Jacksonville Jaguars rookie wide receiver, Justin Blackmon, makes a catch during practice.
Then, in the second round they addressed another area of need, and picked up a high-motor defensive end in Andre Branch, who will give the Jaguars a major push from the outside that they have been missing for several years. Undrafted players, on occasion, can make a major impact during their rookie year, and that may be the case for linebacker Julian Stanford.
Justin Blackmon has the potential to be a star for the Jaguars, but it may not be this year. Now that he is signed, he will need to build on the progress he made during OTAs. He will work with quarterback Blaine Gabbert and build the relationship the Jaguars looked for when drafting him.
His pass-catching ability puts him at a good starting point, and participating in OTAs is a good frame of reference for Blackmon. His position coach is one of the best in the league, and will help groom him and refine his skills.
Don’t misunderstand, if he keeps his head straight, he will show flashes of greatness, but don’t expect him to put up Randy Moss- or Anquan Boldin-type rookie numbers. Look for the former two-time Biletnikoff award winner to have great games, but his production is dependant on the progression of Gabbert. When Gabbert succeeds, Blackmon will succeed; when Gabbert falters, Blackmon will falter.
By the end of the season, Branch might be the Jaguars’ most valuable rookie. He has the potential the Jaguars are looking for, and the energy coming off the edge the team needs. Branch will play a lot, and will see his playing time increase through the year, especially if injuries become a concern for Austen Lane and John Chick again in 2012.
The knock on Branch coming out of college was his run-stopping ability, but that should not be a major concern for him. He will get plenty of opportunity to hone his rush defense, and playing against the pass-happy NFC North teams should help mask any weakness early in his career.
It’s easy to predict a player makes a major impact during their rookie year if you pick the first two draft choices. Undrafted rookies could make a major contribution to the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2012 season as well.
Julian Stanford is one of those rookies. At 6-1, 230 pounds, the instinctive former Stanford man looks like an NFL linebacker and will add serious depth and make high-impact plays for the underrated Jaguars linebacker corps. If Clint Session cannot return from his three concussions last year, Stanford will get more time to show his worth.
The Jaguars have several rookies that have promise, including sixth-round pick Mike Harris, seventh-round pick Jeris Pendleton, and undrafted rookie Mike Brewster. These are guys the Jaguars will stash away and mold into what the Jaguars would like for them to be. They may not see a lot of time on the field this year, but I wouldn’t count them out down the road.