David Garrard is 31 years old, and after the beating he took last season, it's only common sense for the Jaguars to begin looking for the future quarterback of the team. Someone who can spend a couple seasons behind David and learn and adjust to the speed and talent of the pro game. There will be another crop of quarterbacks in next year's draft. However, by waiting one more year, that means one less year of development for the talent destined to be the next starter. For that reason, the Jaguars are likely to try to address their need at quarterback in this year’s draft. There are specific places to look and methods they should heed in their hunt for the future of the franchise.
One issue that seems to have been pushed under the rug as of late is the cost of drafting early. At the end of the regular season many of us were fearful that the Jaguars would be stuck with the cost of another top 10 draft pick, yet none of us seem to have that same fear today. KingFysh posted a Fanshot 3 months ago with a link that showed the issues that teams face picking in the top 10. The compensation that the teams get on the field does not match the amount that is paid to draft picks that are taken so high. In the past 4 years, the contract amounts of the first QB taken in the draft has ballooned as can be seen by this chart:
($ in millions)
Those numbers reflect the contract of the first quarterbacks taken in the last years, and if the Jaguars drafted at 8, they'd be in position to take the first or second quarterback of the draft. The drop-off from the first to the second quarterback, if both were taken in the top 8, would not be very significant. The #8 pick wouldn't warrant the same amount as the picks of prior years, because those quarterbacks were all taken in the top 3 of their drafts, but the contract would likely be in the same range. It would be problematic for the Jaguars to have someone with such a huge contract to not contribute immediately to the team.
With the money received by early first round picks so high, many have said that the ideal place for the Jaguars to look would be in the middle rounds of this years draft. This would enable them to tap into the talent that isn't in the top tier. These players are the ones that could be groomed for cheap, and after 2-3 years of learning, they would be capable of taking over the team. However, the stats strongly go against that sentiment. First round talent is by far the most successful in the NFL. 52 different quarterbacks started a game in the NFL and below is a breakdown of which round these quarterbacks were drafted in.
So, talent can be found in every round, but the best chance to find a starting quarterback to be is obviously in the first round. The highest level of talent and skill is taken in that round, and that is where the Jaguars should look to for investing in their future.
The grooming of a young quarterback is a very necessary step for the creation of a future star. There are some quarterbacks that have success in their first year in the league, but forcing a young player into a starting role in his first year is the perfect way to create a bust. Chad Pennington, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer and Aaron Rodgers are all starters in the league who were slowly groomed into their role as the face of the franchise. The classic examples of busts: Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf, David Carr and Joey Harrington, were all thrown into battle and struggled to adjust to the speed of the next level as a result.
So, what does that all mean for this year's draft? All arrows point to Josh Freeman. He's likely to get drafted in the back half of the first round which would warrant a contract similar to that of Joe Flacco's from last year. Flacco received a 5 year, $11.9 million contract with $8.4 million guaranteed. That would be a player who is more than affordable for the Jaguars to groom behind Garrard. Freeman is a player with loads of 1st-round-quality talent who just requires some coaching on technical details. With David Garrard and Mike Shula teaching him the keys to being a successful starter in the NFL, he could learn to perfect his game before going into battle. Hopefully the Jaguars can take Freeman after a trade, because he looks to me like the perfect player to take the reigns of this franchise in the future.