Ahhh yes, it's Christmas time, but the Jaguars and their fans may have to wait until April for their presents. Last year we were gifted with a top 5 defense during the off season right beneath our noses. Who knows what gifts may lie ahead? Given the availability of 2 key FA acquisitions and what may be a very lucky draft position in every single round, there may be plenty to celebrate.
Please note, it is implied that Quarterback play is required to improve for anything to happen, and this IS NOT a discussion about Blaine Gabbert. Also note, that while I did not take a veteran in FA or a top pick for Quarterback, I did take one in the third round as subtle plan B.
Last year, I used www.drafttek.com 's consensus mock draft to make a few mocks, and I'm at it again. If you've never checked this site out before, I highly recommend it. The downside is that occasionally players are mocked long after their projections, making things seem a little unlikely (they currently have us drafting WR Jeffrey in the second round, for example). The advantage is there are "draft specialists" that follow each individual team and mock all that team's picks, allowing for a little bit of a realistic picture at what guys may fall and better introspection into team needs.
The following is a look at Free Agency, the draft, and the final 53 man roster. Is it WAY too early to have a realistic shot at doing this? Most definitely. With the season crashing to a halt, it's all we have, and much like a kid writing his wish list to Santa, all we can do is let the excitement build as we approach the season for getting. Lets get to it!
Dwayne Bowe: I have expressed my opinion of Bowe many times here. He is a do-all guy with great speed who can in the middle, over the top and down the sideline.
Carl Nicks: According to www.footballsfuture.com, "Nicks is one of the premier guards in the league and after watching Jahri Evans strike a rich deal not too long ago, the Saints may be hard pressed to offer a second guard that type of money, though Nicks arguably had a better season a year ago. If Nicks doesn't put a hometown discount on the table, there's a good chance the market shows him more love than the Saints can afford to show him." A 26 year old premier offensive lineman is rarely available in Free Agency. This, in my opinion, is one of the best and most exciting options if available, and should be a no brain-er pick up. When's the last time you heard that about an OG?
Post Free Agency Trade:
Jaguars trade WR Mike Thomas to the Bucs for a 3rd round and 6th round pick in the 2011 draft. To many, this trade will seem unlikely, but the Bucs are hurting for a receiver nearly as bad as we are. If they missed out on a guy in Free Agency, they may be open to trade talks. Mike Thomas is a young guy who has shown ability to play well with a mobile QB, provide some options on reverses in the run game, be productive with a mediocre Quarterback and provide a boost in the punt game, all of which the Bucs would be interested in. Thing is, while Thomas is a good slot guy, he's just a guy....and I think we're beginning to see that. May he have been better this year with better play from the Quarterback? Sure, but I think in 2010 we saw his ceiling. Meanwhile, the rest of the league has seen a poor offense as a whole led by an underwhelming rooking QB. Thomas' value could be worth more now than in the future, as teams may see a much higher peak to be reached. With a house cleaning at WR looming, we'd be fools not to trade him and that brand new contract.
1, 4 - Riley Reiff - LT - Reiff is said to be a solid LT with a high ceiling. It's not a fact that a good LT can play RT better than a good RT, but it often is the case due to pass blocking experience and skill set. With Reiff, you get a guy who's particularly good at run blocking and has great athleticism, making him an ideal candidate for a smooth transition to RT. He's also played at RT at the beginning of his collegiate career and was very successful. Being the second tackle off the board, Reiff should cost nowhere near the price that a top ten, or even first round tackle of two years ago. There is one red flag: before he even started his Freshman year, Reiff was arrested for public intoxication and ran the police in circles for twenty minutes. Since then, he's has been said to have a great attitude and no character issues.
