Let me start off by saying that I am no expert in evaluating talent, I'm just an old (very old) lineman who seems to have a different view than many of the fans (and Alfie Crow) on this forum regarding the direction our team should consider.
There has been an absolutely wonderful discussion on the pros/cons to selecting Geno Smith QB WVU with the number 2 overall pick. I won't go in depth on this part, only to say that this team does not need (a.) Another development project, (b.) high risk/reward, or (c.) A good player with questions. Remember that Andrew Luck played in the pro formation and RG III was installed into a read option. Each succeeded because their teams built their offense around the staff's idea of what they wanted from a quarterback.
IT IS NOT ALL ON THE QUARTERBACK
The following information was obtained in an article found on Pro Football Focus and discusses two important stats which impact an NFL quarterback.
First was the time to throw which was calculated from snap to actual pass or when the quarterback chose to run. In this section the top six quarterbacks with the most time from snap to pass/run were 1. Russell Wilson (3.14 seconds), 2. Michael Vick (3.12), 3. Cam Newton (3.04), 4.RG III (3.01), 5. Alex Smith (2.9), and 6. Andrew Luck (2.86) As you can tell four of the six quarterbacks with the most time in order to make a decision were rookies/sophomores.
Compare this with the quarterbacks with the least amount of time 27. Blaine Gabbert (2.58) 28. Carson Palmer, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Tannehill (2.57), Peyton Manning (2.51), Matt Hasselbeck (2.5), and Tom Brady (2.49). Notice that this section is a complete opposite from the first (only two rookies/sophomores) are found in this group.
To myself, this suggests that in order for Blaine Gabbert or Ryan Tannehill to have become more successful, they would have needed approximately an additional .43 seconds to better process what was taking place on the field. The requirement that these two young quarterbacks make decisions as quickly as veterans was already a recipe for disaster.
The second section shows how long it took for a defense to reach the quarterback; referenced as time to sack. The top six quarterbacks (those with the most time before being sacked) were 1. Russell Wilson (4.05), 2. Alex Smith (4.03), 3. Michael Vick (4.02), 4. Jay Cutler (4.01), 5. Josh Freeman (3.87), and 6. John Skelton (ARZ) (3.85); these quarterbacks were in general better protected thus allowing them to make better choices.
The bottom group were 28 Ben Roethlisberger (2.56), 29 Blaine Gabbert (2.51), 30 Peyton Manning (2.5), 31 Ryan Tannehill (2.48), 32 Philip Rivers (2.43), and 33 Kevin Kolb 2.28; Once again you see Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Tannehill in the mix of established veterans. The Jaguars are requiring Blaine to make decisions on par with top veterans or get killed. It is not realistic to expect any young quarterback to perform this well.
THIS article is the best I've seen regarding the offensive linemen in the 2013 draft, it is a good read from someone who was taught how to scout offensive linemen.
With the analysis regarding the quarterbacks and the fact that the Jaguars have been one of the worst teams regarding sacks and hits on the quarterbacks the past couple of years and the drastic drop in the running game last year a new emphasis should be made on the build of our offensive line. It has been noted (I believe on Jaguars.com) that it is easier for a cornerback than a lineman to step in from college to the NFL, so when the opportunity to draft a lineman capable of making that transition immediately presents itself a team needs to take it.
HOW WOULD DRAFTING OFFENSIVE LINE EARLY REALY HELP? There are currently two problems with the Jaguars offense which make everyone look bad. The biggest issue from 2013 was the inability to create short yardage situations. By constantly placing the team in 3rd and long situations; defenses already knew we had to pass. By adding two strong linemen that can start immediately the Jaguars can revitalize the running game which has been its strength for years. Yes, I know fans want more exciting football with high flying passing ESPN shoots. Well, I would argue that fixing the running game will only improve the passing game.
The fans have seen the development of Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon; I shall point to the very top of this article (time to pass and time to sack); By drafting two linemen early, they should be able to provide Blaine with an additional 1.36 seconds (to match TB's Josh Freeman) in order to make his decisions. Waiting until later in the draft or relying on undrafted free agents will not produce the level of improvement needed.
JUDGING THE IMPORTANCE OF EACH POSITION
I personally do not agree with this belief; the previous regime also demonstrated that belief and relied on developmental lineman like Will Rackley; undrafted players like Nowack, Estes, Brewster, Pasztor, and Bradfield; or underperformers/journeymen like Britton and Spitz to protect their investments (Gabbert and MJD). I feel safe to say that this philosophy failed and is a contributing factor in what was wrong with this roster.
Defensive Line: During the past four years we've also brought in pass rushers Andre Branch, John Chick, Austin Lane. Only Ryan Davis was undrafted and all have had their moments of production. They still require development, however are in a better state than the offensive line. With the late addition of Jason Babin this group although a priority has enough development to uphold. Defensive Tackle has also been improved with the addition of Roy Miller.
Defensive Backs; yes, this is a priority after losing Derek Cox in free agency. However, with middle round cornerbacks like David Amerson (N.C. St; 6-1/205, 40 Time: 4.44), Terry Hawthorne, CB, Ill; 6-0/195. 40 Time: 4.44), Sanders Commings, (Georgia 6-0/216. 40 Time: 4.41) in the mix productive corners that can make an immediate impact on the Defense. Offensive linemen in these rounds are good, but require more development to equal out the impact these Cornerbacks can provide.
Yes, there are good lineman and defensive backs in free agency; However, it appears that the only free agents the new regime will be seeking are more depth than starters. The top echelon players will seek bigger pay checks and that is one option David Caldwell is avoiding at all costs. So I doubt this is an option.
Maybe being an old offensive lineman I'm just biased or have some man crush on a bunch of 300 pounders, but I remember the children's story of the three little pigs; Only the brick house survived. I'm certain my comments won't be received with open arms, I'm fine with that. The Jaguars roster is filled with needs and there is only one way it can go (UP)