The first wave of Senior Bowl invitations have been sent out and accepted by college prospects, which means one thing: Draft season is just around the corner.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have coached the South team of the Senior Bowl for the past three years, and that streak will most likely come to an end this offseason.
Senior Bowl rules states that the coaching staffs for the game are ‘determined in cooperation with the NFL. The teams with the lowest winning percentage that season usually get the first opportunity to coach in the game, but only if a majority of their staff - and head coach - are intact”.
Unless the Jaguars somehow go on a magical seven game win streak and win the AFC South or something of the sort, Gus Bradley is going to be fired on “Black Monday” — January 2nd, 2017 — the day many coaches meet their doom. In which case: The Jaguars won’t be coaching the Senior Bowl for what would be the fourth consecutive season.
The team is bad, as we all know, and have had many opportunities to improve the roster in their three times coaching the Senior Bowl. They’ve hit on drafting some players from the Senior Bowl, as well as missed out on not drafting some of their Senior Bowl players, as some of their players have gone on to perform very well in the NFL.
We will start covering the players the Jaguars drafted:
2014: Brandon Linder (G, Miami, 3rd round), Aaron Colvin (CB, Oklahoma, 4th round) and Telvin Smith (LB, Florida State, 5th round), Chris Smith (DE, 6th round, Arkansas)
2015: Didn’t draft any prospects (signed Nick Marshall as an UDFA, QB turned CB, Auburn)
2016: Brandon Allen (QB, Arkansas, 6th round)
Out of these six players, the only two who stand out to me are Brandon Linder and Telvin Smith. Linder was an impact starter at guard from the get-go of his career, but missed most of last year with an injured shoulder. This year, Linder transitioned to center and is already considered to be one of the best in the league.
Telvin Smith has been considered one of the best weak-side linebackers in the NFL going on two years in a row now, and is Dave Caldwell’s best later round draft pick by far.
Aaron Colvin has been a slightly above average nickel corner, but considering he was drafted in the 4th round after tearing his ACL during Senior Bowl practices and still provides solid production at the nickel corner position, he was a pretty valuable pick. Fun fact: He leads all cornerbacks in sacks with five since the start of the 2015 season.
Otherwise, Chris Smith is terrible and it’s shocking he still is on the roster over Tyrone Holmes, who was cut in the preseason in hopes to pass waivers to the Jaguars practice squad, but was instead claimed quickly by Cleveland. Nick Marshall was claimed off of the practice squad by the New York Jets this year, and Brandon Allen is a developmental backup QB for Jacksonville who hasn’t even dressed for a game.
Now, we get to some of the guys the Jaguars have missed out on in not drafting from their Senior Bowl teams over the past three years:
2014: Dee Ford (DE/OLB, Auburn, 1st round), Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State, 2nd round)
2015: Denzel Perryman (LB, Miami, 2nd round), La’El Collins (G, Louisiana State, UDFA)
2016: Cody Whitehair (G/C, Kansas State, 2nd round), Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky, 2nd round), Dak Prescott (QB, Mississippi State, 4th round)
All of these players listed have been solid, if not great, contributors to their teams, and I’ll go into detail on each of them.
Ford has burst onto the scene as a top pass rusher this year for Kansas City. He’s tied for first in the NFL with 10 sacks and had tallied 15.5 in his career. He also has 12 QB hurries this year, tied for 20th in the NFL.
The Jaguars have failed to put together a pass rush in Bradley’s four years as coach. The only glimmer of light for the pass rush is rookie Yannick Ngakoue, who has four sacks and 13 hurries this year. But, all in all, the Jaguars haven’t even grabbed 10 sacks as a whole from the edge rush position they call the LEO (primary pass rusher) since 2014, let alone had a player reach 10 sacks since Bobby McCray in 2006.
I’m personally not as high on Derek Carr as everyone else seems to be. He’s a good quarterback who is on pace to end up being very good, but I don’t see the greatness, yet. He struggle in short passing accuracy and has very good receivers to bail him out a lot of the time, but as for now, we’d all rather have him than Blake Bortles.
Carr is undoubtedly having a career year stats-wise — 2505 yards, 17 TDs with only three INTS, a 66.1% completion rate, and a 99.1 QB rating. In his career, he has 70 TDs versus only 28 INTs, and a 61.1% completion rate. Carr’s clearly the better QB than Blake Bortles, and he was drafted a round later than Bortles.
Denzel Perryman has been a very solid inside linebacker for the Chargers, especially in the run game. The 48th overall pick in the 2015 draft (12 picks after the Jaguars took T.J. Yeldon) stepped in as a starter at inside linebacker in week six of last year and immediately contributed to the Chargers rush defense as a hole-clogger and limiting backs from getting to the second level. He’s put together 92 tackles in 15 starts career starts with two sacks and an interception.
He’s currently struggling from a hamstring injury that has him out for the third week in a row, but when he’s been on the field both this year and last, he’s been a very solid run-stopper and all-round ILB.
La’El Collins was under investigation for the death of his ex-girlfriend leading up to the draft, and although he was never charged and rather only questioned, he went undrafted. The Cowboys were quick to call him and offer him a roster spot as an UDFA and they never looked back.
Collins transitioned to left guard and filled in for Ronald Leary in week two of the 2015 season and remained the starter through week three, when Collins went down with a toe injury that had him placed on IR. It is unknown if he will return this season, but he was estimated to miss 10 weeks.
When Collins is on the field, he’s one of the best guards in the NFL. He was never considered a suspect in the murder of his ex-girlfriend, so I think he should have been drafted, but regardless — Dave Caldwell should have called him the second the NFL draft closed in 2015.
Cody Whitehair was the highest ranked guard on my list heading into the 2016 draft, and was selected with the 56th pick by the Chicago Bears. He transitioned to center with the Bears and was the Day 1 starter, and has been one of if not the best center in the NFL this year — he’s been crazy good.
Spence was one of the best pass rushing prospects in this years’ draft, and fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the 39th pick — one pick after the Jaguars original draft slot before trading up to get Myles Jack at 36.
Spence is quietly having a very productive season, as he’s tied for first in sacks by a rookie with four and has an additional six QB hurries. The Jaguars are struggling at putting pressure on the QB, and although they have Yannick Ngakoue helping apply some pressure, he can’t do it all and is getting no help from Dante Fowler Jr.
Dak Prescott looks to have been the steal of the 2016 NFL Draft. He stepped in for an injured Tony Romo as a 4th round pick by the Cowboys in the preseason and has been lights out, tossing for 2339 yards, 14 TDs, only two INTs, and currently owns a 66.8% completion rate. Whereas, well, we all know how Blake Bortles has been doing...
Prescott built a great relationship with the Jaguars’ coaches at the Senior Bowl, even welcoming moving a move to North Florida if he was selected by the Jaguars (per Mike Kaye of First Coast News). Prescott was apparently above Brandon Allen on the Jaguars’ QB board and rumor has it they were considering taking him if he were available late in the draft.
So, as the old phrases go: “Coulda, woulda, shoulda” and “If ‘if’s’ and ‘cans’ were pots and pans, the whole world would be a kitchen” apply here, sure, but it’s obvious that the Jaguars have missed out on some very good players that they were familiar with in coaching the Senior Bowl over the past three years.
Instead of having some very good to potentially great talent in black and teal, the Jaguars still have holes across their roster and will be in for another long offseason of fixing. With some of those guys that I mentioned above on the roster? Perhaps a different story.
Anyway, I’ll end this on a question for the readers and commenters: What does all of this say about Dave Caldwell?