The Jaguars are going through a major makeover in the front office, and even more so on their roster. Not to mention, they got some new threads. Jacksonville is getting better, it’s just a very slow process. Their success this year will be determined by how well Blaine Gabbert plays, if he can beat out Chad Henne for the starting job at all. I think this team could be in contention for the number one pick again, but I really like the direction they are headed. It’s going to take time, but Jacksonville is slowly clawing their way back into contention. Here is my analysis of their 2013 draft class.
1. First Round, 2nd overall: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
This will turn out to be an interesting situation. Eugene Monroe has a contract situation to be worked out, but he’s still the starting left tackle in Jacksonville until further notice. I think Joeckel will start off his career in Jacksonville at right tackle, but he’s the best overall player at the tackle position that this franchise has had since Tony Boselli, in my opinion. I graded him as a top five player, and I think that’s what he will wind up being at the OT position for the next decade or so. He is a powerful guy who has played with some really athletic quarterbacks, and time will tell what direction the Jaguars are heading at that position. Blaine Gabbert to this point has been a bust in my eyes, and while he has flashed ability at times, I think this is a make or break year for him. The Jags have surrounded him with talent offensively that will put him in position to succeed this year. Cecil Shorts, Justin Blackmon, and Marcedes Lewis are good targets in the passing game, while Maurice Jones-Drew is expected to be healthy finally for the running game to get back going. I think Joeckel improves all areas of the offensive side of the ball, especially in pass protection. He should be a stalwart for them for years to come.
2. Second Round, 33rd overall: Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
With the top pick on day two of the draft, the Jaguars selected one of the hardest hitting safeties in this class, Jonathan Cyprien. This is a very good athlete at the safety position with good size at 6’0″ 217 pounds, and I think he’ll be well-coached and his technique will be cleaned up pretty quickly. He’s got the ability and instincts to make all the plays on the back end, and when you watch this guy play, he strikes fear into opposing receivers with his big hits. He will be a building block for this Jacksonville franchise in the defensive backfield, an area that not only struggled mightily last year, but was completely blown up this offseason. They are starting from scratch with CBs and safeties, and this guy is the top pick to get them started. I really like his fit with Gus Bradley, and I think he could be a stud for them.
3. Third Round, 64th overall: Dwayne Gratz, CB, UConn
As I stated with the Cyprien pick, the Jaguars are completely starting from scratch in the secondary. One thing that Gus Bradley had in Seattle that not many teams have is great size at both cornerback positions. Gratz is not a 6’3″ corner by any means, but at 5’11” and 200 plus pounds, he definitely fits under the category of “big” cornerback prospect. This is a player with very good upper body strength who can jam receivers at the line of scrimmage, and he has all kinds of speed as evidenced by his 4.47 40 yard dash. Even as a third round pick, I think with Jacksonville’s cornerback situation, you’ve got to think he’s going to come in as a rookie and start right away for them. He’s been a starter since his sophomore year at UConn, and had really steady production there. I think this is a very solid pick for a team in need of DBs.
4. Fourth Round, 101st overall: Ace Sanders, WR, South Carolina
This is a guy who timed out in the low 4.5 range at the Combine and at the South Carolina pro day, but you’d never know it by watching him on the field. Sanders is lightning quick and elusive with his small size (5’7″ 173 pounds) and will likely play slot receiver for the Jaguars. He just missed out on being a top 100 selection, so this is not a fluke pick by the Jaguars. They clearly intend to utilize this guy quickly. He has the ability to return kicks as well, and it may well have been his performance against Michigan in the Outback bowl that not only convinced him he was good enough now to leave South Carolina a year early, but that also convinced the Jaguars to use such a high pick on him. He led SC in catches last year as a junior, and had nine touchdowns on the season. This guy is a playmaker who is much faster in a game than he is on the track. I think this is a boom or bust pick. He is very small, but he can be slippery and elusive in the open field.
5. Fifth Round, 135th overall: Denard Robinson, RB, Michigan
The Jaguars intend to use Denard Robinson at RB, and not at receiver. That’s not a big surprise to me at all. This was one of the more intriguing pickups in the draft, because Robinson was such a big time playmaker as a member of the Wolverines, people were just antsy to find out where he would wind up eventually. I think in Jacksonville, he could see a lot of touches early as a KR/PR/WR/RB but his main position will be out of the backfield and for good reason. This is a guy who made a majority of his best plays with his legs, and while you’d think it’d be best for him to play receiver to get the ball in his hands somehow, he didn’t really do so well at the Senior Bowl as a receiver, and it might be an easier transition for him in the NFL to play running back. He has blazing speed in the open field, and is a guy who can hit a home run for your offense at any given time.
6. Sixth Round, 169th overall: Josh Evans, S, Florida
This is an underrated pickup in the sixth round. I liked what I saw from Evans, who is not the flashiest athlete but is a really solid option as a reserve safety. He’s probably not going to be an 8-10 year starter, but he can come in right away and upgrade your special teams and give you a nice rotation on the back end of the defense. He is a physical player who was part of a dominant defense at Florida, and he has what Gus Bradley really values in defensive backs–great size. I think the combination of his production and solid athleticism could translate to early on-field success, even as a sixth rounder.
7. Seventh Round, 208th overall: Jeremy Harris, CB, New Mexico State
As a rookie, Harris will come along slowly contributing on special teams, but don’t be surprised if the 6’3″ 181 pound corner prospect cracks the rotation sooner rather than later at cornerback. He is a guy who was 1st-team All-MAC last year, and was coached in college by Jaguars defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker. His combination of size and athletic ability are intriguing, but the fact that he backed it up on the field with stellar play as a senior is confirmation that this kid is more than just a workout warrior. Good value in the 7th round to get a guy like this who can upgrade your special teams right away.
8. Seventh Round, 210th overall: Demetrius McCray, CB, Appalachian State
McCray may be the best overall athlete the Jaguars picked in the entire draft this year. At 6’1″ 187 pounds, he ran a 4.47 in the 40 yard dash, posted a 40.5-inch vertical jump, and had an 11-foot broad jump. Those numbers are ridiculous. Coming from Appalachian State, that athletic ability will be critical for McCray picking up the speed of the NFL game, but Jacksonville placed an emphasis on these last three picks of getting guys who can help them immediately on special teams while they learn the speed of the NFL mentally. I think McCray will make the roster for the Jaguars. He had nine interceptions the last two seasons combined, so he knows how to get his hands on the ball.
Aside from not getting a quarterback, this Jaguars draft addressed their top need which was in the secondary. They let go of pretty much all of their top players from a season ago, so drafting five new young guys who can come in and contribute was a great move, especially since all of them fit Gus Bradley’s criteria for size. Still, this draft will be defined by the success of Luke Joeckel, the 2nd pick in the draft. He is going to have to be a building block for this franchise for years to come.