The best seniors from around the country are participating in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Practices have been held all week and the players are going to show NFL scouts and coaches their abilities while competing against other top seniors in Saturday's game.
NFL scouts and coaches will get to see the top senior prospects play against each other and evaluate them in person. A good performance in the Senior Bowl can improve a player's draft stock, while a bad one will see them fall down the boards.
Jaguars GM David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley have been present all week and will get a first-hand look at prospects for this April's draft. With the No. 2 pick in the draft, the Jaguars have a chance to make a major impact early.
Caldwell has already laid out his draft plan, as he will be focusing on team needs early in the draft. Jacksonville has needs at quarterback, offensive line, defensive line and cornerback, so expect the Jaguars to focus on those positions in the early rounds of the draft.
Here is a scouting guide for the positions the Jaguars will be looking at during the Senior Bowl.
The Jaguars quarterback position is up for grabs going into the 2013 offseason. Blaine Gabbert has yet to live up to being the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft and has mostly struggled in his first two years in the league. Chad Henne was too inconsistent during his time as Jacksonville's starter in 2012 to become the team's reliable starter.
With Geno Smith and Matt Barkley not participating in the Senior Bowl, the six quarterbacks at the game have a chance to make a name for themselves. While they're not currently at Smith or Barkley's level, these quarterbacks are still highly regarded and could be on the Jaguars radar.
Tyler Wilson (Arkansas) - Wilson is regarded by many as the best quarterback at the Senior Bowl, and he is competing with Barkley to be the second quarterback drafted behind Smith. He has the build teams look for as he stands at 6'2". Wilson has good arm strength and poise in the pocket, but he doesn't always step into passes, which hurts his accuracy. Wilson could be a potential top-10 pick, and Jacksonville could take him if they trade down.
Mike Glennon (North Carolina State) - More than any other quarterback at the Senior Bowl, Glennon looks the part of an NFL quarterback as he stands at 6'7" and 220 pounds. He finished his senior season with a completion percentage of 58.5 percent, 31 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Glennon has the ideal size and arm strength for an NFL quarterback, but he needs to improve his technique. He is a mid-first-round pick, so he could be a possibility if the Jaguars trade down from the No. 2 selection.
Ryan Nassib (Syracuse) - The Jaguars will most likely wait until at least the second round to draft a QB, and Nassib fits in that range. Nassib finished his senior year at Syracuse with a 62.4 percent completion percentage, 26 touchdowns and six interception. He has good arm strength and accuracy on short-to-intermediate passes. Nassib makes his decisions quickly and is a smart player, but sometimes makes poor reads when under pressure. Nassib is a possibility for Jacksonville in the second-round.
Zac Dysert (Miami OH) - Dysert is another quarterback the Jaguars could look to take in the second-round. During his time in college, Dysert overtook Ben Roethlisberger as the school's passing leader (12,016) even though he had three different head coaches. He finished his senior year with a 62.9 completion percentage, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He looks the part of an NFL quarterback with an over-the-top release and good accuracy. He has good touch on deep passes, but he might not have arm strength to fit balls in tight windows.
Landry Jones (Oklahoma) - Jones could still be available for the Jaguars at the top of the third-round. He has good accuracy and a strong arm with an over-the-top delivery. Landry keeps feet active in the pocket and has shown ability to step up in the pocket and avoid pressure. He has shown he can get rattled and becomes less consistent under constant pressure. He's worth the Jaguars taking a look at in the third-round.
EJ Manual (Florida State) - If the Jaguars wait until later in the draft, EJ Manual could be a possibility. Manual has good arm strength and has shown he can make plays with his legs. He has the physical talent to play quarterback at the next level, but he has to prove he has the mental ability, too. He often made poor decisions throwing into coverage and had a hard time seeing the whole field. He also held the ball too long in the pocket on a regular basis. Manual's raw talent, though, will be enough for an NFL team to draft him and try to develop him.
The Jaguars offensive line was horrible during the 2012 season. The line featured a revolving door of players, and struggled in both pass and run blocking. The Jaguars allowed the third-most sacks (50) and were 30th in rushing yards per game (85.6).
The offensive line is an area that needs a major upgrade, and will most likely be a focus in the early rounds of the draft. Luckily for the Jaguars, there are quite a few very good offensive linemen at the Senior Bowl who they can target early in the draft.
The Jaguars will most likely wait until the second-round or later to address the offensive line, and there could be some quality players available. Here are five offensive linemen playing in the Senior Bowl who the Jaguars can target in the second-to-fourth-rounds.
