Feb 25, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes offensive lineman Riley Reiff watches players go through their workouts during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
The Jacksonville Jaguars can go many different ways with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. I personally tend to think they are going to try their best to move out of the spot, but the only way to move down is if there is a team who's willing to move up. If the Jaguars are stuck at No. 7, it's very possible they could add another piece to their offensive line. It's a potential pick that I think many people overlook because of right tackle Eben Britton coming back from injury, but the idea shouldn't be scoffed at.
Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff is widely regarded as the No. 2 offensive tackle in the 2012 NFL Draft behind Southern Cal's Matt Kalil. Reiff comes from an Iowa program known for churning out offensive lineman and Reiff is in that classic Iowa lineman mold. He's polished and already a technician blocker and did a very good job during his tenure at left tackle with the Hawkeyes. He's been projected anywhere in the Top 10 of the NFL draft to the late teens, but has typically been the second tackle off the board.
Many Jaguars fans already seem to scoff at the notion of the Jaguars picking an offensive lineman in the first round of the NFL Draft, but the Jaguars offensive line isn't set even with the return of Eben Britton. Britton is still a bit of an unknown for the Jaguars, as he's only play 10 games the past two seasons and the only real time we've seen Britton for an extended period of time was his rookie season. In Britton's rookie season he gave up five sacks in his 15 starts and struggled a bit in pass protection. You naturally expect the player to progress from year one to year two, but he still struggled at times in his second season before ending the season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.
I don't know how much of the season Britton played with the injury in 2010, but he was just so-so at the right tackle position. During the 2011 season, Britton struggled in training camp and dealt with a lower back injury, eventually having surgery and winding up on injured reserve again. Britton was also moved to left guard for a few games while Guy Whimper started at right tackle, and that's left some to wonder if Britton is a long-term answer at right tackle or at some point will be kicked inside to guard. Typically, a team doesn't just play the "five best guys" on the offensive line, as each position takes a little bit of a different skill set. This rule will especially apply at the tackle position, so kicking Britton inside to guard wasn't just to get him on the field, but it was because at the time Whimper was simply playing better.
"I'm going to make it as impossible as I can for the coaches to not let me play," Britton told reporters during a media session on Thursday. "I'm going to be the starter one way or another."
Another point that was noted to be on Twitter yesterday by Eric Stoner (@ECStoner) is that Britton is in the final year of his rookie contract. This isn't to say the Jaguars aren't going to re-sign Britton, but the Jaguars also have to think about re-signing left tackle Eugene Monroe, who really came into his own last season and proved to be one of the better left tackles in the NFL. Britton as mentioned is a bit of an unknown, so if he's still struggling midway through the season you're kind of stuck and it becomes a position of need.
A guy like Reiff would fit for the Jaguars because he's a guy who can play both tackle positions and you'll bring in a young player under contract for a four-year deal. Reiff is a guy who can compete for a starting position right away and Britton has already shown the ability to move inside. The Jaguars still have center Brad Meester for one more season, but Uche Nwaneri is locked up long-term and has been cross trained at center and some believe that Will Rackley was drafted with the idea of potentially moving to center. Then you also have Jason Spitz who the Jaguars brought in last year as depth and a potential starter in the future at either guard or center.
We've seen what Whimper is behind Britton and he's really best as a back up tackle than a full-time starter. Cameron Bradfield is also still on the roster and looked great in the preseason and solid in his spot duty during the season, but he's still a relative unknown.
While it does look a bit off to say the Jaguars could look on the offensive line in the Top 10, it shouldn't be. The offensive line has some good pieces in place, but overall it's long-term viability isn't exactly set. It would make a lot of sense for the Jaguars to draft an offensive tackle early, even if they will be playing right tackle. Gene Smith is in a bit of a sticky situation this year however, needing to hit a homerun in the draft on the offensive side of the ball, but an offensive tackle isn't really going to spring excitement in the Jaguars fan base.