Hello Jags Nation!
With Draft Day upon us (sorry commish, I meant the Costner flick,) here’s one fan’s wish list for 2014 Jaguars Draft. Let me begin by explaining: this is not in any way shape, matter or form what I believe Caldwell will actually do, rather it’s what I would do if it were up to me so that’s why I’m not calling it a Mock Draft. Some familiar faces, a couple of new ones – ultimately, it’s just one guy’s opinion and opine I do.
Round 1: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
You can skip over my long-winded reasoning by reading this one statement: I believe Manziel is the most talented player at the position that Jags need the most. Sound crazy? I’ll explain. For all of his glitz and stardom, there is a raw truth to Manziel, at his core he is a unique talent. There are two solid years of Manziel dismantling some of the NCAA’s best defenses and all done as “an under-sized, scrambling QB.” First, he did throw for over 4,100 yards (again, those are pure passing yards.) Second, anyone critical of his size is living in the Stone Age of the NFL – with Russell Wilson’s success at 5’8”, size is not always a precursor for success. And people might respond “Oh, but he’s no Russell Wilson.” Listen, no one knew Wilson was going to be as successful as he has been, because if they did, he wouldn’t have fallen to 3rd round. Other quarterbacks most draft experts have being selected in the first round such as Bridgewater and Bortles have on-and-off performances and maybe one good bowl game. Examine Bridgewater, for example, and you’ll see that his most lauded bowl game was against a way over-rated Florida team, that despite its solid defensive line play, were ranked higher than they should have been. Aside from his performance in that game, he failed to distinguish himself as anything more than a very average quarterback even against mediocre defenses in the 2013 season (though to his credit, his bowl game against Miami was great.) On his best day during the 2013 season, Bridgewater racked up 397 passing yards which would be rather impressive, if it wasn’t against the Jeff Bridges-look alike Colonels of Eastern Kentucky. His regular outings against real but ultimately mediocre teams such as Houston or Memphis are simply okay, not great. Also, watch closely and you’ll see that he throws a lot of lobs, and those aired-out throws will be picked off left and right in the NFL if Richard Sherman has anything to do with it. Manziel’s throws are visibly much tighter and his completion percentage is not that far off (Bridgewater=71.0% vs. Manziel=69.9% for 2013.) Admittedly, if we are talking about under-performing, Manziel will have to account for his share of lackluster showings such as his games against LSU or Missouri, but for two years, he proved more often than not that he can take on the best of the SEC defenses such as Alabama and Auburn, the spotlight, the critics, and ultimately succeed at the position. This is the Jaguar’s most pressing need next to a premiere pass-rusher, and if Clowney is there at #3, it would without question be foolish to pass that up. Assuming he won’t be, the following has to be considered: the 1st and 2nd round has to be some combination of a QB and a pass-rusher, so where do you get each of those positions? Mack-Mettenberger? Bortles-Tuitt? The best scenario is to draft the quarterback of the future first because the level of quality pass-rushers is significantly deeper than QB. Without question, the notion of the “quarterback of the future” ought to be reserved for the most elite pocket passers such as Tom Brady or Peyton Manning over a scrambling QB like Colin Kaepernick or Robert Griffin III. With that in mind, Manziel is much better at being a scrambling QB than Bortles or Bridgewater are at being pocket passers – not only that, but don’t forget that Manziel can absolutely sling the ball. Did the media forget his 464 passing yards against #1 ranked Alabama: a defense with 1st round secondary talent like Ha-Ha Clinton Dix? Or how about his 454 passing yards against SEC champs Auburn? (Granted he lost both of those games, but did you ever see Bridgewater put up those numbers? Didn’t think so.) With our revamped offensive line, this is the perfect opportunity to draft the biggest game-changer at the quarterback position. He has the biggest arm in this class, he has the best two years of game tape, all that remains is whether or not he has Caldwell’s number.
Round 2: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
To be honest, I’m hoping the Jags find a way to trade back into the first round to lock up Dee Ford. I see that as highly unlikely, so without sacrificing valuable later round picks, Van Noy is a great option. He is an impressive talent and gives the Jaguars a lot of versatility and speed in the linebacker group. With the additions of Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, and Ziggy Hood, the linebacker group is the next thing to upgrade and Van Noy will make a great compliment of speed to that group alongside the newly acquired Dekoda Watson.
Round 3: Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
So, you wanted to see an explosive Clemson WR in this draft right? Oh, you were thinking Sammy Watkins? Well how does a guy with an extra 2” on him and about the same speed (40 times 4.40 vs. 4.42) sound? To top it all off, there are no off-field questions marks on this guy. Sure, Watkins has the “big play” explosiveness moniker now, and maybe it’s because he led Clemson in receiving yards with 1,464 yards on 101 catches equaling about 14.5 YPC. But look a little closer and you’ll see that Bryant actually held his own opposite Watkins with 828 yards on 42 catches equaling 19.7 YPC. That is big play production and best of all, you don’t have to spend a top 5 pick on it. To be fair, this thought process is not to say that Bryant is better than or even on par with Watkins as I unequivocally believe that Watkins is by far the best WR in the draft. What I’m saying here is that because of the depth of WR in this draft, you can get a really good WR in the 3rd round. Bryant does need to improve his hand control to limit his drops, but this is tremendous value for the 3rd round.
