AFC South: Jason Smith
INDIANAPOLIS -- Michael Crabtree's foot injury is expected to mean he'll slide on draft day. If he's still on the board at No. 8, could he be in play for the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that's been in need of a big-play wide receiver since the end of the Jimmy Smith era?
I certainly suspect not. Last year's "big" receiver addition, free agent Jerry Porter, was dealing with a hamstring injury as he tried to get off the ground for the Jags and it never happened for him as he quickly fell out of favor.
Besides, the Jags appear to be committed to working on their offensive and defensive lines first. The common thinking is they'll get one of the top three offensive tackles with their first pick.
The question is, if Crabtree slips to their spot and beyond, does the team that would have taken a healthy Crabtree in front of them now step on their toes by taking a tackle? Eugene Monroe, Jason Smith and Andre Smith look to be potential top 10 picks, with Michael Oher in the mix, too.
Kansas City at No. 3, Seattle at No. 4, Cincinnati at No. 6 and Oakland at No. 7 have all been presumed to be among Crabtree's suitors. If they move away from him because of concerns about his foot, those are teams that might look to a tackle as an alternative.
That could mean the Jaguars are less likely to find the tackle they like best or one they find a value at No. 8.
INDIANAPOLIS -- A lot of people expect three offensive tackles to be off the board in the first 10 or 12 picks of the NFL Draft.
At No. 8, the Jacksonville Jaguars may well claim one of them. A stud left tackle is a necessity for a team trying to refortify its lines.
O-linemen talked Thursday at the scouting combine. Ask around and you get the top three guys in all different orders. I'll go alphabetically by school: Alabama's Andre Smith, Baylor's Jason Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe all answered questions about what might set them apart. (Ole Miss' Michael Oher is a likely first rounder too, but while he said he's the best of the lot, he's generally rated as fourth so far.)
Jason Smith won the battle of the podium media sessions, but I have been told by several prominent scouts that means nothing when it comes to actual evaluations. Nevertheless, this is what I am armed with right now, and I thought you might be interested in a bit of what each of the top tackles had to say:
Why should you be the first tackle taken?
Why should I be the first tackle taken? Hmmm. Just my hard work on the field. The way I go out and compete every play, try to dominate my opponent every single play.
Do you measure yourself against other top tackles in this draft?
I try to pick up certain things they may do as far as how they work out or something they may do different and try to see if it works for me, or if it's a hindrance to me. Eugene, Jason and Mike [Oher], I love all of them.
You said you weigh 332. There were reports you were up to 380.
No sir. The highest I've ever been is 345 ... I never had a problem at the university as far as having a weight issue.
How did you get your weight down?
Changing my eating habits, being disciplined, not eating after certain times of night.
What do you see in the quality of tackles in this year's draft?
All of us bring something good to the table. Every one of us do something really well. We like to compete. We work hard with our teammates on the offensive line. We have to play together on the offensive line. We play good in the system we're in.
On your reputation for finishing blocks:
When I'm on the field, I take a lot of pride in physically assaulting somebody. As far as finishing them off, that's just a part of the block, so you don't really think too much of it because that's what you go on the field to do. So it's just something I practice real hard at, and I practice real hard at practicing, and when its game time it just happens naturally.
Have you talked to the Lions and is the No. 1 pick a realistic possibility?
Anything's realistic... I haven't talked to the Lions, but I do believe it's realistic that they will take a tackle and I do believe it's realistic that I can be the No. 1 overall pick.
What are your selling points?
First of all, I'm tough, I'm physical, and I have a great attitude. I show up every day willing to work. And I'm productive. And I have 12 games that shows it. And I have 12 weeks of practice that also shows it. So if you want to see a guy that practices hard, plays hard, look at my practice or look at my games -- you won't be able to tell the difference. I'll be going full speed, and every day you walk in there I'll have a smile on my face, ready to go to work.
There's a lot of technique involved. You don't just walk out there and hit somebody. But once you get your hands on a guy and grab him and squeeze him and slam him, or whatever goes on in the trenches, it's a great feeling. In the game of football, there's always something to work on. If you're an offensive lineman and you think you're great, retire. I'm still learning. And I honestly believe I'll still be learning till the day I retire.
