With the free agency period in the rearview mirror, much of the talk surrounding NFL teams has shifted focus towards the 2017 NFL Draft. Since the draft is fast approaching, it seems like a good time to take a look back at the history of the Jaguars draft classes. I thought we could start by having everyone choose their favorite draft pick from each of the four ‘eras’, or General Manager/Vice President of Player Personnel periods, of Jaguars football: Tom Coughlin, Shack Harris, Gene Smith(do we have to?), and Dave Caldwell. There is no real qualifying criteria here. You can choose who you think was the best player, the player you loved the most, the pick that made you feel the best at the time it was announced, etc.. I figured we would start off positive today with our favorites, and then move on to the picks we hated tomorrow. I’ll get us started with my choices for each era.
Tom Coughlin Era (the original one) - Fred Taylor, 1998
Even though this was the era I remember the least, given my age, it was probably the easiest selection for me to make. Fred Taylor is my all time favorite Jaguars player, so the selection was all too easy. Fred provided nearly a decade’s worth of highlight plays, and his elite athleticism and all-around capabilities helped pave the way for some of Jacksonville’s best seasons. He’s earned his spot in the Pride of the Jaguars, and I personally think he is worthy of a spot in Canton, Ohio. Fred embraced the city of Jacksonville, and even though his playing days are long over, it’s obvious that his fandom continues to this day. Just don’t ask him about the Titans.
Shack Harris Era - Rashean Mathis, 2003
I’m willing to bet that this selection is the one that will differ the most from everybody else. I suspect that most people will select a certain running back from UCLA, and I would have no arguments with that. However, I can’t help but choose somebody from Harris’ first draft with the Jaguars. Rashean was a big time playmaker, having a knack for jumping routes for INTs (just ask the Steelers). I always have had a certain fondness for Rashean, which I think mostly stems from his great personality, and the fact that I feel that people were overly-critical and under-appreciative of him. When the Jags defense started to falter, Rashean took a lot of the heat from fans, even though a lot of it should have been directed towards the safeties. Still, Rashean carried on with his big smile, and he kept on making plays. He’s always been one of my favorites.
Gene Smith ‘Era’ - Tyson Alualu, 2010
Ugh. This was definitely the hardest era to choose from, but it should make tomorrow’s task a lot easier! The pick that I was most hyped about at the time was definitely Justin Blackmon....but we all know how that turned out. As time went on, Tyson Alualu became my favorite pick that Gene Smith made. Tyson has recently departed Jax to join the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he was always available in his time here, never missing a game with injury. I always felt like Alualu unfairly had to battle the ‘bust’ label, which probably endeared him to me more. Alualu was a better prospect than people remember, and though people will always argue that he shouldn't have been taken top ten, the story may be different had he not messed up his knee as a rookie. Regardless of his draft position, Alualu always showed up to play, and was at least decent throughout his time here.
Dave Caldwell Era - Jalen Ramsey, 2016
This was by far the happiest I ever was with a Dave Caldwell first-round selection. As soon as the Cowboys pick of Ezekiel Elliot was announced, I started getting hyped up, hoping Caldwell would be smart enough to pull the trigger on Ramsey. I remember writing a Fanpost in December before that draft about how Ramsey should be the pick for the Jaguars. After watching his film from FSU, it was clear to me that Ramsey was not only the best player in the class, but an elite level prospect overall. Obviously, his rookie season did not disappoint, and he looks to be one of the future corner stones of this Jaguars team.
Ok, so those are my choices for my favorite draft picks from each era of the Jaguars. Who do you have? Why do you like them so much? And remember, tomorrow we will discuss least favorite picks, so start thinking about those as well.