Former Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Gene Smith was much maligned by the local media and fan base for his perceived preference for small-school prospects.
While Smith probably deserved more criticism for drafting poorly than where he got his prospects from, new Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell wants to bring a change to the teams drafting philosophy moving forward. The most important change may be that Caldwell plans to target more major conference players moving forward.
“I always believe in drafting and acquiring toward what the norms are,” Caldwell 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.’’
Yes, typically the best football players play their college football in a major conference, but some guys fall through the cracks for some reason or another. The biggest knock on small-school prospects is their lack of experience against other elite athletes, but that is no reason for the Jaguars to take them off of their draft board.
Caldwell is not going to completely ignore players from lower divisions because there are numerous examples of players from smaller schools having tremendous success in the NFL, but Caldwell is smart and knows what Jaguars fans want to hear heading into draft season. At this point there is no better way for Caldwell to endear himself to the Jaguars fan base than to distance himself from the top criticism of the previous regime.
The Jaguars may indeed target more players from major college conferences this offseason, but do not expect them to ignore a sizeable part of the draft class because they did not play in a BCS conference.