A lot of people are saying that the Jacksonville Jaguars will take Leonard Fournette because they attribute the poor play of our running backs to their talent. Of course, I believe that running backs can only do so well given the poor offensive line play we've grown accustomed to watching.
But I don't think the Jaguars will take Fournette.
I recently combed through the internet archives of the late 1990s and early 2000s in order to get a feel for how Coughlin drafts. While some fans argue that Dave Caldwell, Doug Marrone, and Tom Coughlin will come to a mutual decision regarding each pick, the fact of the matter is that Coughlin has final say over selection. Explicitly or implicitly, Shad Khan gave the green light for Coughlin to have his fingerprints all over the draft. He's the wild card in this, so it only makes sense that we go back and analyze his draft trends in order to gauge his pick this year. I wanted to see if there was anything in Coughlin's past that could help us predict who we'll take in the first round this year. Luckily, we have lots of insight on what Coughlin looks for.
Below is a summary of what I found interesting, and how it will affect this year's draft:
Coughlin likes high character players.
While this is no surprise given Coughlin's public affection for Paul Posluszny, it's still worth mentioning because this ties into Coughlin's biggest bust: R.J. Soward. Now, how does this affect this year's draft? Usually people like to look at Coughlin's successes and how they may impact who we'll draft (more on that in a minute) but I think it's very important that we look at the failures of Coughlin, and see how they shaped his drafting philosophy.
R.J. Soward is perhaps Coughlin's most infamous bust. The story goes, Coughlin believed the Jaguars could afford to gamble on their first round pick because they were supposedly a player away from perennial Super Bowl contention. Soward was so undisciplined that the Jaguars had to send a limo to pick him up for practice. In two years, Soward was out of the NFL. He tried making a few comebacks.
It's no surprise then that in 2001 Coughlin drafted Marcus Stroud. Stroud was the polar opposite of Soward in terms of character. Stroud, by all accounts, was the most down-to-earth kid you could meet. Coughlin's comments about Stroud speaks volumes:
"He was poised and had a smile on his face, yet he was humble, not taking the approach that he was necessarily a world-beater. The Wunderlich test [given by the NFL], the personality profile, there was substantial reinforcement about the quality of the kid."
From this moment on, Coughlin stressed character in the draft.
In 2002, his last draft as the Jaguars general manager, Coughlin selected John Henderson. Here's a very interesting excerpt from a question-and-answer session with Vito Stellino:
T-U: Since you're not a Jeff Fisher players-type coach, didn't you gamble too often in the past on players who didn't fit your style?
Coughlin: You're right about that. It was a question of, gee, this one player kind of makes the difference in our team. You put yourself in that kind of mentality. You build your draft around getting that one guy and when that one player doesn't fit [you have problems].
T-U: Could you explain why you decided to stress character in the draft?
Coughlin: I wanted to draft players that think the way I think, that [thinks] the playing of a game is a priority, the way you approach it based on your work ethic, your character, your purpose, the significance you attach to your every day, the way you come to the office, the way you prepare in a classroom, the way you prepare on the field, I wanted players who attached significance to that.
Free agency doesn't mean anything
To assert this claim, we have to look at the 2001 draft. Coughlin drafted Stroud despite the Jaguars finishing 11th in run defense. He cited that stat as a key reason why he selected Stroud:
"You're going to have to do something about that guy, which may give us an opportunity in single protection with Gary Walker and Tony Brackens and get these people to the quarterback with more consistency. I felt very strongly all along that our defense had to improve. In my opinion, the key to this will be the resurgence of our defense."
This year, we're 19th in run defense. If 11th was too low for Coughlin, then you can bet the defensive line will be addressed in the draft. Make no mistake, Coughlin will most likely draft a defensive player, because he knows the value of a defensive lineman in this draft is far greater than drafting any offensive player.
Want more proof? During his tenure with the Giants, the team drafted Mathias Kiwanuka with his first pick in the 2006 NFL draft despite having two Pro Bowl players already on the line in Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. Some would argue that this is an over-allocation of resources to one position group.
Coughlin doesn't feel the same way.
"No, because again the statement being that this player represents the highest rated player on the board at the time we made the pick. He is a solid defensive player. You can never have too many pass rushers. Again we’ve fortified our defense. It may not have been a specific need as pinpointed prior to, but this is a guy who will pay huge dividends."
What about Cam Robinson or a quarterback?
I promise you the Jaguars will take a quarterback in the draft, just not with their fourth pick. In my opinion, the quarterback chatter before the draft is just a smokescreen to entice a team to trade up and select a quarterback before the Jaguars. This will allow Solomon Thomas or Jonathan Allen to slide to us.
The Jaguars will most likely take Nate Peterman if we're thinking quarterbacks in the draft, given their reported interest in him and given his background in a Pro-style offense. He'll probably be selected on Day 2.
As for Cam Robinson, my take on this is that the Jaguars will select Cam Robinson if Thomas, Allen, and Garrett are not there. Basically, I think Cam Robinson is the Jaguars' fourth-highest graded player on their big board.
What I think the Jaguars draft board looks like
1. Myles Garrett: Duh.
2. Solomon Thomas: Ideal physical traits and outstanding combine testing will entice Coughlin, who is known to take athletic freaks along the defensive line (see: Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Justin Tuck).
3. Jonathan Allen: Timing, hand usage, and mechanics are second to none. Didn't test well at combine, but put the tape on and you'll be hard pressed to find a better prospect.
4. Cam Robinson: Young, high ceiling, athletic, played against top competition and neutralized them. The best left tackle in the draft. Good against power and speed. He'll be a starter for 10 or 15 years.
I believe that the Jaguars will end up with one of these guys at the fourth pick, barring a trade. I don't see a running back or quarterback being selected on Day 1. Rather, I see these positions as targets for Day 2 and 3. Regardless, this draft is one of the more interesting ones in a while, because we don't have a clear cut idea of what'll happen after the first round.
What do you think the Jaguars' big board looks like? This is just one man's opinion. Are there any trades you foresee happening? Let us know in the comments below!