Round 4: Bryan Stork, C, Florida State
As evidenced by the Alex Mack saga, Caldwell knows a center is a priority. No matter how you look at it, a veteran center is always an asset for a rookie QB, and I hope the Jags sign him. Even if they do, the Jags need to have someone in the wings because of the tricky language about what happens in 2 years on Mack’s contract, and Stork is a great candidate to come in and compete for a backup role and potentially take over. Even if the Browns match the Jags’ offer, Stork is a great candidate to come in and compete for a starting job during training camp against Brewster and learn from Henne. Watch the time Jameis Winston had in the pocket, and watch how little he had to deal with pressure up the middle: that’s Stork. He is a talent that will cement the one position this team has had the luxury of not thinking about for the past 14 years.
Round 4: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Shad Khan made it clear that the direction of this draft will be to improve at the QB position. While a 1st or 2nd round QB is of the utmost importance, the value of a later-round quarterback cannot be emphasized enough. What’s funny about Aaron Murray is not only was he able to post 3,000 yd seasons for 4 years in a row, but he, much like Manziel, is astonishingly accurate in his TD-INT ratio at 26-9. Furthermore, while most QB scouts point to Zach Mettenberger for overall completion, Murray’s overall completion percentage is only 0.1% lower. On top of that, Murray was sacked 8 fewer times than Mettenberger which means one of two things: first, he has better pocket awareness to make good decisions and throw the ball away and two, he’s more mobile and able to escape pressure. With this kind of talent, he should be in the discussion for 2nd round before his ACL injury. Bringing him into a situation where he’d most likely be the 3rd string QB with few expectations is the perfect fit for him and gives the Jaguars a lot of options for rotation.
Round 5: Austin Wentworth, G, Fresno State
With Joeckel and Beadles holding down the left side, a center coming in at some point (still holding out hope on Mack), and Pasztor being resigned right tackle, the right guard position is the glaring hole on the offensive line. While Will Rackley has been serviceable at times, he is far too injury-prone to lean on as the answer at RG. Wentworth could come in immediately and compete for a starting role. Wentworth is a big guard and helped keep Derek Carr off the ground as the Fresno State offensive line allowed only 11 sacks for all of the 2013 season. Wentworth led the line with First-Team All Mountain-West honors and helped elevate the level of play to be rated the 3rd overall offense nationwide. This move adds depth and size to the line which will be crucial with a rookie QB under center.
Round 5: Derrell Johnson, LB, East Carolina
Johnson has unexplainably flown under the radar this offseason, but after registering 7.5 sacks and a good East-West Shrine Game, he has the capacity to add strength to the OLB rotation and speed to the special teams blocking. While the MLB spot is locked up, the outside features rotations of Watson, Allen, Hayes, Lotuleilei and Reynolds. In this draft adding Van Noy and Johnson helps the pass rush immensely and brings in new skilled players to rotate with Clemons, Babin and Branch in Bradley’s “Lightning Package” featuring 3 LEOs.
Round 5: Trey Burton, WR, Florida
We’ve already seen what Jedd Fisch likes to do with trick packages, and Burton is a trick-play designer’s dream. 6’2”, fast and has solid hands, he not only has the ability to be a great slot receiver to rotate with Ace Sanders, but can line up in the back field to keep defenses on their toes for special plays. His value as a wide receiver alone is a great pick in the 5th round, but when you see Fisch’s offensive creativity come through with trick plays like Ace Sander’s TD pass to Jordan Todman, one can’t help but imagine what Fisch could come up with if he had Trey Burton’s skill set to work with.
Round 6: Travis Carrie, CB, Ohio
One of Gus Bradley’s strengths is finding players who can add quarterback pressure while playing in the secondary. Carrie was not only able to record 4 interceptions in 2013 (2 of which were returned for TDs), but also registered a sack along the way. He’s played as a pressure corner and can add depth along the secondary with Blackmon, Ball and Gratz. The strength of the 2013 Jaguars going into the 2014 season is a lot of promising young guys in the secondary; as such, the corners are a group that can be left off the early parts of the draft board yet still benefit from added depth.
Round 6: Crockett Gillmore, TE, Colorado State
While Clay Harbor and Danny Noble are nice tight ends, bringing in another big guy would be great for rotation. 6'6" and a great blocking tight end, Gillmore will compliment Marcedes very well, plus he can catch as he was able to record 47 receptions this season. His 40 time has made his market value cool considerably, but he's still a great addition in the later rounds.
Round 7: CJ Olaniyan, DE, Penn State
Adding depth to the pass rush is key as evidenced by Gus Bradley saying “you can never have enough pass rushers.” Olaniyan may be a nice addition. He was able to pick up 5 sacks which yielded -46 yards and an INT that he returned for 33 yards. Not bad for a 7th rounder.
Hope you enjoyed it. I’m sure if anyone comments on this there’ll be an outpour of support for Teddy Bridgewater or for Khalil Mack or for Sammy Watkins, and let me say I won’t be too broken-hearted if Caldwell goes in any of those directions – this is just the way I would do it.