JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When asked what Jacksonville's top need is heading into the NFL draft, general manager Gene Smith was quick to respond.
"Talent," he said.
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That makes this week's three-day draft, which begins Thursday night, pivotal for a rebuilding franchise that has missed the playoffs 10 of the last 12 years. The Jaguars have the seventh pick in the first round, their fifth consecutive year with a top-10 selection.
What they do with it is anyone's guess.
The Jaguars, though, have made it clear they would like to trade down from No. 7 and acquire extra picks. They have been fielding calls for weeks about potential swaps, but no deal will be made until draft night.
"We've already received more phone calls this year than any other year," player personnel director Terry McDonough said. "There's some jockeying going on."
Although Jacksonville re-signed defensive end Jeremy Mincey in free agency, the team did nothing else to upgrade a D-line that has some glaring holes.
Defensive end Aaron Kampman has missed 15 games over the last two seasons because of knee injuries, a bad sign for a 32-year-old player. Defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith, a third-round pick in 2010, hasn't played a down in two years. Tyson Alualu, John Chick and Austen Lane also are coming off injuries.
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Smith believes the draft is the deepest at defensive tackle, so selecting one in the first round might not be as big a priority as other positions.
Despite all the speculation about who the Jaguars should take, Smith would prefer to trade down and acquire more picks - and more talent.
"It's a good draft to trade back," he said. "There are some players clearly in rounds 2 through 5 that could help us. Again, I'm probably a little selfish on draft picks because you put all that work in and you would like to have more draft picks. But I'm not going to move for the sake of moving unless it makes sense. I'm not about being cute, probably more about executing based on our plan going in."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press