The Jaguars have been a build through the draft team ever since the Gus Bradley/Dave Caldwell era began. We are now week away from the 2016 NFL Draft and the Jags don't have as many glaring holes as they did in previous off seasons, but still have their work cut out for them. Of the six remaining players from their first draft in 2013 (T Luke Joeckel, S Jonathan Cyprien, CB Dwayne Gratz, RB Denard Robinson, S Josh Evans and CB Demetrius McCray) Jonathan Cyprien is the only player that seems to have a chance to start this season (with the exception of Luke Joeckel, who’s starting job is now in question with the addition of Kelvin Beachum. The rest of the 2013 draft class is in jeopardy of even being on the roster for the start of the 2016 season.
The Bradley/Caldwell duo struck gold in the 2014 Draft, primarily on offense. With the picks of QB Blake Bortles, WR Allen Robinson, G Brandon Linder and the rookie free agent signing of WR Allen Hurns the Jaguars are poised to have one of the best young offenses in the game today. They also added LB Telvin Smith and CB Aaron Colvin on the defensive side of the ball and both have proven to be solid NFL starters. WR Marquise Lee who they picked up in the 2nd round is still struggling with injuries and inconsistency, but has the potential to be a good complement to Robinson and Hurns if he can remain healthy. Their final pick was C Luke Bowanko remains the lone center on the Jags roster. He played well his rookie season, but lost his job to Stefan Wisniewski, a 2014 free agent signing who is no longer with the team.
The 2015 NFL Draft was both good and bad, the only real reason I say it was bad is because their first round pick, DE Dante Fowler, tore his ACL in rookie minicamp last year. He's recovering well and should be an impact player once he returns to the field. One of the best if not the best overall player coming out last year, Fowler should help the pass rush and run defense setting an aggressive edge. Growing the young nucleus on offense was obviously a point of emphasis 2015 as they drafted RB T.J. Yeldon, G A.J. Cann and slot WR Rashad Greene who also adds value as a returner. Both A.J. and Rashad are going to be starters at their respected positions, but RB T.J. Yeldon will split time with newly acquired free agent RB Chris Ivory after a rookie campaign in which he showed flashes. The other two worth mentioning that actually played last year are S James Sample who will compete with Jonathan Cyprien and DT Michael Bennett who stepped in for an injured Sen'derrick Marks last year and played decent, but got pushed around too often. It was a good value pick in the 6th round and the Jags hope he will learn behind Marks.
Free Agency Pickups
After another impressive free agency period this year adding RB Chris Ivory, G Mackenzy Bernadeau, DE Malik Jackson, S Tashaun Gibson, CB Prince Amukamara to the additions they picked up last year in TE Julius Thomas, T Jeremy Parnell, DE Jared Odrick, OTTO Dan Skuta and CB Davon House there are still holes to fill on this team, but denying that the Jaguars got better this offseason would be outrageous. The goal was to get more physical and they did exactly that, especially on defense, but nobody runs the ball harder than RB Chris Ivory. With the talent around Blake Bortles this year and a defense that can only get better, I can see a (7-9) record as the roster stands before the draft. So the real question is who they think are going to be the most impactful players in the draft that can take them to the top of the division.
With the 38th overall selection I'm torn between trying to fix the pass rush and drafting a long term C in Ryan Kelly. If he's still available, I say draft Kelly because many have a first round grade on him. He would help not only Blake Bortles and the pass protection, but in the run game as well as he did opening up holes for Heisman winning RB Derrick Henry at Alabama who amassed over 2,200 yards on the ground in 2015. If Kelly isn't available I also like G/C Cody Whitehair from Kansas State. He's a plug and play starter at guard and he adds extra value because not only can he play center, he has experience at all positions along the offensive line. If both are gone I'm looking at DE/LB Noah Spence (if available), DE/LB Kamalei Correa or DE Shilique Calhoun to help the pass rush and I would even say LB Deion Jones would be in the mix. Spence, Correa and Calhoun are all tremendous pass rushers and Jones is as solid as they come at inside linebacker, but can also play outside.
The 69th pick needs to be someone who can help immediately either with pushing the starter or perusing a starting role. If Ryan Kelly is gone at pick 38 I would like to see either Spence or Jones there so we could grab C Nick Martin or even C Max Tuerk at 69. Other options include DT Javon Hargrave, S KJ Dillon and DE Carl Nassib. They need another playmaker at safety, someone who tackles well and has down field coverage skills so don't be surprised if it's S KJ Dillon. Either way, any of these guys would help the defense and if they aren't perusing a starting role this year, they will next year.
Pick 103 and the rest of the remaining picks..Scheme fit is key for guys that don't have an abundance of talent but team needs come into play as well.. LB Josh Perry or LB Jatavis Brown is who I'd keep an eye on around here because the depth at LB right now is not good. They did add LB Sean Porter who was released by the Bengals at the end of last year, but don't think that's all they do with adding to that position.
Pick 146 I’d be looking for the best available pass rusher. If Jaylon Smith is available it would be tremendous value even though he may not play this year. Could you imagine Myles Jack and Jaylon Smith in the same draft class? DE Charles Tapper may still be around and is a physical specimen. At 6'3 270 he has natural power and speed at the point of attack, but his technique is flawed in some areas and his pad level was bad far too often. That being said, he still is a physical player and could be used well in their 4-3 base scheme. DE/LB James Cowser would be a pretty good fit as well, smaller in size and is more of a pass rusher than anything. Although they are a completely different style of pass rusher, they both can get to the quarterback.
Pick 181 needs to be someone who is gonna help protect Blake Bortles. Since entering the league in 2014 nobody has been sacked more than he. The best available lineman would do, whoever it may be, but I'd like to see C Jack Allen drafted in this spot. A 4 year starter at Michigan State who has a wrestling background is always a plus. Grappling in the trenches and being able to flip his hips quickly to open up holes are what the Jaguars are looking for. He's really good in the pass pro and has good strength in his hands, but he struggles with getting to the second level in the run game at times. Overall if the Jags land Allen he could end up being the next Brad Meester.
Pick 201 depending on who they have drafted to this point could be a bit of a toss up. RB Keith Marshall or RB Kelvin Taylor would be good at least to add competition for Denard Robinson for their receiving and speed back packages. Kelvin Taylor, son of Jacksonville great Fred Taylor, is not particularly fast, but is a good overall back that actually has pass protection skills. Both are good at catching the ball out of the backfield and have good elusiveness so they could go either way. Pick 226..your guess is as good as mine. Just looking for added value and not reaching for a player would be a good start, but if it were up to me I'd trade the 7th rounder this year for a 6th next year. If that option isn't there, maybe pair up LB Terrance Smith with Telvin Smith again like at Florida State and see what happens.
2016 Jaguars Mock Draft
1. Myles Jack LB UCLA
2. Cody Whitehair G/C KSU
3. KJ Dillon S WV
4. Josh Perry LB OSU
5. Charles Tapper DE OU
6. Jack Allen C MSU
6. Kelvin Taylor RB FL
7. Terrance Smith LB FSU
It's no secret the Jaguars need help on defense and even with the additions they made in free agency, I still see a defensive dominant draft. Gus Bradley needs another good draft this year because his job may be in jeopardy. He signed a one year extension through this year so if he plans on sticking around the Jaguars need to improve upon the structure they have already built. This is definitely a team on the rise.
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