It’s certainly not a new revelation or breaking news — but the Jacksonville Jaguars have often swung and missed on first-round prospect in the draft, year in and year out.
Since Jacksonville’s inaugural season in 1995, the franchise has selected 24 players in the first round. Of those 24 players, only seven have made at least one Pro Bowl in their careers — Tony Boselli, Kevin Hardy, Fred Taylor, Marcus Stroud, John Henderson, Marcedes Lewis, and Reggie Nelson. And in Nelson’s case, he wasn’t even wearing a Jaguars uniform for either of his two Pro Bowl appearances.
Of the over 180 total players the Jaguars have drafted in their history, only 11 have been elected to a Pro Bowl. Only four players drafted by Jacksonville (in any round) have earned the honor of first-team All-Pro, and of the four, Boselli and Hardy were the only first-round selections (Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashean Mathis were the other two players, both of whom were drafted in the second round of their respective drafts).
Taylor, Stroud, Henderson, and Lewis all earned second-team All-Pro honors once each. Nelson also was a second-team All-Pro selection as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. So, without much debate, these were Jacksonville’s best first-round choices.
But there were many blunders.
Jacksonville has picked in the top-10 of the draft every year since 2008 (and 15 times total). Of those nine players selected since 2008, only four have played in all 16 games during their respective rookie campaign.
In most cases, unless you’re a quarterback who needs a year to develop, top-10 picks are expected to contribute right away. Jacksonville hasn’t always had that. Injuries are a part of the game, but that isn’t the only factor for Jacksonville’s struggles with first-round picks.
And then there is this — the Jaguars have burned a first-round pick on five players who played in the NFL for only five full seasons or less: R. Jay Soward, Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, Derrick Harvey and Justin Blackmon.
Going back over the last 10 years, the only first-round picks that remain on Jacksonville’s active roster are its last three picks: Blake Bortles, Dante Fowler Jr. and Jalen Ramsey. While Ramsey proved last season that he might be a star cornerback for years to come, Bortles and Fowler are already trying to fight off the “bust” label.
(Marcedes Lewis was drafted in 2006.)
It is no secret that Blake Bortles was bad in 2016, well, really bad. And even when he had a pretty good season in 2015, he was still a turnover machine. Bortles has been working with quarterback guru Tom House, and hopefully with a more stable head coach, and (what we hope will be) the same offensive coordinator for the entire season, he can improve. I am not a proponent of drafting a quarterback early from this 2017 class, but so far Bortles has not done much to make us believe that Dave Caldwell has turned around Jacksonville’s historic woes in the first rounds of drafts.
And, frankly, neither has Fowler. Personally, I really wanted the Jags to take Leonard Williams in that 2015 draft. And then boom! Fowler tears his ACL before full pads were even on that year. What have we really learned from Fowler so far? That he is inconsistent and injury-prone? He lost his starting job to a rookie last year, and his technique and pass rushing moves (or lack thereof) need a major improvement if he is going to contribute in 2017. Fowler’s athleticism has never been in question, but it’s time for him to show up this season.
Yes, commenters, I already know what you’re going to say — Pro Bowls and All-Pro honors aren’t necessarily indicative of a solid NFL career, and that is somewhat true. But Jacksonville has used an influx of picks on guys who have had off-of-the-field issues, questionable durability and inconsistency on the playing field. How about the fact that the franchise hasn’t had a winning record since 2007? Something is not adding up here, and poor drafting may have to do with it.
Questionable-at-best decisions have been made from Jacksonville’s front office brass during the first rounds of drafts, historically. Sure, there are cases where the Jaguars hit the nail on the head with players like Ramsey, Taylor, Hardy or Boselli, but there are too many examples of making the wrong choice, and especially more recently in players like Luke Joeckel or Blackmon.
Caldwell and company can’t afford to get the first round, or really any round, of the draft wrong again this year.
Do the right thing, Dave. Don’t reach for a quarterback or tight end at No. 4 overall and instead take one of the many defensive studs this draft appears to offer.
Has Jacksonville’s unimpressive draft history been a product of bad luck, bad decision-making or just a case of having the wrong people for the job running the show? Let me know why you think Jacksonville has often struggled with first-round picks in the comments section below.