Draft Grades – 2012

Draft Grades: Jacksonville Jaguars

I feel like I should apologize to Jacksonville Jaguars fans for GM Gene Smith. He continues to make a mockery of the NFL Draft. In his first few years at the helm Smith showed an inexplicable obsession with small school prospects. And while that phase seems to have passed, he’s moved on to 3rd-round punters and 28-year-old D-II players.

The Jags draft got off to a solid start with the selection of Justin Blackmon. They needed to upgrade the talent around Blaine Gabbert, and Blackmon will immediately jump to the top of their depth chart at receiver. If he lives up to expectations, Gabbert’s numbers should improve dramatically.

I also like the selection of Andre Branch, who fills their need for a pass rusher. Branch is still developing, but he’s in a good situation in Jacksonville where he can be a part of the rotation without having to stay on the field for every play. If they bring him along slowly as a rookie, he should be ready to be an impact player in 2013.

After two solid picks to start the draft, it went downhill in a hurry. Bryan Anger was far and away the best punter in this year’s draft class, but the 3rd round? It was a reach that could potentially be justified by a contending team with few holes to fill, but the Jaguars are in the midst of a full-fledged rebuilding process. There is no possible way for Gene Smith to justify this selection.

Brandon Marshall adds some depth at linebacker, but there were much better players on the board, such as Terrell Manning, who would have filled that same need.

Mike Harris was an odd pick in the 6th round. The Jaguars would have been well served to add a legitimate starting cornerback in the 1st or 2nd round, but depth at the position is actually a strength. Harris is undersized and, even at Florida State, was limited to primarily playing the nickel corner role.

Jeris Pendleton is a 28-year-old from a Division-II school. The Jaguars will use him at nose tackle, and he could potentially be forced into a starting role early if Terrance Knighton isn’t ready for the start of the season. It’s an experiment that could go horribly wrong, and they don’t appear to have a backup plan in place.

Gene Smith has officially taken over the Al Davis role as most unpredictable general manager on draft day. And while most of his picks leave much to be desired, this should still prove to be an average draft class for the Jaguars. Blackmon and Branch are two quality additions, but the lack of help from the late rounds means there’s no margin for error with those two.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Jaguars Comments Off

Jacksonville Jaguars select Andre Branch, Grade A

I have been critical of Jacksonville Jaguars GM Gene Smith in the past, but he’s putting together a nice draft this year.

Andre Branch was the top defensive end on the board, and should make immediate impact in Jacksonville. They needed to add a young end to improve their pass rush, and Branch can definitely be that guy. He’ll likely be used as part of a rotation early in his career, which should maximize his ability to be effective as an edge rusher.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Jaguars Comments Off

Jaguars select Justin Blackmon, Grade: A

Everyone is making great decisions so far tonight, which is a rarity. The Jacksonville Jaguars needed to upgrade the talent around Blaine Gabbert, and Justin Blackmon will immediately become their No. 1 receiver.

Don’t expect this to immediately turn things around in Jacksonville, but in a year or two Gabbert/Blackmon could be a special connection so long as GM Gene Smith continues to surround them with the pieces they need to succeed.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Jaguars Comments Off

Draft Needs: Jacksonville Jaguars

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Jacksonville Jaguars [full archive here].

Season Recap: After trading up and selecting QB Blaine Gabbert in last year’s draft, the Jaguars had a bit of hope for the future, but Gabbert struggled mightily in his rookie season. The defense played well, but the offense simply couldn’t do enough to win many football games. New Head Coach Mike Mularkey- It’s time to get Gabbert some weapons!

Team Needs:
1. Wide Receiver: Blaine Gabbert spent his rookie year throwing to you and me. There were not many players capable of catching the ball. Jacksonville took a good first step by signing former Cowboy Laurent Robinson (who had a tremendous 2011 season) but the moves should not stop there. Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd will likely be available at pick #7. There have been talks of the Jaguars looking to trade down, in which case Stephen Hill, Kendall Wright, and Reuben Randle are options.

2. Defensive End: Jeremy Mincey had a solid season with 8 sacks, but there is no threat across from him. Melvin Ingram, Chandler Jones, or Fletcher Cox could be enticing options in round one.

3. Cornerback: Cornerbacks are becoming more of a premium in the new pass-happy league. Having an elite cornerback allows a defense to have enormous amounts of flexibility with coverage’s and one-on-one matchups. Stephen Gilmore is a very athletic corner and would fit in nicely with the Jaguars in a division that feature Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, and Kenny Britt.

