In recent years, the Jacksonville Jaguars have seemed determined to draft in pairs early.
Two years ago they traded up for the eighth and 52nd selections in the draft, selecting defensive ends Derrick Harvey (Florida) and Quentin Groves (Auburn) to inject life into a pass rush that had failed to pressure quarterback Tom Brady in the Jaguars' 2007 divisional playoff loss.
Last year, under new general manager Gene Smith, the best players available for Jacksonville's first two selections—the eighth and 39th overall—happened to be Virginia left tackle Eugene Monroe and Arizona right tackle Eben Britton.
With the 74th pick in this year's draft, the Jaguars kept that trend alive. After their surprising decision to nab defensive tackle Tyson Alualu in the first round, the team chose Louisiana Tech's D'Anthony Smith to further fortify that spot on the depth chart.
"Smith doesn't have the rare size or athleticism to warrant a first round grade," according to NFLDraftScout.com , "but he ranks among the more intriguing second tier defensive tackle prospects of the 2010 draft."
At 6'2" and 305 pounds, Smith impressed scouts from several NFL teams with a 35" vertical leap and 9'5" broad jump at Louisiana Tech's pro day in March—both numbers suggestive of unusual explosiveness for his frame.
Coupled with Smith's 30 bench presses of 225 pounds, Jacksonville's newest addition can't be considered unathletic.
The Jaguars' 2009 draft set the bar high for third-round defensive tackles when Temple's Terrance Knighton turned out to be a force in the middle. Like Knighton, Smith has experience inside in both three and four-man fronts from his 44 starts at Louisiana Tech.
Most concerns about Smith seem to center around the step up in competition he'll face from the Western Athletic Conference to the NFL.
Considering Jacksonville's experience with starting cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox, both of whom were FCS prospects, Jaguars fans should have some measure of optimism that the team's scouts have locked in on another small-school gem.
Between Knighton and Jacksonville's investment of first and third round picks at defensive tackle this week, 2002 first-rounder John Henderson could be on his way out via trade.
If not, the Jaguars' combination of veteran presence and young depth at this year's targeted position will be very impressive.
[Photo courtesy of the National Football Post website.]