Grading the Jacksonville Jaguars 2016 Draft Class
There’s a whole lot of buzz in Duval about what the Jaguars are going to do during Free Agency and the 2017 NFL Draft. Will they pursue Jason Pierre-Paul? If Leonard Fournette is available at number four overall do they take him, or do they try and get another pass rusher instead? Will they bring another Quarterback on board to challenge Blake Bortles? These questions will all be answered eventually, and deserve the attention they’re getting in the meantime. This morning I was sitting down having my coffee and trying to decide what I wanted to focus on for GenJag this week when I thought “Wait a minute. What about the guys already on the roster? What about the 2016 draft class?” It’s an exciting time to be a Jaguars fan, no doubt, but let us not forget that we’re going into the fifth year of a rebuild that should just about be coming to an end. It’s time to start expecting results, and those results won’t happen if the draft classes already on the roster don’t produce. With that being said, let’s look at the guys drafted in 2016 and talk about how they did last year, and what we can expect from them next year.
First Round (5th Overall): Jalen Ramsey, CB.
It was obvious that the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles both traded up in the draft because they wanted to grab a Quarterback. That meant that the only teams standing between the Jaguars and Jalen Ramsey were the former San Diego (Now Los Angeles) Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys. It didn’t come as too much of a surprise when the Chargers selected Defensive End Joey Bosa with the third overall pick. However, now that Dallas was on the clock a lot of Jaguars fans were holding their breath. The Cowboys could use help on defense, especially in the secondary. Ramsey would’ve made sense for them, but instead of taking him Jerry Jones and the Cowboys selected Running Back Ezekiel Elliot. Believed by some to be the best overall player in the draft Ramsey somehow fell to the Jaguars with the 5th overall pick and he did not disappoint. Despite suffering a torn meniscus in the offseason Ramsey started all 16 games and constantly found himself one on one with the opposing team’s number one receiver. Throughout the course of the 2016 season Ramsey found himself toe-to-toe with the likes of T.Y. Hilton, Alshon Jeffery, Amari Cooper, DeAndre Hopkins, and Sammy Watkins to name a few and still managed to put up 65 tackles, a forced fumble, and two interceptions one of which he returned for a touchdown.
What to expect in 2017: I expect Ramsey to be hell on wheels next year and by the end of the season to be in the conversation with the Patrick Petersons and Richard Shermans of the league. Ramsey is going to be an elite shut-down corner and if the Jaguars are able to retain Prince Amukamara and Jonathan Cyprien, or maybe even upgrade in free agency, then it’s possible they can use him the way the Jets used to use Darelle Revis to simply take the other team’s best receiver out of the game.
Second Round (36th overall): Myles Jack, OLB.
Myles Jack was widely believed to be a talent worthy of being taken in the top ten, however there were some concerns about his knee and the longevity of his career which scared teams away from him. He was still available at the top of the second round, and the Jaguars traded up two spots to the 36th pick to go get their guy.. I was a big fan of the pick, but with Paul Posluszny, Telvin Smith, and Dan Skuta already on the Jaguars’ roster and preforming well it put the Jaguars in an awkward position. Now, having four solid linebackers is a good problem to have but they had to get creative to get Jack on the field in 2016. Jack found himself on the special teams unit where he could utilize his speed, and although he didn’t play in his natural positions of middle or weak side linebacker he did find some work on the strong side. He “started” 10 games, and appeared in all 16 but he logged less than 300 snaps.
What to expect in 2017: Improvement. It’s a short answer, but it’s a fair one. Jack seems to have beat Skuta out for the starting spot, but Posluszny is still the starting middle linebacker. However, Jaguars’ defensive coordinator, Todd Wash, has yet to release a statement regarding what scheme he’ll use during the 2017 season. I’d like to see him possibly move Posluszny to the strong side and let Jack try out the middle, which would allow Posluszny to focus on his strength of stopping the run while also letting Jack use his speed in pass coverage.
Third Round (69th Overall): Yannick Ngakoue, DE.
