The underlining point of the NFL off season is founded with the principle of getting better. Whether or not your team played poorly or dominantly has no factor. The team receives a number of draft picks as well as the opportunity to sign free agents, both before and after the draft. Just get better, that's the theme.
The Jaguars, in particular, find themselves in an amazing position heading into the draft. New GM Dave Caldwell already made a few hard decisions by not only releasing starters(SS Landry, CB Ross) but allowing starters to test free agency with only a small overall chance of returning (FB Jones, LB Smith, CB Mathis, CB Cox, DT Knighton amongst others). With the potential loss of stalwarts such as Smith and Cox combined with the certain loss of Mathis, Landry and Ross, the defensive future might seem painted grim--at least for the immediate future. Luckily, in the upcoming draft, the Jaguars wound up in the center position to gather the top talent.
Most, if not all, draft pundits seem to agree about one thing in this draft: the top tier talent doesn't exist for 4-6 players and then break up into multiple tiers throughout the first and second rounds as it normally does. No, the top tier of talent mostly exists for around 40 players or more, depending on who you speak with. Now, obviously all of these players are not completely equal in value but a large portion are close enough in talent level that a talent-based drafting team could easily justify drafting for need.
The Jaguars head into free agency and the draft with a need in almost every category. They did not accidentally go 2-14 this past season. They do, however, posess the ability to make large leaps in talent difference from 2012 to 2013 due to their early draft positioning throughout the draft, particularly the first three rounds.
The Jaguars have two amazing choices: draft talent at their draft spots or garner value in a trade. If the Jaguars find a team willing to trade to any of their first 3 spots, especially in the top 40-50 picks, and the Jaguars are able to gather equal or more value for the pick through the trade, then the Jaguars could find themselves fielding an abnormally high amount of rookie starters. The exciting part is the rookie starters would be talented.
All along, the Jaguars and their fans have been told that the team put up a horrendous record in the worst year possible. "They" all say that the Jaguars lost out by performing just well enough last year to miss out on Luck and RGIII. "They" say the Jaguars will need to find a way to make due in 2013 due to the lack of top-end talent in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Well, I say the Jaguars were terrible in a great year. I say the Jaguars find a way to field an acceptable, if not surprising, team in 2013. I say this happens because the draft contains deeper talent than most years and the Jaguars will have their pick of this talent.
The second round alone may field multiple players who were predicted to go early to mid-first round at some point during this off-season. The Jaguars can take advantage of this and coup a storm of value at the top of the second, whether through a fantastic player or through an also talented group of players further down the draft order.
An example of a talented player that may be found later than originally thought is Mississippi State CB Jonthan Banks. Banks won the Thorpe award this past season for the nation's top defensive back. While not playing on a good team, Banks still managed to perform at a stand-out level in the SEC, and despite a poor showing against Alabama (knee injury), Banks helped carry that weak team the entire season. Tennessee WR Cordarelle Patterson (the top rated WR by most draft analysts) played very poorly in his big showdown versus Banks. A shutdown corner that slipped through the first round is the type of player that Caldwell can find with the top pick in round 2. This is the type of need the Jaguars desperately need to fill. This off-season can be very positive for the Jaguars.
Now, I'm not advocating that the first ten players in round 1 will play as well as the last ten of round 2, though I am advocating above average starters can be found throughout this very deep draft. The Jaguars enter the draft primed to take advantage of this available talent. It won't be easy, but it will be Caldwell's chance to prove himself to the fanbase, as well as the players.
The fans are waiting, and most of us are excited.