2, 37 - Dwight Jones - WR - Drafttek had us drafting Alshon Jeffrey here, but I really don't think this is a realistic choice. Honestly though, Jones is at top of my list in this draft class. Jones is in the Jeffrey build, has great hands, makes very athletic catches, has had monster games, broken records, and has shown up in big games. The Tar Heels named him their Offensive MVP in 2011, he won honorable mention in 2010 for the All-ACC team and is a candidate for the 2011 All-ACC team and the Biletnikoff award. Jones has number one potential, and a very high floor, making him a safe/reward pick. As a senior for UNC, Jones has "Gene Guy" written all over him.
3, 69 (from Tampa Bay) - Marvin Mcnutt - WR: What a steal! A lot of people think the guy could go early in the second, but a deep class for WRs may allow him to slide to the top of the third round. Mcnutt should be able to backup Jones, if not push for the big man spot in the starting lineup.
3, 70 - Tyler Wilson - QB - Given the recent withdraws from the QB class by some of the top guys, Wilson may not make it this far. Wilson is a great prospect from a pro system that has flown under the radar and I think is worth a high second round value in most drafts. I hope he somehow stays under the radar.
4, 107 - Michael Egnew - TE - We add our fifth straight offensive pick, where need meets value, again. Being at the top of each round in this draft is paying great dividends as Egnew has great pass catching ability, even capable of lining up at receiver late in his Junior year. Catching Egnew outside of the top 100 is a steal, as he was a consensus All American in 2010, and All Big-12 in 2011. Injury and surgery resulted in a drop-off in statistics this year, which is the only reason he's not the top TE off the board.
5, 131 - Ryan Broyles - WR - Heres a guy that could go as high as the second or as low as the top of the 5th depending on how much attention he gets. Mockingthedraft compares him to Wes Welker, but says he's faster. He's a smaller guy, and ideal for the slot position. This could drive his stock down come the draft, despite having more production than any other wide receiver coming into the draft. With a fifth round pick, we immediately fill the hole Thomas left, and possibly found one hell of an upgrade. He also returns punts, something we've been trying to find for a while now.
6, 166 - Shaun Powell - P (From Bucs): We take our punter of the future (lol, but seriously), and get the iron leg Powell from FSU.
My roster/depth chart would look a little something like this:
MJD/Jennings/Harris OR Murphy
Nicks*/Haslam OR Britten
Meester OR Spitz/Estes
Egnew*/Miller OR Cloherty
Roth OR Free Agent/Lane
Smith/Bosworth OR Lockley
Session/Bosworth OR Lockley
Mathis/Youboty OR Rutland OR Trent
KR - Harris
* Denotes new to the team
Osgood does not return. He's not really offered much as a WR and we already found a couple big targets in the draft. We have many good special teams players, and while Osgood has done a lot for us there, we already have a couple of really good SPT players (Owens, Middleton, etc.). If he makes the team next year, it seems like TE Cloherty could be a tool on SPT, as well.
I say "Shorts?" because I figure the 6th spot will be someone we already have other than Dillard. I choose Shorts because he was drafted last year, but in reality it's hard to say who the team will want to keep on.
On the DLine, I see either Morgan or Collins making the team, but not both. Collins has had a few big plays, but I believe Morgan has the potential if he can beef up a little and refine his techniques.
The middle of the Offensive Line could shake up a number of different ways. Will Meester come back to play another year after this offseason? Will Britten pan out, or will we trade/cut him? Can Nwarni play center? If Meester does not return, I believe Spitz will make this roster as he has starting Center experience with the Packers, and the rest of our O-Line may be dominant otherwise.
Though sporting 3 rookies in the top 4-5 spots on our receiving depth chart, I think this is a great refreshing of the group that could benefit from a new high-quality receivers coach and "growing up" with Blaine Gabbert.
We didn't spend a top pick on a QB, but Wilson could play the part of one. This is a great compromise to getting insurance on Gabbert and doing little to affect his confidence or suggest he's looking at being replaced. Do your research on this guy!
A lot of things would have to go right to accomplish all of this, but I believe it could happen, and if it did, it might rank at the top of the Jaguars draft/off season history. I don't think the Jaguars could give us any better present than an offense worth a little bit of respect.