we want.

"I do believe it's talent, character and competitiveness."

Prosinski, McDonough said, will be in the mix for a starting position next season, and Issac is expected to compete at nickelback. Shorts has a chance to be the Jaguars' third receiver next season.

The selection of Gabbert and Rackley – and the ensuing trades – led to the Jaguars' selecting just two players to improve a defense that Smith, Del Rio and McDonough all have said throughout the off-season needs improving. While improving the defense remains a focus, Del Rio said the draft took the Jaguars in a different direction.

"You have your ideas of how it can go, but it's a process that's very unpredictable," Del Rio said of the draft. "I think you do your work and you have your preparation and you go through your what-ifs so that you know how you're going to want to respond in certain situations. Then you take that information and if you stay true to the value and the things that we talk about, then when a situation like that comes up you execute and stick to the plan.

"I think that's what we did this weekend. Despite really wanting some defensive help, and we know we're going to have to get some at some point, we saw tremendous value and we were able to acquire a franchise quarterback and a starting interior offensive lineman early in the draft."

Del Rio said had Gabbert not been available, "it could have been three defensive players in those positions easily."

McDonough said the Jaguars' draft strategy must be seen against the backdrop of pro free agency, which because of the lockout has yet to occur. When pro free agency begins, Smith said he expects the Jaguars to be active – and to be so primarily on defense.

Smith said two-to-four players could be added during that time.

Asked if the Jaguars would address anything else during pro free agency, Del Rio replied, "Doubtful."

"We're not done," he said. "At some point we'll open this free agency period, not only pro free agency, but also these college undrafteds."

Smith, too, said free agency will be key, but said as of Saturday night, his thoughts were on a weekend during which the team improved – and met its pre-draft goals.

"The Jaguars got better today, I'd like to think through three days," he said. "Some of the players that we had targeted going in became members of our organization. You're not always able to get them all but when you talk about talent, character and competiveness, and I put them in that order, I call that a Jaguar profile or you could say the guy's got Jaguar traits. All these players fit what we want.

"We feel like they all have a defined role this year coming in and we stayed with our board, we trusted our work and we got better the last three days."

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