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Sheldon Day rookie year expectations: Best and worst case scenarios

What are the best, worst, and most realistic scenarios for Sheldon Day's rookie season?

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After selecting a cornerback in the first round, a linebacker, hybrid linebacker/safety, freak of nature in the second round, and a pass rush specialist in the third round, you'd be forgiven for thinking the Jacksonville Jaguars might have done something on the offensive side of the ball with their next pick. After all, they needed some help with depth on the offensive line, a speedy running back and returner wouldn't be a bad choice, and a third tight end could be forgiven knowing Marcedes Lewis doesn't have much longer with the team.

Then Dave Caldwell chose Sheldon Day out of Notre Dame, an interior defensive lineman who is athletic and can play the 3-tech position while also kicking out to the edge if need be.

But... we just paid Malik Jackson a ton of money on a long-term free agent contract, Sen'Derrick Marks still has a few years left in the tank, and Michael Bennett played a lot of snaps last year even if his production was more as a support rather than getting on the stat sheet himself, right?

Well, sort of.

Malik Jackson is the unquestioned 3-tech on this team. He's the captain now. Sen'Derrick Marks is coming off of two season-ending injuries in a row and he likely has two years left on the team. He'll produce for those two years, but a replacement is needed to be ready in 2018.

So, Michael Bennett, right?

Bennett barely showed up on the stat sheet in 2015, recording just 0.5 sacks -- a definite underperformance when his wheelhouse at Ohio State was pass rush. As Hank Joness pointed out, pass rush is about repetition and with a few untimely injuries and sporadic snaps in pass rush situations, Bennett never got a feel.

Was his lack of production because he got so few snaps or was his lack of snaps because he wasn't producing well in games or in practice. Probably both, which is why the Jaguars felt good about grabbing another 3-tech in Sheldon Day so early in the draft.

Best case scenario

Day isn't an every down 3-tech. He's a guy you fit into a role and you let him eat. And that role is a pass rushing 3-tech.

The best case scenario for Day is to play between 16-20 snaps a game and to be a pass rushing machine along the interior. The coaches would be wise to match him up in situations where he's taking on one-gap scenarios and he's able to bull rush unsuspecting centers like in the clip below from Pro Football Focus.

Worst case scenario

Day is, admittedly, undersized at 6'1" and 293 pounds. He's got a quick first step, but if he's being asked to do too much, he'll falter. A worst case scenario would be tasking him with the responsibility of two-gap assignments -- something that would be a failure of him and the coaches.

Another worst case scenario is (obviously) injuries and taking too long to learn the defense in training camp and preseason, thereby setting him back and limiting his snap count early in the season. Day needs to build confidence and repetition and that's only going to come from a regular number of snaps in games. If he's only averaging 6-8 snaps per game, something is definitely wrong.

Reasonable expectations

I think we can expect that defensive coordinator Todd Wash, who's also the defensive line coach, will know exactly how to use Day best and that he'll be given opportunities to shine in one-gap assignments. He'll get somewhere around 10-12 snaps per game and he'll struggle against the run early in the season.

But as a senior, Day had 15.5 tackles for a loss behind the line of scrimmage and four sacks. A reasonable expectation is for him to have a few games we can point to his potential (a couple of tackles for a loss, a pressure, and a sack) but that the majority of his games will be light on the stat sheet.

And unlike Bennett, a reasonable expectation for Day is to be secure of his spot on the roster going into the 2017 season.