Personally, I believe this to be the real steal of the draft. When he was drafted he was described as a situational edge rusher, but when it was all said and done Ngakoue was on the field for more snaps than the Jaguars’ 2015 first-round pick Dante Fowler. His 8 sacks led the team and he also registered 22 tackles and 4 forced fumbles. The highlight of Ngakoue’s season came week 4 in London against the Indianapolis Colts. In that game Ngakoue had 4 tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, and an interception. Jaguars’ GM David Caldwell said that he wanted to find some mid-to-late-round steals and he found it in 2016 with Yannick Ngakoue.
What to expect in 2017: Hopefully Ngakoue continues to improve and avoids the “sophomore slump”. I think that he’ll be able to improve off of his stellar 2016 campaign and will be a key player in the pass rushing rotation. I think the best chance for Ngakoue to excel next year would be if the Jaguars get a premier pass-rusher in free agency that can start and let Ngakoue work in the rotation. He’ll be able to take mental snaps on the sideline and when he is on the field he’ll be fresh.
Fourth Round (103rd Overall): Sheldon Day, DT.
Sheldon Day might not have been the flashiest player from the Jaguars’ 2016 draft class, but he contributed. Although he didn’t start any games he was active for all 16 games, and you can’t ask for much more than that from a fourth-round pick. His stats weren’t eye-popping either, 8 tackles and 1 sack, but again that’s okay. Day wasn’t drafted to come in and make an impact instantly, he was brought in to add depth to the Jaguars interior line where the Jaguars already had big names such as Malik Jackson, Roy Miller, and Sen’Derrick Marks. He was solid against the run and is a solid depth guy, and was really a great pick in the fourth round.
What to expect in 2017: I expect Day to improve in 2017 and find himself earning more snaps in the rotation. Just like Yannick Ngakoue, I think that Day will benefit if he’s not the starter but rather gets to work in the rotation.
Sixth Round (181 Overall): Tyrone Holmes, DE.
Tyrone Holmes was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 3rd 2016 and was claimed off waivers by the Cleveland Browns on September 4th 2016. Despite his solid play in camp, this was a pick that the Jaguars found no value in.
Sixth Round (201st Overall): Brandon Allen, QB.
Brandon Allen is the third string Quarterback on the roster behind Blake Bortles and Chad Henne. He didn’t see any playing time during the 2016 season, and in the preseason he played in three games where he completed 27 out of 48 passes for 302 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions.
What to expect in 2017: Barring an injury to both Bortles and Henne I don’t expect Allen to see any playing time in 2017, but that’s to be expected. When the Jaguars drafted Allen it wasn’t because they needed him to come in and play right away. Chad Henne is a good veteran for him to learn from and another year on the bench will serve Allen well.
Seventh Round (226th Overall): Jonathan Woodard, DE.
During training camp Woodard suffered a torn Achilles tendon and then underwent surgery to repair the tear. Due to the severity of the injury Woodard was placed on the Jaguars’ PUP list and missed the entire 2016 season.
What to expect in 2017: I’m excited to see Woodard come back in 2017. Weighing in at 6’6” and 271 lbs. Woodard could potentially be a solid contributor in the Jaguars’ pass-rushing rotation.
The Jaguars did extremely well with their 2016 class. They lucked into not only Jalen Ramsey, but also Myles Jack who many believed could be the selection at number five less than a week before the draft. While Ramsey was playing at a Pro Bowl level by season's end, Jack didn't see the field as much as fans would like, but when he was on the field Jack showed flashed of why he was so highly touted. In the third round the Jaguars struck gold with Yannick Ngakoue who was labeled a one trick pony coming of out Maryland - boy was that take wrong. Ngakoue had one of the more spectacular rookie years of any Jaguars defender in team history and set the team's rookie sack record. Each of the Jaguar first three picks have Pro Bowl potential, which is more that enough for this class to have a solid grade. But to add a pass rushing defensive tackle in Sheldon Day in the fourth round, a guy that many had going in the second or third round and then to add the backup quarterback of the future, it appears that the Jaguars had an amazing 2016 class. Only time will tell the true greatness of this class.
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