Connections helped Jags, Monroe and Titans, Britt

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
NASHVILLE -- Connections and some insider info helped the Jaguars feel certain about Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe and aided the Titans as they decided Kenny Britt was their man.

It's fairly common for personnel folks, scouts and coaches to lean on friends in the business and to place extra value on their opinions.

Jacksonville offensive line coach Andy Heck was an assistant at UVA when the Cavaliers staff recruited Monroe out of Plainfield (N.J.) high school.

"Being in Indianapolis for the NFL combine, I got to be around him," Heck said. "I was actually on the field working these guys. I did go to Virginia's campus and work Eugene out. Even back from my days as a coach at Virginia I had some exposure to Eugene as a high schooler.

"I have gotten a chance to know Eugene and I'm close to the Virginia program having been there and this is a top-flight character guy. The things I'm most excited about are his work ethic, determination, serious approach to football and anything he wants to be good at, really."

While Monroe worked out of a two-point stance a lot at Virginia, he comes into the league as a top-flight pass protector whom the Jaguars say has the characteristics that will allow him to grow as a run-blocker.

The Titans were helped by input from a former offensive lineman, Tom Ackerman, in 2005 when they grabbed left tackle Michael Roos out of Eastern Washington in the second round. This time they had insider insight on Britt at No. 30.

Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger worked with receiver Rod Smith in Denver, and as Britt prepared for the draft in Arizona, he said he worked three times a week with Smith.

Heimerdinger squeezed all the information he could out of Smith, and it helped him add to what the scouting department already had gathered.

"[Smith] told me about his work ethic and the way that Kenny had worked for him and the things that he had tried to help Kenny with," Heimerdinger said. "He said Kenny did all the things that he was trying to help with and improve on. We had talked and did the background on him. I really wanted to find out from Rod what his work ethic was like, plus his brain. Rod said he handled everything good. Everything he gave him and every challenge he gave him, he worked hard at."

Additionally, quick notes on Indianapolis and Houston at the end of the first day:

-- In Indianapolis, the Colts passed on Evander Hood in the first round, but moved up five spots in the second round to address their hole at defensive tackle, tabbing USC's 6-foot-4, 304-pound Fili Moala.

I counted and came up with 98 total draft picks for Bill Polian running the Colts since 1999 -- including two Saturday.

Moala is just the fifth defensive tackle and only the second taken as high as the second round. Larry Tripplett was the 42nd pick in 2002. Moala was 56th. Polian gave up a fifth-rounder, No. 165, to move from No. 61 in the second round.

-- Texans new defensive coordinator Frank Bush said Brian Cushing was Houston's target for a good while. And while he didn't want to pressurize the expectations, Bush also couldn't help mentioning Cushing's qualities remind him of two very big names he's worked with.

"He was my guy ever since I've watched him early in this season and throughout the combine," Bush said. "I guess he reminded me of another player I coached a little while ago. His demeanor, his intensity, and the way he played the game -- he reminded me of a player I coached at Denver. I like everything about him and hopefully he can bring us some impact on the defense."

"Who?" asked a reporter. "Al Wilson?"

"Al Wilson was one of my favorite players. Bill Romanowski, that type of intensity. I say that tongue-in-cheek because I don't want to put all that other stuff on that kid so that he plays football that way."