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Draft Needs - 2012, Jaguars Comments Off

Jaguars show interest in cornerbacks

The Jacksonville Jaguars have already upgraded their secondary with the addition of Aaron Ross, but they may not be done yet.

Hosley would be a nice fit in Jacksonville

The Jaguars have scheduled visits with Dre Kirkpatrick and Jayron Hosley, both potential 1st-round picks. It seems unlikely that the Jaguars would target a corner with the 7th overall selection, but they could be interested in trading down. If the Jaguars can find a trade partner, Kirkpatrick may be available somewhere in the 12-20 range and could be a nice addition to their secondary.

However, Hosley may actually be a better fit for the Jaguars, as his skill set makes him better suited to play the nickel corner role. If he’s on the board in the 2nd round, the Jags could pull the trigger, giving them a significantly deeper secondary than a season ago.

For more info, follow our Draft Visit Tracker, updated daily. 

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Jaguars Comments Off

Jaguars Offseason Priority: Find a No. 1 Receiver

The Jacksonville Jaguars offense struggled in 2011, that’s no secret.

Much of the blame was placed on rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, but a closer look at some advanced statistics reveals that perhaps Gabbert was simply a victim of poor play from his receivers.

AdvancedNFLStats.com tracks the Win Probability Added (WPA) of each play throughout the season, and assigns the final WPA to each player involved. Over the course of the season, they also track a stat called Success Rate, which is simply the percentage of plays resulting in a positive WPA.

On any given play, the reason for the positive or negative WPA could be attributed to any number of players. As a result, Success Rate should certainly be taken with a grain of salt. However, over the course of the season one would expect the numbers to even out to a fairly accurate representation of a player’s true value. If you’re wondering if this stat passes the “eye test” here are the top three receivers for 2011: Marques Colston (71.4%), Wes Welker (66.2) and Jorday Nelson (65.7).

This stat also confirms that the Jaguars have a very serious issue on their hands at wide receiver. In 2011, the Jaguars three primary targets – Mike Thomas, Jason Hill and Jarett Dilliard – each ranked among the 14 worst receivers in terms of success rate. And only Eddie Royal struggled more than Thomas and Hill.

One could still argue that these low numbers are a result of poor quarterback play. But if that’s the case, we should see similarly poor success rates from the receivers of quarterbacks with similar statistics to Gabbert. According to WPA, the three worst quarterbacks this past year were Gabbert, Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez. However, only one of the qualifying receivers in St. Louis and New York, ranked worse than any of the Jaguars three primary targets (St. Louis’ Brandon Lloyd, 42.0%)

So with this in mind, how should the Jaguars approach the draft?

While they certainly have other holes to fill as well, it would be tough to justify not putting a wide receiver at the top of their draft wish list.

Justin Blackmon – who I currently have heading to Jacksonville in my latest mock draft – would seem to be an obvious choice if he’s on the board at No. 7. But what if he’s gone?

One option, in the event that Blackmon appears unlike to fall, would be to trade up. Here’s one plausible scenario: the Redskins trade up to No. 2 and select Robert Griffin. This leaves the Browns without the quarterback they covet, making them a candidate to trade down. The Jaguars could then jump the Rams, who would be at No. 6, and move up to No. 4 for Blackmon, likely parting with a 2nd-round pick in the process.

The second option would be to settle for the next best receiver, either Michael Floyd or Kendall Wright. Both would be a slight reach at No. 7, but could be worth it to fill a glaring hole.

The third option is to trade down in hopes of landing Floyd or Wright later in the 1st round. The Cowboys could be a potential trading partner, who may be interested in moving up for Dre Kirkpatrick.

For the same of Jaguars fans, I hope GM Gene Smith address this need in free agency, or in the 1st round. Because if he doesn’t, you know that some small school sleeper will land in Jacksonville in the 2nd or 3rd round and, like Cecil Shorts this past season, will likely have minimal immediate impact.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Jaguars Comments Off

2011 Draft Grades: Jacksonville Jaguars

This was a make-or-break draft for Jaguars GM Gene Smith. Plenty of fans are already growing impatient with his obsession with small school prospects – a theme which continued in this draft – and now that he’s attached his legacy to Blaine Gabbert, Smith will sink or swim based on Gabbert’s performance.

There’s no denying Gabbert’s talent, but taking him 10th overall has to be seen as a risk. He’s more raw than your typical top-10 pick (although significantly less so than the two quarterbacks taken ahead of him). That said, I really like his chances to succeed in Jacksonville. He isn’t ready to start in the NFL, but he does have the intelligence and the work ethic to quickly develop while watching from the sidelines. Hopefully the Jaguars bring him along slowly and allow him to watch and learn from David Garrard for at least a full season.