Oday Aboushi (Virginia) - Aboushi is a natural left tackle, but can make the transition to the right side if the Jaguars draft him. He has good size at 6'6" and 310 pounds, and is athletic enough to hold his own against speed rushers. Aboushi needs to become a more consistent run-blocker, but he is a hard-worker and will try to improve it.
Justin Pugh (Syracuse) - Although a redshirt junior, Pugh received clearance from the NFL to play in the Senior Bowl after receiving his diploma. He is a two-time All-Big East selection. Pugh has great mobility who possesses good body control. He needs to add weight, but has all the talent to make it in the NFL.
Kyle Long (Oregon) - Long's collegiate career got off to a rocky start as he left playing baseball for Florida State after one year because of poor academics and a DUI. He seems to have gotten his life back on track and could be a second-round pick. He's the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and Pro Bowl defensive end Chris Long's younger brother. He comes from a great lineage of football players, and is described as the best athlete of the three Long's. He's raw, but he has enough potential for an NFL team to draft him.
Dallas Thomas (Tennessee) - Although he started at left tackle for 25 games during his sophomore and junior seasons at Tennesse, Thomas was moved to left guard for his senior year. He excelled at the position and was named to the All-SEC Second Team. His versatility makes him even more valuable to NFL teams. He is a big man at 6'5" and 310 pounds and has very good initial quickness. Thomas has a powerful punch to control defenders in the run game. He is susceptible to speed rushers, so he may have to continue playing guard in the NFL.
Larry Warford (Kentucky) - Warford is a guard who can potentially be moved to center, and with holes all across the offensive line, the Jaguars could use a player like him. He was named to the 2012 AP All-American Third Team in his senior season. Warford has a squatty frame at 6'3" and 343 pounds, which makes getting around him difficult for defenders. He possesses good lateral agility and has the awareness to handle surprise blitzes. Warford lacks straight-line speed to block on the second-level, but has an initial explosion to knock defenders off the ball.
As bad as the Jaguars offensive line was in 2012, the defensive line may have been even worse. Even with the late-season addition of defensive end Jason Babin, Jacksonville finished the season with a league-low 20 sacks.
Finding a dominant pass-rusher has been an impossible venture for the Jaguars, but that search may come to an end during the 2013 draft. The draft is rich with talent at defensive end with Florida State's Bjoern Werner and Texas A&M Damontre Moore leading the underclassmen. There is also plenty of talent at the Senior Bowl who Jacksonville can keep its eye on.
Datone Jones (UCLA) - Jones is the prototypical hybrid player as he has shown the ability to play at both defensive end and defensive tackle. He had a productive senior season at UCLA, registering 6.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. He has good awareness and shows the effort to run ball-carriers down. Jones has a variety of pass-rushing techniques, but has the power to bull rush opponents. His hybrid status may hurt him, as he lacks the speed to be a 4-3 defensive end, but needs to add bulk to handle being a full-time defensive tackle. His versatility will impress teams and he will be drafted in the first- or second-round. If the Jaguars are able to trade down from the No. 2 spot, Jones could be on their radar.
Alex Okafor (Texas) - Okafor may be the most well-rounded defensive end entering the draft. He had a great senior season as he finished the year with 12.5 sacks. He displays excellent hand play and can keep the opposing lineman's hands off his chest. Okafor has the power to knock opposing players on their heels and has shown the ability to make plays against the run and the pass. Okafor isn't a speed-rusher, however, and will have to continue to rely on his power in the NFL. Okafor is going to be a first-round pick in April's draft.
Ezekiel Ansah (BYU) - Ansah is one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft as he's only been playing football since 2010. Ansah had an unremarkable first couple of seasons at BYU before having a breakout season as a senior. He finished the year with 4.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss, and was named to the FBS All-Independent First Team. He possesses a bull rush that backs linemen into the pocket. He lined up at almost every position in the front seven of BYU's defense, and shows the athleticism to play them all. He lacks elite first-step quickness and struggles to get away from blockers. Ansah compares to Jason Pierre-Paul, and a team will be willing to risk drafting the inexperienced Ansah in the first-round in hopes of getting the next JPP.
Margus Hunt (SMU) - Hunt is another interesting story: He has only been playing football since 2009, but is a former gold medal-winning track and field athlete from Estonia. Hunt had a very solid senior season at SMU, finishing the year with eight sacks. He has a quick first step and can close quickly on ball-carriers. Hunt is naturally powerful with a ton of potential, but is highly inconsistent. At 6'8", he tends to play with a stiff upper body. Hunt has a lot of upside, and that will be enough for a team to take a chance on him some time in the first two rounds of the draft.
The Jaguars defensive line problems weren't just at the ends, the interior of the line struggled, too. Tyson Alualu has been unspectacular so far in his career, and has yet to live up to being the 10th pick in the 2010 draft. Terrance Knighton lost his starting job to journeyman C.J. Mosley, who was also nothing special.
