What is the difference between the Jaguars and the this years Superbowl 45 bound teams? The 1st Round of the draft. This sounds relatively simple right, but the Jaguars lost out on their chance on competing for a Superbowl because of this very fundamental difference. Let's start with the Jaguars's draft history which most of us sadly remember all too well. As you can see below here is a list of the Jaguars first round picks and a quick description:
2002 - John Henderson (DT) - Overview: Pro Bowler DT, but released after 2009 season
2003 - Byron Leftwich (QB) - Overview - Released after 4 mediocre and injury plagued seasons
2004 - Reggie Williams (WR) - Overview - Average wide out at best, did not resign
2005 - Matt Jones (WR) - Overview - Flashed occasional talent, too many run ins with law, released
2006 - Marcedes Lewis (TE) - Overview - Pro Bowl TE, still with team
2007 - Reggie Nelson (DB) - Overview - Promising rookie season, struggled after. Traded
2008 - Derrick Harvey (DE) - Overview - Average DE statistics, is now considered a back-up and/or tradeable
2009 - Eugene Monroe (OT) - Overview - Missed only 2 games so far, good play so far.
2010 - Tyson Alualu (DT) - Overview - Great first season, have to wait and see how he does in 2011
I can count 4 of these picks as sure fire busts (Leftwich, Williams, Jones and Nelson) with Harvey on the border not because of terrible play but because he wasn't worth the #8 pick. Then if you add in the fact that Henderson is no longer on the team you are looking at 3 good 1st round picks left with the team out of 9 years of drafting with Monroe and Alualu only having 3 seasons experience between them. Now I understand Gene Smith has pretty much tried to start over in 2009 and we are rebuilding. Now a lot of fans are calling for free agent signings to help improve the team and in many cases they can work out but the draft is even more crucial. Just looking at the Jaguars drafts compared to the Steelers and Packers makes you realize how much the first round of the draft matters.
Since 2002 the Steelers have drafted in the first round 4 Pro Bowlers since 2002 (Troy Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller, and Maurkice Pouncey), a Super-Bowl MVP and stud wide out (Santonio Holmes), a RB who has rushed for 2,381 yards and 20 TD's in 2 seasons (Rashard Mendenhall) and a quality starting LB (Lawrence Timmons). That is a pretty impressive draft resume in 9 years. Now just look at the Packers draft since 2002. They have drafted 3 Pro Bowlers (Javon Walker, Aaron Rodgers, and Clay Mathews III), a Second Team All-Pro (Nick Barnett), two All-Rookie team and quality starters (A.J. Hawk and Bryan Bulaga) and a monster DT (B.J. Raji). The Packers though not as impressive as the Steelers also boost a very nice 1st round resume. Both of these teams have drafted their franchise and Pro Bowl QB's in the first round of the draft, they also both have drafted great defensive players and leaders, and the both have reduced the amount of busts drafted. Obviously sometimes you can't predict players are going to bust do to injury or other circumstances but overall the Steelers and Packers have made their first round picks count and that one of the main reasons they are in Superbowl in two weeks. I know we have talked a lot about the Jaguars terrible 1st round draft history but this is a prime example of how the drafting makes all the difference.