1. Blake Bortles, QB Central Florida
2. Marqise Lee, WR USC
3. Allen Robinson, WR Penn State
3. Brandon Linder, G Miami(FL)
4. Aaron Colvin, CB Oklahoma
5. Telvin Smith, OLB Florida State
5. Chris Smith, DE Arkansas
6. Luke Bowanko, C Virginia
7. Storm Johnson, RB Central Florida
The Jacksonville Jaguars had their second draft under general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley after getting a total pass on the 2013 season, because the team was a dumpster fire. They have some pieces in place, but the Jaguars clearly had a plan going into this draft, hid it extremely well, and then executed it effectively. Some of this draft depends on them following through on statements they have made since, but it could be a big gain for them in building a team that can compete in 2015 and beyond.
No one saw the pick of Blake Bortles coming. On pure talent, I think the move was a reach. However, if they go through with their plan to sit him for the entire 2014 season, I can get behind it. There is a lot of talent with Bortles and he does a few things really well, such as seeing the field when plays break down. He has a knack for finding wide open receivers and gouging defenses at the same time.
From his mechanics to his perplexing lack of arm strength and just getting comfortable in the NFL, Bortles could really use a year to sit and develop. He can address a lot of the technical issues, should be able to throw the ball with more zip and strength and then can be ready to hit the ground running in 2015. If they can stick to the plan, they are going in the direction that the Jaguars should have gone with Blaine Gabbert, but went and did the opposite. Bortles may be better than Chad Henne at some point this season, but 2014 Bortles is unimportant. 2015 to what the Jaguars hope is around 2030 is what truly counts.
They followed the Bortles pick up with a pair of wide receivers. The first was Marqise Lee. Had Lee been coming off of his sophomore year and not had the quarterback issues and injury issues in his junior year. Had the past two years of Lee and Sammy Watkins been reversed, their draft position might have been as well, so there is huge potential for value here. Additionally, while Lee was not himself this year, he fought through the injury and dragged his knee on and off the field at times, particularly against Stanford. It would have been easy to protect himself and just sit out, but he gave everything he had and kept producing. That kind of fire and passion should earn him respect quickly in the Jaguar locker room.
The Jaguars followed that up with Allen Robinson at the end of the second round. The talk of Robinson is the first round was preposterous for me. His physical talent and potential is tremendous, but he really could have used another year in college developing. From the waist down, he is terrific as a receiver. Waist up, he has a lot of developing to do in how he frames the football, positions his body to make catches and eliminating drops. He was extremely inconsistent this year in that respect, but occasionally made some spectacular plays. Like with Bortles, Robinson needs a year to really hammer out his technical issues.
From this point on, the Jaguars basically rounded up players their coaching staff worked with at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, grabbing four of them in a row. They started with Brandon Linder in round three. In terms of his effort, toughness and grit, it is easy to see why Coach Bradley would love him. He also has a great frame to work with, but the value here is a little iffy. The big question is if the Jaguars expect Linder to come in and start at one of the guard spots. That could be tough as a rookie, but the hope is their promising tackle situation could help Linder develop and hit the ground running. I would be higher on this pick if he was coming in with a little more flexibility, but they may need him to play now. Of course, if they are donating Chad Henne’s body behind him, it is not the end of the world (sorry, Chad).
The Jaguars took Aaron Colvin as a stash pick in round four. They had access to him in Mobile and were obviously there when he tore his ACL, unfortunately. While it is obviously a setback for Colvin, he may have found himself in a great situation with the Jaguars. He has the size and length to help them play that press man style they like. Colvin can get fully recovered and come back next season and potentially compete for a starting spot.
Telvin Smith has become somewhat of a legend among some that cover the draft. There were dreams of him going in round two as a weak side linebacker. This is about where he should have gone. Smith is perfect for playing nickel as an undersized (generous descriptor) backer that can help in coverage and fly around with a ton of range. Smith is built like a wide receiver and was consistently 218lbs throughout the draft process, prompting some to question if he should move to safety.
Smith should stay at linebacker. His instincts and ability to process information and react are fantastic. He was woefully bad in 1-on-1 drills at the Senior Bowl, but he was one of the best players on the field when went 11-on-11. He gets to the spot quickly and often beats blockers there, allowing him to sniff out and stop plays. When a blocker gets to him, he is going to get washed out of the play. If Smith can be a nickel player and excel in that role as a coverage player and on special teams, great. Anything beyond that should be regarded as a bonus. If he can defy the odds and find a way on the field with running downs, then he becomes a steal. I will believe that when I see it.
The last pick from the Senior Bowl was Chris Smith, the defensive end from Arkansas. A player that became underrated the further away from the field the draft process got, Smith has a nice combination of short but with long arms. He is quick off of the snap, can force opposing blockers to bend down to get him while having enough length to keep them out of his body while he works his way to the quarterback.
Smith is probably never going to be anything beyond a situational pass rusher, but he should be an asset in that role. Along with Telvin Smith, Chris Smith gives them a smaller, faster, pass oriented group of players for obvious passing situations.
One of the more curious decisions the Jaguars did make was waiting to take a center until round 6 with Luke Bowanko. It was a priority enough for them to try to sign Alex Mack in free agency to a substantial contract offer, but not a big enough issue to draft someone that could come in and play right away. As it is, the Jaguars are slated to have Mike Brewster do it, unless Bowanko can unseat him. This could end up being a spot that is second guessed as the season rolls along and could be a glaring need for them next year as well.
They finished up the draft by selecting Storm Johnson in round 7. Johnson was Bortles’ backfield mate at Central Florida. It looks like it will be an uphill climb for Johnson to make the roster. He has real questions when it comes to seeing the hole between the tackles as well as in pass protection. In the open field, Johnson is an electric runner that had splash plays in just about every game he played. He also had fumbles that hurt him. For the cost, he is reasonable enough. I just doubt he has much of a future in Jacksonville and unless he goes to the practice squad there, may have to go to another team before he sees the field.
The Jaguars, as a whole, did an average job maximizing value with their picks. Bortles was a reach, but again, an understandable one. Linder is interesting, but it largely depends on his role. Lee, Robinson, Colvin and both Smiths were great and could really help the Jaguars for quite a few years. This draft will largely be weighted on how Bortles does as well as his receivers. If they stick to their plan and can keep Bortles redshirted this year, I like the way they approached this draft. They got him a nice group of weapons to develop with him along with having Cecil Shorts and they have been pretty good in how they are building an offensive line. That center question could be one that sticks with them until next year, but while they did not necessarily pick up franchise pieces for their defense, they got some effective subpackage players that should be able to help immediately. The Jaguars are nowhere near done, but I like the foundation they could have in the making here, if they can stay patient.