Is Offensive Line Possible for the Jacksonville Jaguars?

 

It's been mentioned before and discussed at length how the Jacksonville Jaguars are in the proverbial "No Man's Land" at the 10th overall selection in the NFL draft. As we all know, in last years draft the Jacksonville Jaguars used their 1st and 2nd round selections on offensive tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, who both started the majority of the season their rookie year.  The question now is, depending on how the Top 10 of the draft shakes down, could the Jaguars use another top pick on an offensive tackle?

 

While many people will scoff at the idea of drafting another tackle at the 10th pick on the evening of April 22nd, hear me out.  I will say that I have heard from some of my sources that the Jacksonville Jaguars would seriously entertain the option of drafting another tackle depending on how the Top 10 shakes out.  If someone like Bryan Bulaga from Iowa or Trent Williams from Oklahoma fall to the 10th selection, it could very well be that one of those players will get their name called.  If Jimmy Clausen is gone, whom the Jaguars do have serious interest in despite what some want to believe, and one of the previously mentioned tackles are available, it will seriously test general manager Gene Smith's best available player philosophy.  Eugene Monroe at 8th overall last season was a no brainer, but some would call an offensive line selection at 10 this year irresponsible.

Not me.

If you stop and think about the players who are likely going to be available, most are not necessarily Top 10 worthy. As I mentioned before, I did some chatting this weekend with some of my sources and it appears that the Jaguars think there are 3-4 players who will be available at pick 10 they think could make an impact right away, but the problem is they don't feel those players are necessarily worth a Top 10 selection.  For instance, take Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain.  McClain is a good player who likely would start Day 1 at middle linebacker in whatever defensive front the Jaguars plan to use.  Given his substandard speed however, he's not really a sideline-to-sideline type of  linebacker that most 4-3 teams typically look for.  From talking to a few sources including a Jaguars scout, the team likes Rolando McClain a lot, but they don't feel he's really worth a Top 10 selection.  Typically when your drafting a player in the Top 10, especially at linebacker, you're looking for them to be tops in all areas like a Patrick Willis, who had amazing speed for his size.  McClain's lack of speed (4.69 40 yard dash) makes him an incomplete and limited player. Offensive coordinators will match him up with backs and tight ends.

Now, some will argue taking a tackle in that early for the Jaguars would be a waste, because you don't draft right tackles that high.

Well, why not? Why can't you draft a right tackle that high? Isn't the offensive line arguably the most important unit on your football team? If you have your left tackle of the future, why can't you take another left tackle and play him on the right side? If that's the general feeling around the NFL, shouldn't you add the best talent whenever it's possible? I understand that right tackle is the red headed step child of the offensive line in the NFL, as the vast majority of the time they are not protecting the quarterback's blind side, but that doesn't make it not important.  If someone like Bulaga or Williams are available at pick 10, both players that a lot of scouts feel should start on the right side of the line, why would that be such a wasted pick?

If both are theoretically better fits on the right side of the line, don't you improve your line at two positions with one draft pick? You keep Eugene Monroe at left tackle, then you have Eben Britton and the rookie battle it out for the right tackle position with the loser kicking insider to right guard. You then have Brad Meester and Uche Nwaneri battle it out for the center position, or have Nwaneri battle Vincent Manuwai for the left guard position. I know there has been some talk of Eben Britton moving to center, but I don't buy it. He's simply too tall to play the center position. I checked, and the tallest starting center I could find in the NFL was only 6'4". Eben's long arms and reach would actually be a negative playing at the center spot, who are typically players who can work inside a phone booth. I'm not sure Eben can.

It seems to me that a position that's been of much scrutiny from fans and media would be one of the positions looking to be upgraded. If the opportunity presents itself, I say take it.  In the long run, if they turn into the types of players you think they can be, the money will take care of itself because of their performance. There has also been a lot of scrutiny on the pass rush and the defensive ends, but unlike the offensive line where 5 guys play, only 2 defensive ends are on the field at a time.

If the Jaguars feel like someone such as Rolando McClain, Joe Haden, Jason Pierre-Paul, Derrick Morgan, or Earl Thomas are not worth a 10th overall selection, is there really that much harm in drafting another offensive lineman if they're stuck at pick 10? Sure, it's not sexy, but typically the result of a talented offensive line is sexy. While the player may be playing right tackle or on of the guard positions, that shouldn't change their perceived "value" in the draft. They're still a "left tackle", their talent is just simply being utilized at a position of greater need. Look at what the New York Jets were able to do with a rookie quarterback last season. Their offensive line consists of 4 former 1st round picks.

While I'm sure there will be plenty of comments saying "Well, trade down." It's not that easy, there isn't a little box you check on the draft card with the picks you want to acquire.  There has to be a player there for a team to want to move up, and outside of Jimmy Clausen or Eric Berry, they likelihood a team moves up to the 10th spot in what many consider a deep draft, it's just not feasible.  Not to mention if the Jaguars want to move back in this draft, as a wrote a few weeks ago, it's looking more and more like they'll have to take less value than what their draft position is. While the last 2 drafts have both had a team move from outside the Top 10 into it (Jacksonville in 2008, New York Jets in 2009), since 2004 those are the only two times it's happened.  Fact of the matter is, trading into the Top 10 is a rare occurrence, and it looks likely the Jaguars are going to be stuck at pick 10 and will not be able to get out of it.

Don't be surprised if they draft another offensive lineman. Only 5 of 31 offensive tackles taken since 1993 in the Top 16 have been busts. The busts are Bernard Williams, Kenyetta Walker, Levi Brown, Mike Williams, and Robert Gallery (who wound up a very good right guard). 

Food for thought.

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