On why he'll do all the workouts at the combine:
It's a bit of that too because you don't want to miss out on an opportunity to show you have the ability to do as well or better but you decide not to do the drill.
Make the case for why you should be the first tackle taken:
I think over my career at Virginia I've proven that I can block anybody. I have the determination to improve my game and the ambition to succeed. And I'll never stop, I'll just continue to set goals, one step is completed, I set another goal and I make sure I do everything in my power to achieve that and if I can't, if there is a setback, I reset everything and I go back again and go to the drawing board and continue to grind.
Do you watch anyone in the league as a model?
Yeah, when I study film at times I will watch Walter Jones a bit. I wouldn't say that I compare my game to his but I will try to learn things from him. Originally I was just looking at how consistent he is with his footwork and his hand placement and his explosiveness. He's a really good player.
Are you in line with the idea you're the best of the tackles?
I hear it but ultimately that's not my decision and all I can do is position myself where everyone knows about Eugene Monroe and what type of player and person he is.
What's the competition like between you and the other top tackles?
Who is going to be the first one picked? We'll see in April. I can't predict that. We speak and get along pretty well. It's a very good group.
A pre-combine rundown of what mock drafters have the teams of the AFC South doing.
Jacksonville Jaguars, No. 8
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com: Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia.
Wes Bunting, National Football Post: Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com: Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss
Chad Reuter, NFLDraftScout.com: Monroe
My thoughts: The early consensus is there will be a left tackle worth the pick for the Jaguars to insert in place of the disappointing Khalif Barnes, a free agent who won't be brought back. But if they don't love who's left, they could look to defensive tackle or corner.
Houston Texans, No. 15
Prisco: Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
Bunting: Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
Rang: Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
My thoughts: Cushing could be a bigger and more durable outside linebacker, but Davis and Johnson would do more to fill needs. A pass rusher to work opposite Mario Williams is one of them, and Johnson could be the guy. And corner will become an even bigger need if the Texans are unable to re-sign Dunta Robinson.
Indianapolis Colts, No. 27
Prisco: Peira Jerry, DT, Ole Miss
Bunting: Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
My thoughts: If Jerry is as good as people are saying, I don't know that he'll be on the board here. Is Harvin the crisp route runner and quick learner the Colts require? While defensive tackle and wide receiver are the clear needs, in a best-player-available scenario they could go virtually anywhere position-wise.
Tennessee Titans, No. 30
Prisco: James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State
Reuter: Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest
My thoughts: Unless they see Laurinaitis as an outside guy, the Titans won't spend even a low first-round pick on a middle linebacker as it's a situational role for them. Smith may make sense as an heir to Nick Harper in 2010. Jerry probably won't last this long and if they lose Albert Haynesworth it doesn't mean they have to have a tackle -- they drafted Jason Jones last year.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
I asked Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com's senior analyst, to share his thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round given these parameters -- their primary needs are left tackle, defensive tackle and cornerback.
Here's what Rang had to say in our e-mail exchange:
Left tackle: This appears to be the Jags' best bet in the first round, as the talent and depth of this year's tackle class is so good they'll almost surely have at least one of the elite offensive tackles -- Eugene Monroe, Jason Smith, Andre Smith, or Michael Oher available to them. All four are ranked by most teams as legitimate top ten selections. Oher is the most controversial of the bunch due to questions about his mental strength, but in coaching him at the Senior Bowl (where he was very good), the Jaguars will have an unrivaled history with him. That fact has led me to give Oher to Jacksonville in each of my first three mock drafts.
DT: The only defensive tackle worthy of consideration at No. 8 would appear to be Boston College's B.J. Raji. He'd provide the team with a similar run-stuffer they lost with the trade of Marcus Stroud, but like Stroud, there are concerns about his consistency.
CB: If Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins is available, he could be a steal at this point in the draft. Jacksonville has been willing to gamble on pure athleticism with Matt Jones and Reggie Nelson in the past and Illinois' Vontae Davis is expected to put together an eye-popping workout ala his brother (Vernon) a few years ago.