Over the course of the past two years, Gene Smith has drafted, shall we say, "differently" than we expected. From surprise draft picks to high-priced free agents, Smith has surprised us at every turn. This has built a vision of Gene Smith's ideal player in the eyes of Jaguars fans. They refer to these players as "Gene guys". If a player doesn't meet these criteria, he is considered to not be a "Gene guy". Here's why excluding players who aren't "Gene guys" from draft projections is a bunch of garbage:
The vision of a "Gene guy" is a player who is a team captain, a senior, has no character issues, and is a "safe" pick (at least in the earlier rounds). This is flawed logic.
Gene Smith has drafted 15 players over the past two years. They are as follows:
2009: Eugene Monroe (Virginia), Eben Britton (Arizona), Derek Cox (William & Mary), Terrance Knighton (Temple), Mike Thomas (Arizona), Jarett Dillard (Rice), Zach Miller (Nebraska-Omaha), Rashad Jennings (Liberty), Tiquan Underwood (Rutgers)
2010: Tyson Alualu (California), D'Anthony Smith (Louisiana Tech), Larry Hart (Central Arkansas), Austen Lane (Murray State), Deji Karim (Southern Illinois), Scotty McGee (James Madison)
Of these players, five (Monroe, Britton, Thomas, Underwood, Alualu) come from BCS automatic qualifier conferences. The other ten come from smaller, lower-profile schools. It seems that Gene Smith has a thing for small-school guys. In an interview with the Times-Union's Tania Ganguli, he even admits as much:
"Small-college guys typically don't get overdrafted," Smith said. "I do think you can get value in small-college guys. We do the work on every player in the draft, regardless of where you come from. We scout the player, not the school."
Small schools definitely produce NFL talent; the question is, is there anything specific we know about small-school players? This information is impossible to find without spending countless hours scouring the internet, but from what I know about smaller school players, the following is usually true:
- Small-school players that are good enough to play in the NFL are usually players who were not highly thought-of coming out of high school, and thus usually stay until their Senior season to develop. By my count, 49 of the 56 underclassmen this year are from BCS automatic-qualifier schools, so this at least supports this thesis.
- Small-school players that are good enough to play in the NFL usually have few to no character concerns due to the fact that the deck is already stacked against them coming from smaller schools. This isn't easy info to find, so this is merely conjecture, but I personally believe this is usually the case.
- Small-school players that are good enough to play in the NFL are usually team captains, as they are not only the elite players on their team, but also in their conference. Even if players are not natural leaders, elite players are usually made team captains simply because they lead with their play on the field.
This suggests that the vast majority of small-school players selected in the NFL draft will be Senior captains with few to no character concerns. Sound familiar? Let's look at the bigger-school guys, then.
There were 255 total draft picks in 2010; it's safe to assume there will be a similar number of picks this year. The total number of underclassmen in the draft this year? 56. That would mean that if every underclassmen were drafted (unlikely), approximately 22% of the players drafted would be underclassmen (close to one in five). Out of the five (a fortunate coincidence for our purposes here) players from BCS automatic-qualifier schools Gene Smith has selected in two years as the Jaguars' GM, he has chosen...wait for it...one underclassman (Eben Britton). One in five. Sound familiar? This is not out of line with what you'd expect on a whole. Obviously this is not conclusive evidence of anything; I used the number of 2010 draft picks, the number of 2011 underclassmen, and excluded small-school players from my results but not from my sample. This doesn't prove anything; it's just something to think about.
It is true that Gene Smith has taken supposedly "safe" players in the first two rounds in both 2009 and 2010; however, I don't believe it has anything to do with his personal mindset. The positions he selected were offensive tackle (twice) and defensive tackle. These are two of the safest positions to draft, especially offensive tackles; usually even if a tackle doesn't succeed at tackle he can be moved to guard and have decent success. These positions are "safer" on a whole. This doesn't mean that Gene Smith prefers "safe" players; it means that the positions he was trying to fill on his football team were positions that are usually considered "safe". Furthermore, Smith has come out of left field with the vast majority of his picks from the third round and later, so I don't see why being a "safe" pick is something that people would consider to be a quality of a "Gene guy".
Let's not forget the fact that two years is barely any amount of time for a sample. 15 draft picks isn't nearly enough to establish what kind of players Gene Smith prefers. This seems too obvious to bother including in this post, but Jaguars fans seem to continue to discount this fact.
Overall, the logic just crashes and burns. Gene likes small-school guys, who are usually Senior captains with no character issues. When he doesn't pick small school guys, he doesn't take more seniors than one would expect in any five-pick sample. Being a Senior captain may enhance a player's value slightly, but the problem people seem to have is that they EXCLUDE players who do not meet the criteria of a "Gene guy", which is garbage. If Gene Smith thinks Aldon Smith is easily the best player available at 16, do you think he'll pass on him due to the fact that he's a Sophomore non-captain? Absolutely not! If Adrian Clayborn is at the top of Smith's board at 16, he'll be the pick, regardless of any incidents in his past.
At this point, after only two years, it's impossible to tell what a "Gene guy" is, if that distinction even exists. To be a "Gene guy", I would contend, one must be an excellent football player. That's the only absolute I can see.