The Jaguars can use a player to solidify the middle of the defensive line. Although Utah's standout defensive tackle Star Lotulelei isn't participating in the Senior Bowl, there are still plenty of talented players for the Jaguars to keep their eye on in Mobile.
John Jenkins (Georgia) - Jenkins is one of the most highly-regarded prospects at the Senior Bowl after being named to the All-SEC Second Team in 2012. At 6'4" and 359 pounds, he has a huge build and is hard to move. Jenkins possesses great strength and has shown he can use leverage to hold up double teams. He also has good lateral agility in pursuit of the ball-carrier. As good as he is, though, Jenkins provides little in terms of pass-rush and fatigues easily. With that said, he has shown the ability to be a top-20 pick the draft.
Kawann Short (Purdue) - Short finished a productive college career with a great senior campaign in 2012. He was a disruptive force in the opposing team's backfield, finishing the year with seven sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss and was an All Big-Ten First Team selection. Short has a big wingspan that he uses to knock down passes (four passes defensed in 2012) and block punts and kicks (four). He can be an immovable wall in the middle of the defensive line, but has shown a bit of inconsistency. Short could be a first-round prospect with a good showing at the Senior Bowl.
Sylvester Williams (North Carolina) - Williams had a successful two-year career at North Carolina after transferring from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. He posted six sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss during his senior year and was named to the All-ACC First Team. Williams possesses a quick first step and a swim move that helps him get by linemen. He also has the strength to shed off blockers and pull down ball-carriers. Williams struggles with consistency and doesn't show much effort to get downfield and make plays. However, he could still go in the first-round if a team is looking for a defensive tackle, but he could still be available at the top of the second-round for the Jaguars.
Jordan Hill (Penn State) - Hill had a very good senior season to conclude a solid career at Penn State. He posted 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in his last season as a Nittany Lion, and was named to the All Big-Ten First Team (Media). Hill has a nice burst off the snap and possesses good lateral movement skills. At 294 pounds, he is a little undersized for a defensive tackle, but he should be able to add weight to his 6'2" frame. Hill could be a sleeper pick and a solid selection in the mid-second- to third-round.
With cornerbacks Derek Cox and Rashean Mathis potentially hitting free agency, Jacksonville may be thin at the position entering the draft. While Cox still has upside, it would be best for the Jaguars to let Mathis hit the open market and find his replacement through the draft.
Desmond Trufant (Washington) - Trufant was a four-year starter as a Husky and was a shutdown corner during his college career. He didn't post gaudy numbers, having just one interception and nine pass defensed in his senior year. But there is a good reason for the low numbers: Quarterbacks rarely threw the ball in his direction. Trufant has shown NFL-quality coverage skills and has good straight-line speed. He isn't the most reliable tackler, though, and doesn't always wrap his arms to secure a tackle. Trufant's cover skills are enough for him to be a high draft pick.
Jordan Poyer (Oregon State) - Poyer had a fantastic collegiate career and a stellar senior season. He tallied the second-most interceptions in the country (seven) and added 14 pass defenses. Poyer is an athletic defender and plays physically. Poyer could go in the first-round, but the Jaguars would have to take a long look at him if he's available in the second-round.
Jamar Taylor (Boise State) - Taylor has a spectacular career at Boise State and capped it off with a great senior campaign as he posted four interceptions and nine pass defenses. His play was enough to be names to the All-MWC First Team. He's an instinctive player who has good athleticism. Taylor can quickly break underneath routes and get interceptions. His aggressiveness can come back and bite him, as he can get beat by double-moves. Taylor could fall to the third-round, and would be a steal if the Jaguars are able to land him.
Will Davis (Utah State) - Davis had an up-and-down collegiate career, but he finished on a high note: He had five interceptions and led the country with 1.75 pass breakups per game as a senior and was named to the All-WAC First Team. His 5'11" frame was built to play cornerback, and has good vision and quick feet to break on the ball. Davis excels in press-coverage and is aggressive in coverage. He has a hard-time getting off downfield blocks, though. Davis has the talent to make it in the NFL, and should be a second day selection.
Robert Alford (Southeastern La.) - Alford is the quintessential "diamond in the rough" player: He's a player who excelled at the small school level but has to prove he can compete against the top players in the country. He finished 2012 with a team-high four interceptions and was named to the All-Southland Conference First Team. He has the ideal size for a cornerback at 6' and 185 pounds. He just has to prove he can play at the level of his peers at the Senior Bowl. If he has a good showing in the game, Alford could be a second-day draft pick.