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Jacksonville Jaguars: Reviewing Their 2012 NFL Draft

Dan HopeContributor IIIMay 7, 2012

Jacksonville Jaguars: Reviewing Their 2012 NFL Draft

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    Even with the free agent signing of Laurent Robinson, the Jacksonville Jaguars really needed to upgrade at the wide receiver position by finding a true No. 1 go-to receiver. That was why the Jaguars decided it was necessary to move up two spots to the No. 5 overall pick to ensure the opportunity to select Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, the best wideout in the 2012 draft.

    While Blackmon was the ideal selection for the Jaguars, was trading up the right move? And did the Jaguars fill the rest of their needs through the draft? Read through the following slides to find out.

Evaluating the Picks

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    Round 1, Pick 5: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 9

    Blackmon is a legitimate No. 1 wideout and downfield deep threat. He does not have elite speed, but he is a good athlete with great size, strength, hands and route-running ability. He is not a lateral athlete who will make cornerbacks miss in open space, but is a big-play threat in the open field.

    Round 2, Pick 38: Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 48

    Branch is an undersized but very athletic pass-rusher. He struggles as a run-defender and is not strong at the point of attack. He is unlikely to be a three-down defensive lineman, but he could be a terrific situational pass-rusher. Branch could be the explosive pass-rusher that the Jaguars have lacked.

    Round 3, Pick 70: Bryan Anger, P, California

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 229

    Anger is a strong-legged punter who gets great hang time. With a great showing at the Shrine Game, he really worked his way up the draft board, although it did not seem that he would have moved all the way up into the third round. He ranked only 14th nationally last season in average yards per punt.

    Round 5, Pick 142: Brandon Marshall, OLB, Nevada

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 246

    Marshall was a very productive tackler at Nevada, and is an instinctive player who tackles well in space. There is nothing spectacular about Marshall’s game, but he is a solid linebacker who should contribute on special teams.

    Round 6, Pick 176: Mike Harris, CB, Florida State

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 311

    Harris is a physical, instinctive cornerback who tackles well, but his lack of speed is a problem. Harris may not have the athleticism to hang with sideline receivers in the National Football League, while he does not have the size to play safety. He must become more consistent in order to make up for his lack of speed.

    Round 7, Pick 228: Jeris Pendleton, DT, Ashland

    Overall Prospect Rank: Not in Top 400

    Honestly, I did not know who Pendleton was until this selection was made. He is a massive defensive tackle, but he is already 28 years old and could face a steep learning curve making the move up from Division II to the NFL. Seems like a questionable selection at best.

Evaluating the Trades

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    The Jaguars traded Round 1, Pick 7 and Round 4, Pick 102 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Round 1, Pick 5.

    With concern that the St. Louis Rams, who were in serious need of a wide receiver, would select Blackmon at the No. 6 overall selection, the Jaguars gave up their Round 4 selection to move up two spots and select him.

    This move made perfect sense for the Jaguars. While Blackmon may not be a talent quite worth a top-5 overall pick, he stood out as the best wide receiver in this draft class. Wide receiver was the Jaguars’ biggest need coming into the draft, and the Rams were a legitimate threat to select him at the sixth pick.

    The price of a fourth-round selection was worth it to ensure the opportunity to draft Blackmon.

    The Jaguars traded Round 7, Pick 214 to the New York Jets in September 2011 for free safety Dwight Lowery.

    Lowery is a quality starting free safety for the Jaguars, something that a team does not often find with a seventh-round draft pick. The Jaguars got a steal from this trade.

    The Jaguars received Round 7, Pick 228 in September 2010 along with cornerback David Jones from the Cincinnati Bengals for free safety Reggie Nelson.

    One year before the Jaguars traded this year’s seventh-round pick for a starting free safety, they traded away their starting free safety for a seventh-round pick in the same draft. Nelson struggled with the Jaguars and ran into off-field issues, but has since established himself as a quality starter in Cincinnati. While the Jaguars won on the Lowery trade, they lost in this deal.

Assessing Value

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    While Blackmon was not worth a top-5 pick on talent in my opinion, his value as the best wide receiver in the class and a true No. 1 receiving target made him valuable enough to be well worth the No. 5 overall selection.

    With most of the top pass-rushers off the board in Round 1, Branch was a good value as a Round 2 selection. The Jaguars would have had a significant drop-off had they waited any longer to draft a pass-rusher.

    The selection of Anger in Round 3 was a massive reach. Rarely is a punter worth a pick in the first three rounds, and Anger is not an elite punting prospect that makes an exception. While he may be the best punter in this draft class and fills a need, he should not have been a Round 3 choice after not even being a top-10 punter in the NCAA last season.

    The Jaguars did not get great value on any of their Day 3 draft choices.

Addressing Needs

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    The Jaguars’ two biggest needs were for a wide receiver and pass-rushing defensive end, and they filled those needs in the first two rounds with the selections of Blackmon and Branch.

    While Anger was a reach, they did fill a need with arguably the best punting prospect in the draft class. The Jaguars also needed to add at the linebacker position, and did that with the selection of Marshall.

    The Jaguars did a good job of adding players at positions where they needed to.

Conclusion

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    The Jaguars’ first two selections of Justin Blackmon and Andre Branch made great sense. Blackmon can be the go-to receiving target that the Jaguars really needed to add to their offense, while Branch is an athletic pass-rusher who can help them generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

    The selection of punter Bryan Anger in Round 3 was a huge reach and head-scratching selection, but at least the Jaguars did an effective job of addressing needs throughout the draft, including at punter.

    The poor value that started with the Anger pick hurts the team’s grade, but two effective picks at the top of the draft and filling needs could make this a very effective draft for the Jaguars.

    Grade: B

    Thanks for reading!

    Throughout the month of May, I will be reviewing one team’s draft each day, in the order of the original 2012 NFL draft order.

    Follow me on Twitter @Dan_Hope.

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