Since the beginning of the "Gene Smith Era", the Jaguars have been widely
ridiculed known as being a team that looked to smaller D-I, D-II, or even D-III schools to find talent in both the draft and undrafted free agency. While this strategy has led to some decent hits, such as Derek Cox and Cecil Shorts , it's also led to many more misses, see Larry Hart, D'Anthony Smith, Jaris Pendleton, Deji Karim, etc.
Both fans and local media alike have pointed to the small-school approach as a major reason for the team's deprivation of overall talent on the roster under Smith. Under Dave Caldwell, however, it appears as if the fans and local talking heads can breath a little easier come draft weekend.
In an interview with Jaguars.com Senior Editor John Oehser, Caldwell made a couple of declarations about his approach to the draft that mark a somewhat drastic step in a different direction, from that of his predecessor.
“I always believe in drafting and acquiring toward what the norms are,” he said. “If 93 percent of the players in the NFL are playing at Division I-A programs, that’s the norm. I’m not saying I would never draft a small-school player, but they would have to dominate that level. I wouldn’t say absolutes, but I’m a believer: big school, big competition.’’
Caldwell went on to discuss certain size and spec requirements he may have regarding a prospect coming out in the draft.
“We do have minimums, but they’re not hard,” Caldwell said. “If they’re an eighth of an inch shorter or a 10th of a second slower, we’re not going to bypass the grade. It’s part of the process, but we won’t split hairs on some things.”
While it should be noted that in each of Smith's four first round selections, a player was chosen from a BCS program, the Jaguars new GM coming out and saying they will specifically prefer major conference players in rounds 2-7 is a seismic shift in both approach and transparency from the last 4 years.
The declaration will likely be met with wide praise across the fan base and sports radio. That being said, the team must now make sure these "big school" players, can transition into "big time NFL players".