Justin Herbert, Oregon’s junior QB, is widely viewed as the top QB prospect in the 2019 draft class. That is, if he declares for the draft. Herbert has yet to declare and there is no real indication as to whether or not he will forgo his final collegiate season to cash in as a top 10 pick in the upcoming draft. If Herbert does decide to ditch school the Jaguars should avoid him like the plague.
“What?! Are you crazy?!"
"The Jaguars need a QB and he’ll be the best one available!”
The Jaguars do, in fact, need to address the QB position in the 2019 draft. After a mostly forgettable five year run Blake Bortles is on the outs in Jacksonville and Cody Kessler is no long term solution, at least not as a starter.
But the Jaguars should not select Oregon’s star QB if he should declare for the draft.
The Jaguars have made big mistakes in the past drafting QBs in the first round. In fact, they’ve never drafted a quality QB in the first round, despite trying three times throughout their 23 years in the NFL. All three QBs they’ve selected with their coveted early first round picks have busted.
Byron Leftwich was selected with the seventh overall pick by the Jaguars in 2003. Of the QBs selected in the first round by the Jaguars, he came closest to becoming a quality starter. Injuries and a long, laboring release limited his success in the NFL and ultimately saw him get beat out by David Garrard for the Jaguars starting job entering his fifth season in the NFL. Leftwich was cut by the team on September 1, 2007.
Blaine Gabbert is the worst QB the Jaguars selected in the first round. He was taken with the 10th pick in 2011. Gabbert was a star on the practice field, but needed a lot of development in real game situations. He was timid in the pocket and never took full responsibility when things went wrong earning him the nickname “Blame” Gabbert. He lasted all of three seasons in Jacksonville before he was traded away to the 49ers for just a sixth round pick.
Anyone who has followed the NFL over the last five years knows the Blake Bortles story. Selected third overall by the Jaguars in 2014 Bortles has the size and arm strength that NFL teams covet. Unfortunately Bortles never developed into a consistent NFL QB and in his own words “isn’t a natural thrower of the football”. Not a good sign for a QB selected with the third overall pick. He’s led the NFL in turnovers since becoming the starter for the Jaguars and has, more often than not, been a subpar QB who does more with his legs than his arm.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that the Jaguars should avoid drafting a QB entirely in the first round. What I am suggesting is that the Jaguars should avoid drafting a certain type of QB to build their team around. Leftwich, Gabbert, and Bortles all have/had different playing styles, but the one thing they all had in common was the need for a lot of development/to fix major issues in their game. Leftwich struggled with the speed of the game. He had a laser of an arm, but it took far too long for him to release the ball and he had ZERO mobility. Gabbert was a head case. He was scared to get hit, wilted in the pocket, didn’t accept responsibility or coaching, and never played with much consistency. Blake Bortles was a small school guy that rarely faced big competition and had major issues with his release and footwork.
The Jaguars have shown time and time again, through several different regimes, that they can not be trusted with a project QB.
All three of the Jaguars former first round picks at QB had glaring issues in their games that the Jaguars failed to, or chose not to see. Justin Herbert, if the Jaguars acquire him via the 2019 draft, will likely suffer the same fate. Similar to Gabbert and Bortles, Herbert is a physical specimen. At 6’6’’ tall and 230 lbs. Herbert looks the part. He has a strong arm and good athleticism. But at this point in his development he is the definition of project QB. He doesn’t yet understand how to be a QB and if he ends up in Jacksonville he likely never will. Herbert’s issues are clear. He doesn’t fully grasp reading defenses and struggles to go through his progressions. He’s never been able to play with great consistency from game to game and he’s just not that accurate of a passer. In seven of his 12 starts this year, Herbert has failed to complete 60% of his passes. 12 of his 28 passing touchdowns in 2018 came against Bowling Green, Portland State, and San Jose State. Against Pac 12 competition Herbert scored just 16 times through the air, averaging less than 2 passing touchdowns per game in conference. Herbert may well become a good QB in the NFL with the right tutelage, but it will not happen in Jacksonville.
There are, however, QBs that I would advocate for the Jaguars to take.
Dwayne Haskins (yet to declare, but is believed to be leaning in that direction) is a natural thrower of the ball. He has a beautiful release and shows great touch. He has all the arm strength you could ask for. His biggest knock? A lack of game experience. Haskins only served one year as the starter at Ohio State, but he dominated College Football in 2018 and grew from game to game. At first he struggled with blitzes and understanding defenses, but throughout the season Haskins has taken major strides in all areas of his game. With 47 TDs to just eight INTS and a completion percentage of 70 Haskins has been a dominating force this year. He has college production against major competition, solid mental make up and the skill set that suggests to me he will have an easy transition to the next level.
Will Grier may not be Baker Mayfield 2.0 but the comp is there for a reason. They have similar body types, mobility, arm strength, and accuracy. Grier doesn’t have prototypical size and comes from the high flying Big 12 (like Mayfield), so some scouts may be down on him. But he’s deadly accurate and has all the moxie you could ever ask for from a QB. He’s not Michael Vick — or even Blake Bortles, for that matter — but he has good pocket mobility, escapability and toughness. The easy throws look easy with Grier and so do the hard ones. He’s had a marvelous senior season at West Virginia, tossing 37 TDs to eight INTs and completing 67% of his passes, many of which have been perfectly placed balls down field. Grier sometimes relies on his arm too much, which has gotten him into trouble a few times throughout his career, as evidenced in his three interception game against Kansas. But for the most part Will Grier is a model of how the game should be played from the QB position. He plays with fire. Like Haskins, Grier seems to have the proper mental make up to be able to take the pressure of being an NFL QB. He’s not in on the social media craze and is solely focused on becoming the best quarterback he can be.
Will Grier and Dwayne Haskins would be the two guys I’d be most comfortable with for the Jaguars. No QB is without flaws and every rookie QB needs development, but these two have the mental make up and skill sets to become winners at the next level. I could be sold on Daniel Jones (Duke) too, but the Jaguars should focus on these two players and figure out how to acquire one of them in the first round. I think both guys will have solid to potentially spectacular NFL careers. The Jaguars must hitch their wagon to one of them come April. Jacksonville currently holds the ninth pick in the draft.
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