By: James Johnson (@IES_Don)
As expected (well at least by myself) the Jaguars are off to a not-so-hot start as they’ve entered the first year in their rebuilding phase under Gus Bradley and Dave Caldwell. It’s beginning to become painfully clear that Gene Smith wasn’t exactly the talent evaluator Wayne Weaver thought he was as the current regime have found themselves trying to get out of the crater that Smith put this franchise in. That being said, Rome wasn’t built in a day and I’m still cautiously optimistic to see where the new regime will lead the team in the future.
Just as I did last year, I’ve decided to look into the Jags future and do my second annual “early bird” mock draft. As for those who are on the “this is way too early for this” kick, I just want you to know my picks last year weren’t that far off. I had the Jags taking Dee Milliner in the first round well before analysts started plugging him to the Jags eight months later. As we know, the Jags did ended up taking a CB early (just a couple rounds later), and he did end up starting as I thought whoever they drafted at the position would (Dwayne Gratz). That being said, to keep my posts interesting we’re going to once again fast-forward through time to May 8th, 2014, and predict where the Jaguars could go based off what we’ve seen so far this year.
Round 1: Pick #1, The Jacksonville Jaguars select: QB, Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) - As of right now it’s not looking like the Jaguars will find their franchise guy in Blaine Gabbert, who missed his second straight game Sunday against Seattle. However, that does leave him with 13 games to prove himself, which I have my doubts he will and most agree with me there. So as most GM’s do, Dave Caldwell will want his own signal caller to lead the team if Gabbert can’t show him otherwise. At the rate the team is going he’ll have the first pick in the draft to do so, and he won’t let it go to waste. He and Gus both said that they knew there was a lot of work to be done here. I still believe in the both of them, and finding a franchise QB is where it all starts for any rebuilding team.
As for Bridgewater, what’s not to like about him? His mechanics and technique are phenomenal (likely from him studying and looking up to Peyton Manning), he reads defenses at a level no one else in college does, he’s a leader, his coaches love him, and he doesn’t have any character issues. The biggest con with him will be his strength of schedule as he doesn’t currently have any ranked opponents on his schedule. So, like Mel Kiper would suggest, I went back and looked at his film from last year, and let me tell you it doesn’t disappoint. If you don’t believe me, take a look at his bowl game against Florida. Jadeveon Clowney, who is a superb player as well, is another possibility, but I’m a firm believer that in today’s NFL having a franchise QB (not saying Bridgewater is) could help you overcome any other problems you may have--just look at what Manning is doing in Denver! The Jags may have to look elsewhere to find a pass rusher which they also are in dire need of.
Round 2: Pick #1, The Jacksonville Jaguars Select - OG, Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State) - As I said above, Blaine Gabbert simply doesn’t appear to be our guy at QB, but he’s not the only problem on this offense. I felt bad for him as I watched him get pummeled up close and personal at the Jags and Chiefs game. That said, this team needs a major upgrade on the interior part of the OL. Brad Meester’s age has been showing, but it was even more apparent as he was getting schooled by the Chiefs’ 1st round pick of 2012 in Dontari Poe a majority of the game. Will Rackley just can’t seem to stay healthy or get acquainted with the NFL game after coming from a smaller University in Lehigh, and Uche Nwaneri hasn’t played well either in two seasons.
Taking all of that into consideration, I’ve long told people who are on the Bridgewater wagon (with myself) that he, or whoever is our new QB in 2014, would be eaten alive behind this current interior OL, and that if a rookie QB is in this team’s future plans the OL should be the next priority with him. Gabe Jackson is someone I like among last year's prospects. He’s a battle tested prospect as he’s been successful against SEC prospects like Jesse Williams and Bennie Logan, both of whom are now in the NFL. He’s a mammoth of a man listed at 340 pounds and mauler in the run game which would help the Jags in a department they are currently struggling in. He’s also a decent pass protector in my opinion, but could afford to be better at it. He might also need to shed a few pounds in the eyes of scouts, though he’s shown the quickness to be used in a zone-blocking scheme.
Round 3: Pick #1, The Jacksonville Jaguars Select - OLB/DE, Vic Beasley (Clemson) - I had a hard time finding someone to go here being that this is a bit early for mock draft. As the draft nears, the more vivid rounds 2-3 will become. That being said I put Beasley here, who I feel is one of the ACC’s premier pass-rushers. Now I know you’re thinking the last DE we took from Clemson hasn’t exactly panned out in Andre Branch, but when I looked up footage on Beasley the first thing that stood out to me was his ability to bend around offensive tackles (aka Andre Branch’s weakness). Rotoworld’s very own draft analyst Josh Norris would seem to agree. As talented as he is however, he’s only 235 pounds, and for that reason NFL scouts might see him as a 3rd down only type of player, causing him to potentially fall to the third round or so. If that’s the case, the Jags could take a shot at Beasley as a potential player who could develop into being a full time LEO in time as Beasley adds size.
Alright so there you have my second official 1010XL Early Bird Mock. Feel free to comment on this, and give me your thoughts on Twitter (once again my handle is @IES_Don). Also feel free to check out any of my other sports analysis on Inside Edge Sports as well as our weekly podcast/radio show entitled “Gridiron Season” where we talk simply talk football (Jags, NFL, and collegiate). Our next show will be this Thursday afternoon at 1:00 PM as we’ll talk on the Jags loss this week to Seattle, and their next game against Indianapolis along with more, so if you're free don’t hesitate to tune in!
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