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Jaguars Wide Receiver Report: Ernest Wilford; Fan Favorite doomed...

Ernest Wilford shows off his strength

With the 24th pick in the 4th round, the Jaguars selected our next player for our discussion...

Ernest Wilford, Wide Receiver, #19

Lauded by many fans as their favorite of the entire Wide Receivers group, Ernest is in a particularly tough position this season. He was drafted as a "poor man's" Reggie Williams, picked for his ability to play as an extremely physical wide out. Del Rio said on Draft Day 04 that:

"He's not a burner, for sure. He builds speed as he goes, but he's more of a 4.65 guy. He's not a 4.4 guy. This was not a small, fast guy. This is a big strong physical guy. A blocker, make the tough catches, go up, catch the ball in a crowd. So it's a different type of wideout."

The fine folks at describe him as

Wilford has above-average speed, quickness and control. He can align in different spots in multiple formations. He is competitive and tough. He has above-average short-area quickness off the line. He runs good overall routes and can sink his hips and separate. He has good hands and receiving skills. He can catch in a crowd but will drop balls over the middle when he feels defenders closing in. He has valuable red-zone skills: excellent size and good leaping ability and body control. He can extend and catch away from his frame. He runs with deceptive power and strength after the catch. He is a willing blocker who uses his size and strength to sustain. He has the toughness and motor to contribute on special teams. But Wilford lacks ideal burst. He is a long strider who struggles to close the cushion against "off" coverage and can be held up at the line by physical cover 2 corners. His focus and concentration are somewhat inconsistent.

Interestingly, that's exactly the receiver we got in Wilford, one of the few receivers in the league that loves run-blocking, makes the jump balls, but lacks the speed to burn cornerbacks or safeties. For once the Wide Receiver we drafted turned out to be the receiver we thought he'd be. Unfortunatly, that might not be enough to save his roster spot, as the Jaguars will probably only keep five WR's on the roster, and there are six serious contenders.

One thing that must be considered when we examine the 04 receiver draft was that the team was coming off a 5 and 11 season where we ranked 17th in passing and only averaged 6.64 yards per pass. Our wide receivers at that point were Troy Edwards, Cortez Hankton, Matthew Hatchette, Kevin Johnson, Jimmy Redmond, and Jimmy Smith. Edwards and Smith led the team with 7 touch downs and 1200 yards between the two, but neither are considered physical jump-ball type receivers. So when Del Rio went after a different model of Wide Receiver, he diddn't have much to work with on the roster. In fact, Jack said

"I don't recall us (last season) winning a jump ball, whether it was our defensive back going against other teams' wide receivers, or our wide receivers against other teams' defensive backs," said Del Rio, who described Wilford as a "big, physical wide receiver who is able to win jump balls and is a blocker. Coach (Frank) Beamer talked about him being one of the best character guys he's ever had (at Virginia Tech)."

Wilford's numbers are not "terrible" per se.

Year Games Receptions Yards Y/R TD
2004 15 19 271 14.3 2
2005 16 41 681 16.6 7
2006 16 36 524 14.6 2

Obviously 2005 was his best season with 7 touchdowns and a great yards per reception average. 2006 saw a step backwards as Ernest suffered from inconsistency at quarterback.

The problem with Ernest this year is that the Jaguars have shifted in what they need at wide receiver. Their most glaring problem is that they have three tall physical wide receivers in Matt, Ernest, and Reggie, combined with the strengths of TE Marcades Lewis. If the Jaguars were making a basketball team, they'd be all set. However the hole addressed this season is clearly speed. Mike Walker, Dennis Northcutt, and John Broussard. Mike and Dennis are sure fire locks to make the team because of where they were drafted or acquired in free agency. John is lighting our corners up in practice and could be the straw that breaks Wilford's Jaguar career. With Reggie, Matt, Mike, Dennis, and John rounding out the WR's, it looks like it'll be Ernest who's the odd man out. Now, I'd like to think that John Broussard ends up on the practice squad or that we carry six Wide Receivers, rather than lose the kid. Actually, I'd rather us lose Reggie Williams and let Ernest do that role, screw the 1st round pick stigma on Reggie, but I don't quite see that happning.

Ernest is clearly the odd man out of the veteran bunch of WR"s. That's sad, he's talented, a hard worker, and deserves a chance.

Next in our look at Wide Receivers is former Brown Dennis Northcutt.