The Jacksonville Jaguars will go into the 2009 draft with something they have never had—a true general manager calling the shots.
Promoted in January, new GM Gene Smith will have full control come draft day. Or as head coach Jack Del Rio worded it; “Gene has the conn”.
All hands on deck and full speed ahead. Smith will be trying to right this ship that is feeling the effects of missed first round draft picks of '03 (Byron Leftwich), '04 (Reggie Williams), and '05 (Matt Jones) where all three are currently looking for jobs elsewhere.
Smith knows this team well though as he has been scouting players for them for 15 years. Hired in 1994 as a college scout, Smith’s most recent title was Executive Director of College and Pro Personnel.
It did not take Smith long to put his stamp on this team though. After cutting free-agent disappointments WR Jerry Porter and CB Drayton Florence, the facelift continued as the Jaguars said goodbye to their franchise leading rusher and fan favorite, RB Fred Taylor.
The Jaguars also parted ways with veteran DE Paul Spicer as well as WR busts Reggie Williams and Matt Jones as well as starting SS Gerald Sensabaugh.
On the surface, this sure looks like a team that has entered rebuilding mode with an eye to the future. But are they rebuilding?
Gene Smith would not go as far as saying the team is rebuilding, only “re-tooling the roster.” This process will involve talent as well as character evaluation as the Jaguars look to rid themselves of anymore off the field problems and get back the blue-collar, team-first atmosphere of two years ago.
Smith started the re-tooling process early in free-agency snagging veteran LT Tra Thomas (Eagles). Thomas fills one of the three gaping holes on this roster.
Offensive tackle was a huge liability for the Jaguars in 2008. They let disappointing LT Khalif Barnes walk in free agency and due to the tragedy regarding Richard Collier, they have absolutely no one waiting in the wings behind him.
The still leaves two holes that will need to be filled draft day—DT and WR.
On the D-Line, Big John Henderson just isn't the same dominant player he once was and really got exposed last year without fellow DT Marcus Stroud next to him.
Jack Del Rio has always fielded a top-notch defense until last year where they ranked in the bottom half of the league. Look for the Jaguars to add a big DT sometime in this draft.
The other position that will need to be addressed is WR. After losing Porter, Jones, and Williams, the Jaguars might just have the worst group of receivers in the entire league. The Jaguars will draft a WR by the end of day one.
The Jaguars are now on the clock…
Gene Smith has said that he would like to accumulate some more draft picks come draft day and they have made no secret that they will look at the options to trade down.
However, he has also said that he will not lose value in doing so. Smith is all about value as he puts his draft board together. He will look to trade down, but will not hesitate to pull the trigger on a guy at No. 8 if he is the BAP (best available player) on his board.
What if that BAP is a QB though?
Will Smith stick to his “value-line” and BAP philosophy if QB Mark Sanchez is staring him in the face?
QB David Garrard, who turned 31 this off-season is coming off a disappointing performance in 2008. He will look to rebound and would love the Jags to get him a weapon, but unless Michael Crabtree is there, taking a WR at No. 8 might be a reach.
Garrard said in a recent interview that the team has told him that a QB will not be the pick. This is also the same team that told QB Byron Leftwich that the 2008 starting job was his only to be cut seven months later.
We will find out April 25.
Even if the Jags do not take Sanchez, I still see him going no later than No. 8 via trade. The Jets, Broncos, Redskins, and Bucs will all be on the phone here to trade up. However, if Gene Smith does not get the value he wants with a trade, Sanchez will be the pick.
He can learn from Garrard for a year or come in and start from day one. Either way, Jack Del Rio, Gene Smith and the Jaguars will have their franchise QB of the future and a centerpiece to build this team around.
2009 Jaguars 3 Round Mock Draft
Team needs: WR, DT, OL
First round, pick No. 8: QB - Mark Sanchez – USC
Second round, pick No. 39: WR – Brian Robiskie – Ohio State
Third round, pick No. 72: DT – Sen’Derrick Marks — Auburn