Lets look at how Dave Caldwell’s most recent draft class did in their rookie seasons and what their future with the Jaguars may hold.
First Round 3rd overall pick / Dante Fowler, Jr., DE/LB, Florida
Upside: Dante Fowler Jr. has incredible skill and upside that Gator fans consistently enjoyed during his time at the University of Florida. Unfortunately for Jags fans, we did not get to see how these skills translated to the next level because he tore his ACL ten minutes into his first NFL practice.
What comes to mind initially when we analyze Fowler’s athleticism is his high motor, lanky-yet-strong features and quick first step off the line of scrimmage. Caldwell and Gus saw what fans had seen for 3 years at Florida. He has long arms and fast hands, which allows him to be a rangy tackler when rushing the quarterback. In his last year at UF, Fowler Jr. played all over the field and developed an effective spin move that he used when he wasn’t able to beat the blocker on the edge.
Downside: His downsides as an NFL player are still unknown for the simple fact that he hasn’t yet played a snap. It seemed to me that most of Dante’s criticism concerned his somewhat raw techniques and excessive or wasted motions when rushing the passer. Fowler Jr. was drafted to play the Leo position in Gus Bradley’s defense and this will require him to act as a speed rusher, but also play in shallow coverage on third down passing situations. The Jaguars plan to test how versatile a player Fowler Jr. can be and I think he is more than up to the test.
Was this a good pick? We will see what Dante is made of in 2016. We don’t have any NFL tape to make a decision about whether or not his intangibles will translate to the professional game, but based solely on his college performance, he could could easily have thirty to forty tackles and five to eight sacks in 2016. Maybe if all of us glass-half-full people are lucky, Dante, Dave and Gus will exceed our ready-to-be-exceeded expectations.
Was this a good pick? This was a great pick. Yeldon, accompanied by Ivory, will be a staple in the Jaguars offense in the coming years.
Third Round 67th overall / A.J. Cann, G, South Carolina
Upside: A.J. Cann is a big body in the interior of our line that is a quality run blocker and is improving as a pass protector. Cann plays with good pad level and is effective at blocking the defender off the ball on initial contact. Cann now has valuable starting experience and will provide quality depth on our line next season.
Downside: Cann can improve consistency in his footwork in pass protection and needs to get off initial blocks quicker to get downfield on run plays.
Was this a good pick? A.J. Cann started 13 games for the Jags in 2015. With Beadles is out of the mix we can expect A.J. Cann to either start at guard or be a major reserve player in 2016.
Fourth Round 104th overall/ James Sample, S, Louisville
Upside: James Sample is a young player who wields impressive speed and is a force inside the box. Sample, who was a part of a strong and physical Louisville defense in college, brings these same qualities to the NFL. He is a talented tackler and can provide this for the Jaguars defense on first and second down.
Downside: I question Sample’s versatility. As I said before, Sample is a good tackling safety who at times, like Johnathon Cyprien can get exposed in coverage. With the addition of Tashaun Gipson, Sample will likely be used almost exclusively in the box to defend the run. Unfortunately for Sample, this is a role that is better suited for Cyprien who is also likely to lose some reps next season, especially if the Jaguars actually acquire Jalen Ramsey in this year’s upcoming draft.
Was this a good pick? I can see why the Dave Caldwell would make this selection back in 2015, but in 2o16 Sample’s future becomes a little murkier with the Jaguars.
Was this a good pick? Yes. This was a great pick. His punt return against the Titans late in the fourth quarter set the Jaguars up for an easy pass touchdown by Blake Bortles to win the game. Even if Rashad Greene doesn’t become a large part of our offense in the future as a receiver we have definitely found a quality punt returner.
Sixth Round 180th overall/ Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
Upside: Michael Bennett provides the Jaguars with a defensive tackle that can rush the passer on passing downs. Bennett was 293 pounds at the combine, but has since put on 15 pounds that allows him to add gap-clogger to his resumé.
Downside: Michael Bennett’s scouting notes from the combine pay special attention to his size and how his size and technique can get him into trouble when he goes against powerful guards on running downs. He often relies too much on his hands when he doesn’t get past the blocker with his initial move. In the NFL, Bennett must develop a few effective finesse moves in order to even use his size and speed to disrupt the quarterback.
Was this a good pick? Yes. Bennett was projected to be an undersized defensive tackle who went somewhere in the second or third round. The Jaguars’ acquisition of Bennett in the sixth round allows us time to groom Bennett’s technique over time without overpaying for his unrefined talent.
Seventh Round 220th overall/ Neal Sterling, WR, Monmouth
Upside: Neal Sterling is a versatile athlete who the Jaguars took a shot on in the seventh round. The combination of his irregular size (235 at the time of the combine) and his 4.6 40-time had Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley hoping that he could develop into a hybrid between a tight end and wide receiver.
Downside: The development must be taking longer than expected because Sterling saw no playtime last season. With the re-signing of tight-end Marcedes Lewis, Julius Thomas coming into the fold, and the general growth in production from both of the “Allen Brothers” I don’t see a large number of plays being called for Sterling in the near future.
Was this a good pick? This late in the draft, it is acceptable to take a guy like Sterling just in case he evolved into the playmaker that the front office envisioned. Time will tell, but it doesn’t look like that evolution is going to happen.
Seventh Round 229th overall/ Ben Koyack, TE, Notre Dame
Upside: Koyack has all of the physical qualities that coach’s look for in a tight end, along with good hands, but definitely needs to refine the mental aspect of the game in order to standout in our good group of tight ends.
Downside: Ben Koyack only started one season at Notre Dame and wasn’t overly impressive during his tenure. This lack of experience has definitely hindered his emergence as an option at tight end for the Jaguars. It also didn’t help that we had three other quality options above him.
Was this a good pick? Koyack played on the practice squad for the 2015 season and was not the surprise talent that the Jaguars had hoped for, but I think we can live with this selection in the seventh round. It is possible that with the loss of Clay Harbor he could fight for a roster spot in 2016.
2015 had a couple late round slow developers, but overall Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley found talented young players that can contribute on both sides of the ball in the future. Thanks for reading and let’s hope we can draft with the same success on April 28th!
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