This Time, Trust Gene Smith
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2010 draft class has not exactly been receiving praise over the last week from fans and national media members. It is odd considering that Jaguars general manager Gene Smith landed an A-plus draft in 2009. At this point, I do not feel it is necessary to call out Smith for what some are alleging is a “D” draft. Those would include ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. and the Dallas Morning News’ Rick Gosselin – two well-respected draft pundits.
I prefer to trust the scouts and player personnel that draft players for a living. They understand NFL-ready talent better than anyone. Jacksonville’s Director of Player Personnel Terry McDonough, talking about his feelings on the Jaguars’ draft class, said, “I love it. I have the same feeling about this draft as I did about last year’s draft after the draft. Obviously, our defense we needed to get up front – a lot more athletic, a lot more explosive. It’s no secret that last year we had 14 sacks, which was a league-low in the NFL, and we’re going to try to correct that. We took two very explosive defensive tackles with our first two picks [Tyson Alualu and D’Anthony Smith], and then we followed it up with two defensive ends [Larry Hart and Austen Lane] after that.”
I understand that it’s difficult to get excited about a draft class when the Jaguars chose players from universities that not too many people in Jacksonville have seen play. This is SEC country, whether you like it or not. And, watching schools like California [Alualu], Louisiana Tech [Smith], Central Arkansas [Hart] or Murray State [Lane] are not top priorities. Plus, today’s NFL is all about offense. When the Jaguars use four out of their six picks – the first four, too – on defensive players, for the most part, nobody has a clue how to react. People’s jaws are just now returning to their normal positions.
On Saturday, a pleased-as-you’re-going-to-get Gene Smith talked about his vision of drafting four defensive linemen. “We knew it was a deep draft at that position, but the objective wasn’t to go in and get four defensive linemen. We’d like to have gotten a couple defensive linemen for sure. We thought it was a deep enough draft that it could happen, and then it worked out today that after we got the first guy, the next guy was the highest guy on the board. So I was very pleased of how that worked out.” And, for me, that is about all I need to hear. If Smith is happy with the outcome, then I feel positive about the Jaguars’ chances.
With Jacksonville, best-available player is a term that goes hand in hand with Gene Smith. Even McDonough clarified that on Saturday – “Yes, Gene will always go best available player. It just happened to fall where the best guy; this was a very, very deep defensive line draft, and there are a lot of good players up there for value and we picked them.” That evening, Smith also added, “We did stay with the board so I’m very happy with who we have.”
After two drafts, Smith has begun to lay the foundation for a playoff-caliber team. In Smith’s final answer, he pointed out, “We’ll be a better football team I think, if we can create a more competitive roster each and every year.” Slowly but surely, that is what Smith has been doing. Trust Gene Smith.
I don’t think you will regret it later.
Richard Miller is a national broadcaster for Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games on Sporting News Radio.
Additionally, he can be heard on ABC 1320 WBOB in Jacksonville and 103.7 FM at the Jacksonville Beaches at 5:45 p.m. on Wednesdays with The Jacksonville Observer Radio Show. Richard also hosts Inside the Game every Saturday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. on WBOB.
Currently, Richard is writing David Lamm’s biography entitled Lamm at Large: The David Lamm Story, which will be available in 2010.
Follow Richard’s daily blog on The Jacksonville Observer.