NFL Draft 2012: These Prospects Can Help Fix Jacksonville Jaguars
Gene Smith, the general manager of the Jacksonville Jaguars, is busy preparing for the 2012 NFL draft. New owner Shahid Khan and even newer head coach Mike Mularkey will add input for this year’s draft.
Luckily for the Jaguars, they are in a position in which almost every position needs improvement (thank goodness for Maurice Jones-Drew).. The difficulty is that they can ill afford to have a bad draft, especially in the first few rounds.
There are several free agents who could fill important needs for the Jaguars, but this article focuses on highlighting the top 10 prospects for the Jaguars.
First and foremost, the Jaguars need to upgrade their receiving corps. The 2011 Jaguars were dead last in passing, averaging a measly 136.2 yards per game.
Some of the passing woes can be blamed on rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert and a lockout-shortened offseason. Smith knows Gabbert experienced rookie growing pains, but he also knows the Jaguar receivers have got to do better.
“We did not get the production out of that group [Jaguars receiving corps] that obviously we would have liked," Smith said.
Expect Smith and Mularkey to pray this man is available...
WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State University
The No. 1 wide receiving prospect in this year’s draft is Justin Blackmon out of Oklahoma State University.
Smith described what he was looking for in his next wide out when he said: “Again how they [wide receiving prospects] compete. They got to be selfish in the fact that when the ball is in the air, it’s got to be theirs…in the end do they attack the ball and go get it when it’s in the air?”
The OSU Cowboy was also the 2010 Biletnikoff Award winner, the 2010 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, finished fifth in this year’s Heisman Trophy voting, was a first-team All-Big 12 selection and was the 2012 Fiesta Bowl's offensive MVP.
Blackmon is a strong physical receiver with strong hands and is a strong runner with the ball; he had eight scoring plays of longer than 40 yards, six covering at least 62 yards.
The knocks on Blackmon are his lack of game-breaking speed and character issues as a result of an arrest in 2010 for a DUI.
If Blackmon falls to the seventh slot, the Jaguars need to take him. He’s the best at his position and fills the biggest need.
WR Kendall Wright, Baylor University
If the Jaguars insist on a wide receiver in the first round and Blackmon is gone, they need look no further than Baylor senior Kendall Wright.
Wright is the second-highest rated WR on NFLDraftScout.com. The Baylor senior caught 108 catches for 1,663 yards (second in the NCAA). However, Wright’s biggest knock is his size (5’10” and 190 pounds), which is small for the NFL.
The senior is still an excellent choice. He has great experience having been a starter all four years at Baylor, but more importantly he is “a top competitor who gives full effort on every snap. A fiery leader who plays with football intensity and determination" (via NFLDraftScout.com)
The seventh slot is too high for Wright here, but if the Jags are dead set on a receiver they could trade down to pick up Wright later. This move could pay dividends as the Jags would get a terrific receiver and could improve another pick or receive additional pick(s) in later rounds.
WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
Michael Floyd is NFLDraftScout.com’s third-rated wide receiver. The senior wide ut from Notre Dame has the prototypical size that NFL teams covet—6’3”, 224 pounds.
Much like Wright, the Jaguars would trade down to nab Floyd.
Floyd’s combination of size and agility could be great for Gabbert and the Jaguars offense, but the senior had three arrests for alcohol-related charges, and the Jaguars are leery of character issues. Three arrests could be two or three arrests too many.
WR Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers University
Mohamed Sanu follows in the footsteps of fellow early decision Rutgers Scarlet Knights Ray Rice and Kenny Britt.
At 6’2” and 215 pounds, Sanu became the Big East’s all-time leader in receptions with 210 career receptions.
Sanu had 115 receptions for 1,206 yards in the 2011 season. Sixty-nine of his receptions went for first downs. According to NFLDraftScount.com, “possessing the size to contribute at split end as well as the savvy route-running and courage to attack defenses from the slot, Sanu is better prepared than most collegiate receivers to make the NFL jump."
There’s a good chance Sanu will drop to the second round. If so, Smith and the Jaguars will want to consider him their second pick if they passed on a receiver in the first round.
WR Alshon Jeffery, University of South Carolina
Even though Alshon Jeffery is leaving school a year early, he currently owns the University of South Carolina Gamecocks school record for receiving yards with 3,042.
Jeffery finished 2011 with 49 receptions, 762 yards and eight touchdowns, and in 2010, Jeffery was a beast with 88 receptions for 1,517 yards, which earned him All-American honors.
Jeffery is another WR with the size NFL teams love—6’4”, 229 pounds. What also works in his favor is that Jeffery did all his damage in the SEC conference, which is considered to be the most talented conference in college football.
Much like Sanu, Jeffery will most likely drop to the second round. The Jaguars would do well to draft Sanu or Jeffery with their second pick if they decide defense is the way to go in the first round.
Or, if they draft...
OT Riley Reiff, Iowa
...offensive tackle Riley Reiff of Iowa.
The first Jaguar regime began its foundation with an OT and did pretty well with him.
Tackle is not the most pressing need, but if Smith decides that the passing game is suffering because there’s too much defensive pressure on Gabbert (no player allowed more sacks than Jaguars right tackle Guy Whimper), the Jaguars GM may want to shore up the offensive line with the No. 2 OT in the draft.
The Hawkeye junior is leaving as a two-time All-Big Ten left tackle. And although the Jaguars are set at left tackle with Eugene Monroe, Reiff could slide over to right tackle and create a terrific bookend of tackles.
Reiff has the size (6’6”, 300 pounds) that NFL teams love, plus he “plays with the nastiness offensive line coaches love" (via NFLDraftScout.com)
It’s hard to imagine that after drafting two tackles in 2009 that the Jaguars will jump back into the O-line pool and draft another OT.
If Smith and Mularkey believe it is in the team’s best interest then Reiff will most likely be the best OT available.
However, the Jags’ first-round choice may reside on the other side of the ball if one of these two are available...
DB Morris Claiborne, LSU / DB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
Both Morris Claiborne and Dre Kirkpatrick showcased their talents in this year’s BCS National Championship Game. They are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 on the positional depth charts and played on the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in college football.
Rashean Mathis, the Jaguars' best defensive back, ended the 2011 season with a torn ACL. He also will be a free agent. Mathis has said he wants to come back and play for Jacksonville, but Smith and Mularkey may be the ones who make the decision for him.
There’s a good chance either Claiborne or Kirkpatrick—or both—will be available to the Jaguars with the seventh pick. If the Jaguars feel they can get a quality WR in the second round (see Sanu and Jeffery), Smith may nab a DB as insurance against Mathis’ leaving.
DL Quinton Coples / DT Devon Still
The Jaguars defense was a top-10 unit last season in both passing and rushing. If Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker says he wants to continue to build up his line, this year's draft has a lot of options.
If the top two DBs are off the board, the Jaguars can turn their attention to some very strong defensive line talent.
The Jaguars' Aaron Kampman hasn't managed to stay healthy. The Jags' could choose to back him up with the supremely talented Quinton Coples. The defensive end from North Carolina earned first-team All-ACC honors with 59 tackles and 10 sacks.
If the Jaguars' brain trust feels tackle needs to be replenished, they can snag Penn State tackle Devon Still. Still was named Big Ten defensive player and defensive lineman of the year.
It appears unlikely the Jags will go after a defensive lineman, but if the WR they want isn't available (or is in the second round) don't be surprised if the Jaguars select Coples.