To no ones surprise, Gene Smith spent each of his next two picks on non-FBS prospects. Will Rackley played left tackle at Lehigh but will likely shift inside to guard or center in Jacksonville. Depending on how quickly he adjusts to the position change, he could compete with Uche Nwaneri for a starting spot.

In the 4th round Smith made Cecil Shorts the highest drafted D-III player in NFL history. He’s an undersized deep threat – essentially a poor mans Mike Thomas – and I just don’t see how he’ll fit into the game plan in Jacksonville. At best, he’s their 4th option this season.

Chris Prosinski was a reach in the 4th round, but he’ll have a chance to earn immediate playing time at free safety. Depth is lacking in the Jaguars secondary, so anyone and everyone will be given an opportunity to win a job.

Rod Issac is an athletic but undersized corner who could compete for the nickel corner job. He isn’t anything special, but neither are Scotty McGee, David Jones or Terrence Wheatley.

The success of this draft hinges on the development of Blaine Gabbert, as does Gene Smith’s career. If Gabbert is a success it will make up for the lack of depth in this draft. If he fails, however, it will set the franchise back at least three years. It’s never easy to recover from a bust at quarterback, and the fact that they added only one other potential long-term starter in this class will make it even more diffiuclt.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2011, Jaguars Comments Off

Will Rackley drawing interest from nine teams

Rackley is one of the top small-school prospects

According to Josh Buchanan of JBScouting.com Lehigh offensive lineman Will Rackley is lining up a number of visits and private workouts.

He’ll be one of the busiest prospects over the next month, as he meets with the Browns, Cowboys, Rams, Chiefs, Dolphins, Lions, Jaguars, Patriots and Jets.

Rackley played left tackle in college but is probably best suited for guard at the next level. That said, his potential versatility certainly gives his stock an extra boost.

Based on the amount of interest in Rackley he is starting to look like a pretty safe bet to go in the first three rounds. A team like the Cleveland Browns, who could use help at both right guard and right tackle would be a good fit. The St. Louis Rams, who desperately need to upgrade their interior line would also make sense.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Browns, Chiefs, Cowboys, Dolphins, Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Patriots, Rams Comments Off

Draft Needs: Jacksonville Jaguars

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Jacksonville Jaguars [full archive here].

Season Recap - The Jaguars had a shot at winning their first division title since 1999, but a week 15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts destroyed any chance. Jacksonville did some things well (3rd in rushing yards) and some things not so well (28th in defense), and the 8-8 record backs their average play in 2010. Jack Del Rio hasn’t led the team to the playoffs since 2007-meaning time is winding down. Hopefully the Jaguars can make some improvements and overtake Indianapolis in 2011.

Needs:
1. Defensive End
– The Tyson Alualu selection shocked the world last year, but surprisingly paid off. Alualu started all season and made the all-rookie team. Now, Jacksonville needs to add a pass rusher to compliment Alualu. Aaron Campman is coming off an ACL tear, and Derrick Harvey has failed to live up to expectations. Jacksonville can use their first round pick to fill the need. Aldon Smith, Ryan Kerrigan, and Adrian Clayborn are options at #16. Read more

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Draft Needs - 2011, Jaguars Comments Off

Bob Sanders’ impact on the draft

Bob Sanders is a former defensive players of the year who turns 30 on February 24. Normally, he would be one of the most coveted free agents on the market.

Sanders can still help a team, even if its only a part-time role

Unfortunately, Sanders has played more than six games just twice in his seven-year career, and the only real mark he’s made in the NFL is as one of the league’s all-time most injury prone players.

That said, a number of of teams will give him a call this offseason and his price tag is made more valuable by the lack of talent in this year’s draft. Anyone looking for an upgrade at safety is better off calling Sanders – even with the injury risks – than turning to the draft for help.

Rahim Moore is my highest-rated safety, with an early 2nd-round grade. After him there are four players with 3rd-round grades, but none of them are guaranteed answers for a team looking for a starting safety.

The best option for a team looking to upgrade the position would be to sign Sanders and then draft someone as insurance. A team like the Seahawks, Jaguars or Jets, which is hoping to compete in 2011, could role the dice on Sanders and then try to land someone such as Tyler Sash or Deunta Williams in the 3rd or 4th round. That way, even if Sanders gets hurt (which he will), he will at least be around to assist in the development of his replacement.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Colts, Jaguars, Jets, Seahawks Comments Off