With the franchise now coming up on nearly twenty years of existence, the Jacksonville Jaguars have had plenty of up's and down's.
The attitude brought by new general manager David Caldwell is that this team can turn around after a franchise-worst 2-14 season by building through the draft. Something that you hear a lot of men in the same position preach.
The Jaguars have had some successful drafts, mainly in their first few years in the NFL. However, the current feeling in most Jaguars fans is one of disappointment when it comes to talking about recent NFL drafts.
Shack Harris and Gene Smith made all the calls since 2004 for the Jaguars, with Tom Coughlin leading the decisions in year's prior. It was not until 2009 that the Jaguars actually had a general manager in Smith. Harris was the VP of player personnel.
Looking back, it is safe to say that for as many great selections, there has been double to triple as many poor choices.
Starting in 2000, the Jaguars first round selection (29th overall) was wide receiver, R. Jay Soward.
Soward displayed a great amount of talent during his years at USC, but never fully matured enough for the next level. Soward’s actions outside of the field led to many violations, which eventually led to his release before he was even able to step foot on the field.
The Jaguars were fortunate at this time to have a very good team, but losing out on their first round pick did significant damage to the years to come.
Anytime a team devotes a top ten pick to a quarterback, you better hope that he is well-worth it. The Jaguars have been burned by this multiple times, beginning with Byron Leftwich in 2003.
Leftwich proved that he was extremely talented during his years spent at Marshall, however, injuries and inconsistencies led to Leftwich being replaced by fourth round pick David Garrard. Leftwich ended up becoming a back-up for the rest of his career, which currently has led him to Pittsburgh.
In 2004, the Jaguars believed they had a pretty decent team, just no receivers. Reggie Williams was the tall, talented receiver out of Washington that was supposed to come in and blow everyone away after being drafted tenth overall.
Instead, Williams started off incredibly slowly adapting to the game. In 2007, Williams recorded ten touchdowns, and had by far his best season. The problem was that he did not eclipse 700 yards during this season, and was out of Jacksonville by 2009. Another very early, blown draft pick.
Not all busts came in just the first round. In the same year as Reggie Williams, the Jaguars drafted an unknown linebacker out of Nevada named Jorge Cordova.
Cordova was a bit of surprise being selected after Daryl Smith and Greg Jones, two Jaguars who were with the team until 2013. After battling injuries his rookie year, Cordova never was able to make any impact on the field. Tried out at linebacker and defensive end, Cordova’s career ended in 2006 with Jacksonville.
One of the more well-known busts came in 2005 when a quarterback-turned-receiver was drafted by the Jags in the first round. Matt Jones displayed incredible athletic ability after being projected as a tall, fast wide out in the NFL. The Jaguars shocked the rest of the league when they selected him 21st overall in 2005. Jones ran a 4.37 in the 40-yard dash, while being 6’6” and over 240 lbs. After a few mediocre seasons, Jones displayed glimpses of being a good wide receiver in 2008 before being handed one of his many suspensions. Off-the-field issues led to Jones’ release from Jacksonville in 2008.
In the 2008 NFL draft, the Jaguars believed they were one pass rusher away from being a possible Super Bowl contender. This result ended in the team trading away the majority of their draft to move all the way to the eighth overall pick and select Florida player Derrick Harvey.
Harvey seemingly had the size, speed, production, and attitude the team wanted when they made the move. Shortly after being drafted, Harvey held out and lost valuable learning time while wanting more money. Harvey must have realized that he would never again see anything close to that kind of money when he failed to reach the quarterback more than twice during his stint in Jacksonville.
Harvey created cap issues as well as positional issues for the Jaguars, who have not seen a legitimate pass rusher since Tony Brackens.
The 2008 draft brought more than one bust, as the Jaguars drafted back to back defensive ends in the first and second rounds. After wasting their first round pick on Harvey, the Jaguars took Auburn end Quentin Groves in the second round.
Groves was a bit undersized and viewed more as a 3-4 linebacker compared to an end. The Jaguars took a chance, and flopped miserably with Groves, who spent only two years on the team before being traded to Oakland. Groves eventually found a home that decently fits his skill set in Arizona.
Entering into the Gene Smith era, the Jaguars took Eben Britton in 2009 with their second round, 39th overall selection. Britton and Eugene Monroe were envisioned to be the team’s anchors on the offensive line for years to come. Monroe has played up to his end of the deal, but not Britton. Injuries as well as poor play has had Britton move from tackle to guard, and eventually to the bench. Britton is currently an unrestricted free agent, who will more than likely not return to Jacksonville.
In 2010, Smith struck out again by drafting a small-school, defensive tackle named D’Anthony Smith in the third round. Smith was envisioned to be a back-up to Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu. Smith fought back to back season-ending injuries in 2010 and 2011. Last year was the first year that he got to showcase his skills, and it was a letdown. Despite still having a year left on his rookie contract, Smith is in jeopardy of being released prior to the start of the season.
Lastly, and most well-known, Blaine Gabbert was taken in the 2011 NFL draft. Gabbert was an incredibly young and inexperienced quarterback out of Missouri who had all the tools to be a decent quarterback. One thing missing during his time in college was productivity, as his statistics were nothing to get excited over.
After being assessed as a possible first overall selection, Gabbert fell all the way to ten before Gene Smith reached a deal to trade up and select his future signal-caller. Gabbert was then rushed into the starting lineup after the team cut an injured David Garrard. The story since then has been one of disappointment and frustration as Gabbert is yet to show any consistency or real proof that he can be a capable starter in the NFL.
The Jaguars have quite a few early round busts in recent years that have led to the current state of the team. With the second overall pick in this year’s draft, the Jaguars must make sure they take the smart, reliable pick. The fancy, risky pick doesn’t usually pay off.