If there's one thing I've learned from participating in mock drafts over the past few years, it's that you can count on the fact that the Jaguars will always be different. Gene Smith has done a fair job whether you like him or not; not every pick can be a winner. What I think we know is Gene likes to draft big "safe" guys in the upper rounds, generally speaking, and likes to take risks in the later rounds with project guys. Agree with this philosophy or not, the only exception to the rule has been Blaine Gabbert, and Quarterbacks are typically exceptional.
All of this being said, if there is any position that has the best value for our Jaguars in picks 7-15, it is offensive tackle. I know, I know, the guys screaming for a Wide Receiver will be picked on by the BAP-ists and the BAP guys will, for some reason, be screaming for Trent Richardson. Thing is, I don't think it is productive to simply stick to one "philosophy" when drafting. There is no one philosophy that can possibly account for all the variables when building a team, in my opinion. I think Gene has showed us as much. Remember how much more of a "Gene-guy" Ryan Kerrigan was than Blaine Gabbert?
But, what does all of this have to do with drafting a Right Tackle?
The following are simply observations:
-In real life, you will likely only draft who you scout.
-You will likely emphasize your scouting on positions of need (something Gene has shown to do with OL, DL, WR and KR in the past).
-We came into this year expecting Britton to play RT, and by week 2 he wasn't even guaranteed a start at Guard. Granted, the injuries help tell the story more accurately, but the point is there was plenty of time for Gene to acknowledge and begin scouting Tackles as early as preseason.
-Pass protection is pretty important for a young quarterback who already has issues trusting his line to protect him.
Now, just because we were (probably) scouting Tackles, and just because it's an area of need doesn't necessarily mean it should be so. The other half of the battle, and this is for you BAP guys, is to make sure the guy you draft is a top quality player with what is available. While I don't have the link available, I remember Gene saying that he more or less brackets players together of equal quality - and I really like this concept. It allows options, rather than a close-minded approach to BAP, and also offers a bit of wiggle room to address needs without making a reach.
Now, let's take a look at possible picks at 7, and ask ourselves 2 questions: is he a player worthy of a top 15 selection and does he fill a need? Barring some ridiculously outstanding player, it should be every teams' intention to find a player who can start in the 1st round, so yes, need plays a part.
Dre Kirkpatrick: 1. Yes 2. Yes: While Kirkpatrick would have been a great selection a couple of days ago, it would be poor management to take a guy in the top 15 who was arrested for possession. No matter where you stand on that subject in particular, Kirkpatrick showed immaturity and a lack of self-discipline just months before his career in the NFL was set to begin.
Alshon Jeffrey: 1. ? 2. Yes: Some will say the answer to question one is yes, and others no. Let's be honest: no one really knows. He has shown games that says he's a top-10 receiver, and he has disappeared in others. One thing we can all agree on is that he did not have sufficient Quarterback play to know for sure, and that's why I'd pass on him. My stance is that you must be absolutely sure of any top 15 Wide Receiver. As unfortunate as it may be for Jeffrey (or us if we pass and he's great), it is far too risky to blindly take a WR whose potential we just didn't see enough of, especially considering how deep this WR class is anyways.
Michael Floyd: 1. No 2. Yes: This is my opinion, and you can feel free to disagree. I think Floyd is top 5 at position, but not top 15 in the draft.
Luke Kuechly: 1.Yes 2. No: And here we find our first example of a guy who may be worth a top 15 selection, but not a position of need. Don't get me wrong, having a backer that can play in the middle or on either side would be an asset, and we do lack LB depth. Here's where the BAP guys need to be the most understanding, as the logic must outweigh philosophy. There were many times before his injury this year, that Clint Session wasn't on the field much, and even after he got hurt Russel Allen filled in for him just fine. I would go so far as to say Coleman could be regarded as the 11th starter on the field, over Session. Posluszny is still on contract for 5 more years. Clint Session still has 4. The only thing that I think makes Kuechly a target is if we do not plan on resigning Daryl Smith at the end of the 2012 season, or plan to trade him prior to that. Smith was as good as he's ever been last year, and I just don't see the Jaguars drafting a guy that will require benching Smith or Poz for some playing time.
Trent Richardson: 1. (Bias) 2. No: I am not a fan of drafting a RB in the first round, though I was one of the guys who had a silly and short lived crush on the idea of taking Spiller because of BAP (thanks Vic). Above all else, I feel it would be a smack in the face to MJD to draft a RB in the first round the year after winning his first rushing title. We have plenty of time and mid-to-low round picks to find his successor.
Riley Reiff: 1. Yes 2. Yes: Our pass protection was a victim of Guy Whimper and Will Rackley last year. Whimper, like Rackley, did admirably blocking the run last year considering their situations, but both, especially Whimper, were revolving doors to pass rushers. Reiff is a guy who has been rated as one of the top LEFT tackles in the draft, and here's where a lot of people aren't sold. Do you draft a RT in the top 15? As soon as two years ago, the answer would have been a pretty emphatic NO! Since then the rookie wage scale has changed pretty dramatically. If you were to compare Tyron Smith, the first tackle taken in the 2011 draft's contract (12.5 million/4 years) to say, the 3rd tackle taken in 2009, Eugene Monroe's contract (35.4 million/5 years) you might see where I'm going here. As the 2nd or 3rd tackle taken in 2012, Reiff's wage as a guy who can come in and start at RT right away would be more than fair. Bonus: As a pretty highly touted LEFT tackle, Reiff should have no problem sliding over to LT should Monroe ever be injured. Drafted to play RT or not, taking a guy who looks to have the skills of an elite LT is worth the selection.
You may have noticed that I have repeatedly said top 15 pick, and here's the beauty of this idea of drafting Tackle in the first. Reiff, Martin and Adams may all be available in the event that we can actually trade back. The possibility of trading back is debatable, but having the option of taking the same guy at 7 and 15 is not, should we be so lucky. IMO, while I strongly prefer Reiff, Martin or Adams would both still be worth top 15 consideration (though Adams is much more suited to play LT, according to many of the sites out there). Meanwhile, I found none of the guys listed to fit my criteria for a top-15 selection.
Some final thoughts:
If we don't draft a tackle in the first round, where else do we get one? This problem is not going to go away. I challenge anyone to find a Tackle set for free agency that would be worth more than a one-year trial contract.
Behind Adams, the Tackle class this year gets really, REALLY weak. Don't be fooled thinking guys like Nate Potter can come right in and start. The fact that Potter is considered a 3rd round prospect is really eye-opening to how weak this class of tackles really is behind the top 4.