When Will Gene Smith Be Addressing Quarterback In The Jaguars 2010 Draft?

"The strength is on the defensive side of the ball. The strength is the defensive line. It matches," Smith said of the talent in this draft and the Jaguars’ needs, which appear to be greatest on the defensive side of the ball. http://www.jaguars.com/news/article.aspx?id=8755

In 2003 the Jaguars, then led by Shack Harris, decided Mark Brunell was no longer capable of leading the team. Coming off a season in which Brunell had his highest QB rating since 1998 (85.7), Harris took Byron Leftwich with the number eight pick in the draft. During a week three loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Brunell was benched in favor of Leftwich and the rest is history.

Ever since that dark day the Jaguars have struggled finding a signal caller. To further compound the issue they have refused to utilize the draft, bringing in cast off free agents such as Cleo Lemon and Todd Bouman or undrafted players in Paul Smith. The following chart shows Coughlin and post Coughlin drafting with respect to quarterback.

Coughlin

Post-Coughlin

1995 Rob Johnson USC – Rd 4

2003 Byron Leftwich Marshall – Rd 1

1998 Jonathan Quinn MTSU – Rd 3

 

2002 David Garrard East Carolina – Rd 4

 

What adds insult to injury is that Johnson netted a first and fourth round pick in a trade with Buffalo with which the Jaguars acquired Fred Taylor and Tavian Banks, while Garrard stands as the starter today. Whether in trade value or on field production, the Coughlin era is the sole repository of success. Simply put, the recent failure to recognize and draft available young quarterback talent has been colossal.

With a fan base, and coaching staff, questioning whether Garrard can be "elite" enough to make this team a winner, Gene Smith must bring in someone who can either push or replace David. The big variable is when to pull the trigger based on BAP and value. Unlike the Colts who aren't concerned that Curtis Painter will need to step in anytime soon, Jacksonville is in "re-tooling" mode.

Let's look at some winners and losers over the past five years to see what historically has proven accurate in drafting a quarterback.

2004 Draft – 17 Quarterbacks taken

4 of 5 QBs taken in rounds 1 and 3 (none taken in round 2) have been solid Pro Bowl selections and successful starters: Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Schaub. Only 1st rounder J.P. Losman has been a bust. No QB taken after Schaub is an impact player.

2005 Draft – 14 Quarterbacks taken

Apart from 1st rounder Aaron Rodgers, this draft has produced marginal QBs at best. Jason Campbell (1) and Kyle Orton (4) have been serviceable while Matt Cassel (7), Ryan Fitzpatrick (7) and Pro Bowler Derek Anderson (6) have been "one and done". Alex Smith (1) has not lived up to the selection.

2006 Draft – 12 Quarterbacks taken

Thought to be talent rich, this draft has disappointed. Included are first rounder Vince Young (Pro Bowl and OROY), Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler (Pro Bowl). Nothing beyond them is worthy of comment.

2007 Draft – 11 Quarterbacks taken

Even less talent than 2006. JaMarcus Russell (1) and Brady Quinn (1) are busts. Only Kevin Kolb (2) and Trent Edwards (3) have shown promise.

2008 Draft – 13 Quarterbacks taken

Too early to judge but thus far this there are some stand outs in Matt Ryan (1), Joe Flacco (1) and Chad Henne (2). Big names such as Brian Brohm (2 to GB), John David Booty (5 to Minnesota) and Dennis Dixon (5 to Pittsburgh) are limited due to the starter ahead of them.

2009 Draft -11 Quarterbacks taken

Again, too early to call. Matt Stafford (1), Mark Sanchez (1) and Josh Freeman (1) had their moments (some more than others). Pat White (2) looks to be a reach that won’t work out.  Save a brief stint by Nate Davis (5 to SF) there isn’t a single player who has made an impact.

