Who Should the Jacksonville Jaguars Select First Overall in 2013?
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"With the first pick in the 2013 NFL draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select..."
There's no guarantee that Roger Goodell will say those words next April, but with each passing loss, the odds increase that Jacksonville will finish 2013 with the worst record in the NFL.
While there are obvious roster deficiencies on the offensive and defensive lines as well as in the secondary, the biggest problem by far on the roster is the play of quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Whatever modest improvements he's made (and no one argues there has been some improvement), the fact remains that he still has the lowest YPA in football, and much of his statistical improvements have been artificially generated by constructing an offense that allows him to complete more passes, but at the expense of realistically moving the ball and generating points.
At this stage, Gabbert lags so far behind his peers from the last two draft classes, that the absolute ceiling for his development over the next few seasons would put him only in the middle class of quarterbacks at best.
Jacksonville doesn't have the luxury of waiting four more years in the hope that they produce the next Alex Smith.
If the Jags do move on, the top options would be Geno Smith of West Virginia and Matt Barkley of USC.
As Matt Miller of Bleacher Report points out, Smith is very much a project quarterback. You have to wonder if he's worth the top overall selection, and if the Jaguars will have the patience to deal with a not-quite-pro-ready project so soon after the ill-advised selection of Gabbert, a not-pro-ready spread quarterback himself.
Barkley was a big name before the season, but has acquired a touch of the "USC stink" about him. Recent USC quarterbacks haven't lit the NFL on fire, and Barkley has a reputation that is partially built on the skill of the talent around him.
Neither quarterback feels like a top-five selection, let alone a first overall.
Of course, if the Jaguars could trade down, they may be able to still select a quarterback while adding additional talent as well. Second round options could include Mike Glennon of NC State or Tyler Wilson of Arkansas.
Should the Jaguars decide to hold fast with Gabbert thanks to a lack of viable replacements, they will have a variety of quality defensive players to choose from, depending on whether they hire a new coach.
Jarvis Jones of Georgia could be an outstanding pass rusher if they hire a 3-4 coach, and Manti Te'o has defensive coordinators all over the NFL drooling over his strength, play-making ability and obvious leadership and personal qualities.
There are strong defensive line options as well ranging from Star Lotuleli of Utah, Damontre Moore from Texans A&M, and Barkevious Mingo of LSU.
In many ways, this is not an ideal draft for a team looking to rebuild an offense that is among the worst in the NFL. Most of the top talent is defensive, and many of the skill position players project more as mid-first round picks.
The Jaguars should not make the same mistake that the Browns and Dolphins made in recent years of taking a lineman early. Even if that player develops into a perpetually Pro Bowler like way Joe Thomas and Jake Long did, the offense around them can still languish.
There may not be a franchise savior at the top of the 2013 draft, so the pressure will be on whoever ultimately phones in the pick to find a corner-stone type player that can be built around.
There won't be any quick fix in Jacksonville, but adding the right building block will go a long way to restoring the fortunes of the franchise.
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