NFL Draft 2012 Recap: Grading the Jacksonville Jaguars' Selections

Vaughn JohnsonCorrespondent IIApril 29, 2012

NFL Draft 2012 Recap: Grading the Jacksonville Jaguars' Selections

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    The 2012 NFL draft was the first for the Jacksonville Jaguars under the ownership of Shahid Khan and new head coach Mike Mularkey.

    This was an important draft for the Jaguars, as it could determine the direction the team will be going in moving forward.

    The decisions made from Thursday through Saturday could determine whether the Jags will be a team that will contend for playoff berths year in and year out or continue to be an afterthought in the minds of NFL fans.

    I have a feeling that years from now, Jaguars fans will look back at this draft as the fork in the road for franchise as a whole—for better or for worse.

    With that said, let's give some early grades on these selections. As usual, we will not know the full effects of these selections until years from now, but as of right now, we can give grades based on the logic of the pick and what the potential could be.

1st Round (No. 5 Overall): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

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    Grade: A

    The Jaguars traded up to get Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, recognizing that the position has been a need for a long time.

    More than anything else, I like the team's aggressiveness in recognizing the problem and trying to solve it, rather than trying to stop-gap it like the Jaguars did a lot under the previous regime.

    Blackmon was a great receiver in college, winning the last two Fred Biletnikoff Awards. I don't expect him to be a top-five receiver in the league, but he will pose a threat to opposing defenses, which they will have to respect.

    With Blackmon alongside Laurent Robinson, who is another guy defenses have to worry about, the Jags have the potential to have a solid passing game, given that quarterback Blaine Gabbert progresses.

    Not to mention, having one of the best running backs in football today in Maurice Jones-Drew will definitely help keep defenses off balance.

2nd Round (38th Overall): Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

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    Grade: B

    Besides wide receiver, the most glaring need for the Jaguars has been defensive end.

    Unlike receiver, the Jaguars have actually tried to rectify this issue in previous drafts with the selections of Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves in 2008. Obviously, they didn't work out too well.

    The Jaguars are trying to solve the problem once again with Andre Branch out of Clemson.

    Branch wasn't the most highly-touted defensive end coming into this draft, but he did have a productive college career for Clemson.

    During 2011, Branch recorded 85 tackles, 17 for loss, and led the Atlantic Coast Conference with 10.5 sacks.

    Branch stands 6'4'' and possesses those long arms that a lot of quality rush defensive ends have in today's NFL.

    There were better ends out there, but at that point of the draft, the Jags got the best one available. Branch fills a need that has been hovering over the Jacksonville defense for years, and if Branch can simply put pressure on quarterbacks, he will instantly make the unit better.

3rd Round (70th Overall): Bryan Anger, P, California

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    Grade: D-

    Here is the first head-scratcher of the draft for me.

    The Jaguars selected a punter in the third round. Yes, I said a punter.

    Now I am not one to bash kickers and punters and say that they're not real football players; they are an important part of the game. But a third-round pick? Doesn't seem very smart to me.

    I see what a good punter can do: he can flip position for your team and help your defense, much like what Shane Lechler does for the Oakland Raiders, but how many times have the Raiders been to the playoffs with Lechler as their punter?

    No disrespect to Bryan Anger. He was a good college punter. He averaged 40 yards per attempt each of his four years at California, but he's not worth a third-round pick.

    Maybe in the later rounds, but not in the third when there are other players that the Jaguars could have used at that point.

    It's an inexcusable pick. Sure, we want a good punter, but by making it a high priority, you're essentially telling teams that we're not going to have a good offense so we're going to need a punter to help us play the field-position game.

    In my opinion, this was a horrible selection, plain and simple. Not because of the player, but because of the timing.

5th Round (142nd Overall): Brandon Marshall, LB, Nevada

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    Grade: C+

    The Jaguars selected Brandon Marshall out of Nevada seemingly to add depth to a pretty solid linebacking corps.

    Marshall is pretty stout at 6'1'', 245 pounds, and he possesses a good amount of strength. He was a four-year starter at Nevada, so he doesn't lack the experience that a lot of prospects do nowadays.

    In 2011, he led Nevada with 102 total tackles. He's a solid linebacker who you will not find out of position too often. The one problem is that he doesn't make a ton of big plays.

    Marshall seems to be a solid fifth-round selection who could see time on the field in 2012.

6th Round (176th Overall): Mike Harris, CB, Florida State

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    Grade: C

    Mike Harris played only one year at Florida State after transferring from junior college and had a solid season as a Seminole.

    Harris was a part of a rotation of corners at FSU and still managed to finish second on the team with 58 tackles.

    He's not afraid to stick his nose in the pile make as big hit. Harris stands 5'11" and 195 pounds, not very big by scouts' standards. His lack of size will be an issue going up against bigger receivers in the NFL.

    Harris was the only pick for an average secondary in Jacksonville. Harris was a productive player in college, but not a standout, which made him slip to the sixth round.

    If he does see the field this season, it will be in his natural position of the slot corner with Aaron Ross and Rashean Mathis being on the outside.

    Solid player, but nothing to write home about.

7th Round (228th Overall): Jeris Pendleton, DT, Ashland

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    Grade: C-

    For their final selection, the Jaguars selected Jeris Pendleton out of Division II Ashland.

    Pendleton was a productive defensive tackle during his career at Ashland. In 2011, he recorded 48 tackles, 10 of which were for losses, and racked up five sacks.

    He's a big guy at 322 pounds, but as is the case with most Division II players, the level of competition isn't all that great, so he was more than likely going up against guys who had little chance of playing in the NFL upon graduation.

    The Jaguars selected defensive tackle Tyson Alualu in the first round a couple of years ago and seem pretty set at the position overall, so time will tell if Pendleton even makes the roster come training camp.

    It's no-risk situation with Pendleton in the seventh round, which is why this pick gets the grade it does from me.

Overall Grade

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    Grade: B-

    For the most part, the Jaguars did what they had to do. They got the receiver they wanted and went out got a defensive end.

    The selection of the punter in the third round really soured their draft for me, but it was salvaged with some solid players in the later rounds.

    When the Jaguars go after Justin Blackmon the way they did and take a productive defensive end in the second round, it's hard to get too pessimistic.

    If this draft only turns out two productive players, then it was a success, as most teams get one or maybe two productive players from their drafts.

    If the two players are Blackmon and Andre Branch, then Jaguars fans should be happy with the draft.