This leads us into the 2010 draft. I am not here to do a draft breakdown of the top candidates. Apart from the big names, most of us probably have not seen the likes of Sean Canfield, John Skelton or Jarrett Brown enough to gain direct knowledge of their skill set. For all candidates, however, there are questions as to arm\mental strength, health, size and system. Additionally this draft does not present itself as deep so if you're going to pull the trigger in round one you had better have done your homework.

What this means is the "In Gene We Trust" mantra will surely be tested in April as there could be multiple ways to go. Linebacker, defensive back, defensive end, defensive tackle, wide receiver and quarterback may all be available at 10\11. The bottom line, and the most important question, is that of value. Where you take the player is done not only with respect to your value board but also where you expect other's value him. Maurice Jones-Drew, for example, could have gone in round one but knowing he wasn't on anyone's radar made him a great value pick in round two.

If Smith has a QB at the top of his board as BAP, what does the quarterback position offer? Here is a side by side comparison of what two draft sites show as their list of top 10 quarterback candidates.

Football’s Future

Scouts

Jimmy Clausen – Notre Dame

Sam Bradford – Oklahoma

Sam Bradford – Oklahoma

Jimmy Clausen – Notre Dame

Colt McCoy – Texas

Tim Tebow – Florida

Dan LeFevour – Central Michigan

Dan LeFevour – Central Michigan

Tim Tebow – Florida

Tony Pike – Cincinnati

Tony Pike – Cincinnati

Jarrett Brown – West Virginia

Jevan Snead – Ole Miss

Colt McCoy – Texas

Jarrett Brown – West Virginia

John Skelton – Fordham

John Skelton – Fordham

Jevan Snead – Ole Miss

Sean Canfield – Oregon St.

Sean Canfield – Oregon St.

Of the players listed above, most mocks show three grading out as first round picks, with McCoy probably falling into round two. Where the remaining fall is purely speculative but the expectation is that rounds three through five will be active. This means that the Jaguars may find themselves in the throes of the QB rush when their next pick comes around.

As the Jaguars presently do not have a second round selection, and with so many needs on defense, the onus is on Smith to ensure his scouting is accurate. This may afford him the option to trade down. When asked about Clausen and Bradford being "bait" he commented:

We’d certainly entertain the possibility of acquiring more picks

If Clausen is there he still might be considered. Playing under Charlie Weis is a big plus and if you look at the quarterbacks who have been successful over the past six years, they mostly came from a college which ran a pro style offense.

Bradford is a different story. Considering he enters the draft coming from a spread offense and a weaker arm, along with his injury, this adds to the risk\reward upon which the Jaguars simply cannot gamble.

Yet, if it does play out that Smith passes on any scenario to take a first pick QB, how do the odds favor later success? Unfortunately, as shown above, selecting a quarterback later in the draft doesn't usually afford one starting talent. Of those presently starting in the NFL, only 10 of 32 players listed as quarterbacks with stats per ESPN were selected after round two.

 

Round 1

18

Round 2

4

Round 4

2

Round 6

3

Round 7

2

Undrafted

3

That being said, if the scouting is quality your late round selection may be quality. Of those 10 taken after round two, eight have quarterbacked teams to the playoffs.

Some may say that there are more pressing needs than quarterback and that the young talent around David is sufficient to make him successful. I would counter that it doesn't matter if there is talent around David. If the value is there you take the quarterback. We all have seen how drafting for need has all but crippled this team.

At this point, if the mock drafts are accurate, it doesn't appear Jacksonville will go quarterback in round one. Even more telling are the words of Gene Smith himself.

I hope we can match best available player with some areas on defense where we need improvement. There’s a good likelihood we might be able to do that.

But he was also quick to note:

Once we conclude that (the draft board), we really start to build our value line, regardless of position.

I can't help but look at this draft class in comparison to 2005, with Clausen being 2010's Aaron Rodgers. However, I'll defer any final decision until after the combine when those with more scouting experience can give me guidance. What does seem evident is that 2010 is not 2004 and that Jacksonville may not see the quarterback position addressed until round four or later.

- Brian Fullford

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