With the 36th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars made a calculated risk. One that could end up paying huge dividends down the road, or even in 2016.
They rolled the dice on UCLA linebacker Myles Jack.
The constant back and forth on Jack's draft stock was never-ending. One week he is in the fold to be considered with a top-five pick, then the next day teams don't want to risk using a first on him. Then the next day he is a top-five pick again. Then the next day, he is again too much of a risk.
Eventually, the pendulum that was Myles Jack's draft stock stopped on a dime leading up to the few days before the draft. With each passing pick in the first round, it was clearer and clearer that the NFL had made its decision on Jack. In the first round, he was a risk.
The Jaguars are okay with that risk, though. Because they know that they need to start making picks that give them the chance to get over the hump and break through their ceiling. As much of a risk as Jack might be, he has just as much potential to become the kind of player who exponentially closes the talent gap between the Jaguars and the rest of the league.
Myles Jack's skill set
I won't dive into any details regarding Jack's knee because, well, I am not a doctor. Instead, I will focus on the things I can make an informed opinion about, and that is Jack's skill set while at UCLA.
At UCLA, Jack never really had a defined role like other college players. He split his time between middle linebacker, strong-side linebacker, weakside linebacker, and even played in the slot in specific games and matchups. UCLA knew that with his skill set and athleticism he could cover up a lot of holes in their defense, and he did just that.
But moving around so much can also be detrimental to Jack's development, to a degree. He was never able to really get comfortable at one spot and excel at one thing for too long, which is something the Jaguars sound like they want him to remedy since they have said numerous times they just want him to learn the middle linebacker position right now.
The biggest area that Jack needs to focus on while he gets moved into one singular long term position is his run defense.
A lot of people will look at Jack's skill set, the rangy, athletic, linebacker who excels in coverage, and assume that his main struggles will come in taking on blocks from offensive lineman.
Jack showed the ability to take on blockers time and time again. He is big enough, strong enough, and physical enough to where this won't be an issue as a middle linebacker at the next level.
His real issue in run defense is he can tend to be indecisive. Almost like he is thinking too much. Seeing how he was asked to do so many things at UCLA with so many different responsibilities, this makes sense.
I wouldn't say he has poor instincts because he has moments where he reads the play before anyone else and then simply gets to the spot faster than anyone else.
But there are also plays like this, where Jack is in a position to make the play but hesitates. You can see the gears working in his head. You can see he at least knows what he should do, but the second guessing holds him back. This is more than likely the result of doing so many things and having so much on his plate responsibility wise.
Jack has the tools to grow as a run defender. You just have to hope that him being able to stay at one spot for really the first time in his career will help him more than anything else.
As a pass defender though, Jack does not have nearly as much room to grow. He is as good as it gets.
Whether it is lined up in the slot at the line of scrimmage...
Or in space in the middle of the field..
Jack has the size, length, and speed to be able to disrupt plays in the congested middle of the field or make plays in space. He is the pass defender the Jaguars have missed in the linebacking corps since the prime years of Daryl Smith.
For his rookie season, Jack projects as a player who will make an instant impact in coverage but still needs some work to do as a run defender, which works out for both the team and Jack since Jack will not be thrusted into an every down role right away due to the presence of Paul Posluszny.
Myles Jack's scheme fit
A day after stealing Myles Jack in the second round, Gus Bradley, Todd Wash, and Dave Caldwell all stood on the same page. The page was undecided and vague, but they were all on it nonetheless.
"Linebacker." This was Caldwell's initial response to a question about Jack's potential role on the team. "He has the skill set to play all three, but we will see as we get closer to camp," Caldwell continued.
Defensive coordinator Todd Wash was pitched a similar question, and his answer was just as loose.
"He can play all three (linebacker) spots," Wash said. "There ain't no doubt."
Of course, the team's initial hesitancy to place Jack in a box was a side effect of increased versatility, not indecisiveness. Jack can certainly play all three linebacker positions, and this flexibility should lend itself to a more titanic defensive competency in 2016.
During rookie minicamp, the Jaguars placed Jack at the middle linebacker position. By absorbing himself in that role moving forward, Jack should be able to develop a better overall understanding of the Jaguars defense. At some point this summer, Jack will most likely make his way through all three linebacker positions as he continues to learn the defense.
Eventually, Jack could become successor to veteran middle linebacker Paul Posluszny. This change probably won't come until 2017, but we will most likely start to feel the shift this season. Certain passing situations in 2016 will invite a transfer from Posluszny to Jack, as Jack is better equipped to handle larger coverage responsibilities. By leaving Jack on the field with Telvin Smith, the Jaguars will create one of the fastest linebacker units in the NFL -- an advantage that opens an entire tome of opportunities.
We'll know more about Jack's role when he's freed from the restrictions of the NFL's dumbass graduation rule. The rule prohibits Jack from joining his new Jaguars teammates until UCLA's senior class graduates.
One thing we know for sure: Jack's on-field ability should bolster the Jaguars' leaky defense in 2016. As the summer unfolds, we'll uncover more specifics.