Jacksonville Jaguars: The Best and Worst of Gene Smith's Draft Classes
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The most important man in the franchise: the general manager.
The mastermind, putting together the puzzle, and seeing things that others do not.
Gene Smith has had this roll in Jacksonville now since 2009, and while the overwhelming opinion is that he has not done near enough to build a contender, it's only fair to breakdown the smart moves and poor choices that Smith has made since taking over calling the shots on player personnel.
Smith began his career as a GM with a team that just went 5-11 and busted terribly in the NFL draft after trading up and selecting defensive end Derrick Harvey, as well as selecting another defensive end in Quentin Groves round two.
David Garrard had a rough year after signing a long-term, pricey contract extension after a superb first year in 2007 as the starter.
The offensive line was one of the league's worst, and similar to the current Jaguars team, there was very little pass rush. Another glaring hole was in the defensive secondary where poor selections in free agency set the team back.
In what may be remembered as his finest draft, Smith went to work filling in what many think is one of the most important positions to address, left tackle.
Here are the best and worst selections from Gene Smith's drafts as the Jags GM:
LT Eugene Monroe (2009: Eighth overall)
Monroe has finally played up to where many thought he was capable this season. Monroe looks to be in line for at least the franchise tag, and possibly a very large contract.
Monroe took a little while to become the anchor on the offensive line, but he is by far the best blocker on the offensive front.
DT Terrence Knighton (2009: 72nd overall)
Knighton was a very good player, very early in his career. His first two seasons were extremely promising for a defensive tackle. 2012 has been a different story beginning with a bar fight, and then leading to poor conditioning.
Knighton is still a good player, but may have missed out a very nice payday.
CB Derek Cox (2009: 73rd overall)
In what I believe was Smith's best draft selection, he traded away a second-round pick in 2010 for a third round pick in 2009 for a cornerback from William and Mary. A very confusing selection at the time has led to someone who many Jags feel has developed into the best secondary player on the Jaguars roster.
Despite health problems almost every season, Cox should stick around as a Jag for a little while longer.
DE Austen Lane (2010: 153rd overall)
Although he is not a top player on the Jags, Lane was a good late find in the 2010 draft. Representing a poor draft class, the Jaguars grabbed a top small school prospect from Murray State that should see a rise in production as a backup. Lane doesn't quite fit into a starter's role, but does create depth at the position.
WR Cecil Shorts III (2011: 114th overall)
A guy who is developing into a big-time playmaker, Shorts III was the lone bright spot in the 2011 NFL draft. Shorts III has quickly developed into a starter in Jacksonville, and looks to be a great combination with Justin Blackmon.
Also out of a small school, Mount Union, the Jaguars definitely find talent at small schools, they just seem to take a lot of chances on them as well.
WR Justin Blackmon (2012 - 5th overall) - It's very early, but Blackmon is already starting to showcase his incredible talents, and looks to be worth trading up in the draft. Smith knew that wide receiver was a huge need for upgrade, and he traded from seventh overall to fifth overall to snag the best wide out in the 2012 NFL draft.
Who is the best selection from Gene Smith's drafts?
P Bryan Anger (2012: 70th overall)
Incredibly early to select a punter, but Smith sure did grab a good one. Through his first season, Anger has displayed incredible leg strength and should be a sure bet Pro Bowler in the near future. On the flip side, 70th overall will always have people second guessing Smith's decision making, even it if is for one of the better punters in the league.
RT Eben Britton (2009: 39th overall)
Britton has battled with injuries, but even when healthy has not played near the level many thought he could. He was drafted the same year as Eugene Monroe with the thought of having the two become the leaders for the offensive line for years to come. At least one panned out.
DT D'Anthony Smith (2010: 74th overall)
Smith was put on the IR his first season and was kept around with the belief that another small school prospect was worth a higher selection. Finally getting on the field this season, Smith has shown very little and sits behind a group consisting of Tyson Alualu, CJ Mosley, and Terrence Knighton.
May still be too early to count him out, but it is highly unlikely that he rejoins the Jags in 2013.
DE Larry Hart (2010: 143rd overall)
Hart was supposed to come in and be the aggressive, undersized pass rusher that fell right into the Jags lap in the fifth-round. Unfortunately, the NFL was a little too much for Hart who never was able to produce.
As a fifth-round prospect, the Jaguars failed once again to bring in anybody who could really help.
RS Scotty McGee (2010: 203rd overall)
It's a little difficult to hold a very late draft pick against Smith, but Scotty McGee was selected simply as a return specialist, and never even came close to helping out the team. It's unfair to say somebody else may have been better, but there are always hidden gems late in rounds, and Smith has failed to find any that make a significant impact in Jacksonville.
QB Blaine Gabbert (2011: 10th overall)
Some say it's too soon to mark down Gabbert as a poor choice, but I say those people are in denial. Gabbert has played far too many games now to show very minimal skill progression that lead to franchise-type quarterbacks. Gabbert has impressed once, in the preseason of 2012.
I will admit that I was guilty, I thought the preseason meant more than it does after watching the same Gabbert hit the field in 2012 with very limited improvement from a year ago. Chad Henne has the same offensive line and wide receivers that Gabbert did, and the team has a whole new look on offense that is leading to a much better Jaguars team.
CB Rod Isaac (2011: 147th overall)
A late, and very disappointing draft selection out of another small school in Middle Tennessee. Isaac had decent size and speed, but that was the extent of his talents in the NFL. Isaac saw very minimal playing time and it led to very little impact on the field.
LB Brandon Marshall (2012: 142nd overall)
A fifth-round player released the same year he is drafted, on a team that lost two of their starters at that same position. Brandon Marshall had every chance in the world to earn playing time this season, and didn't even get a chance to help.
A very productive player out of Nevada, many thought he was a good pickup in the fifth round, but that was very far from the truth. Another wasted mid-late round draft pick.
Smith seemed to have taken one step forward and then two steps back with every draft. Despite having a couple good picks, the poor selections look to have outweighed the good ones by a pretty significant margin.
The entire fanbase would have a much different attitude toward Gene Smith if one in particular worked out, but he has not and at this point does not look like he will. If you do not know who I am talking about, then you are not a Jaguars fan.
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