The 2013 NFL draft is about three weeks away, and hype is only going to continue to build around the event.
The Jacksonville Jaguars hold the No. 2 overall selection, and there are a number of different ways they can go with the pick. Their decision will not only affect the way the rest of the draft plays out but also the success of their rebuilding efforts.
Jacksonville is entering its first draft of a complete roster overhaul, and the players the team chooses in this draft will make up the core of the roster for the future. First-year general manager David Caldwell is going to have to hit on the majority of his picks, or the rebuild may be doomed before it even begins.
The roster has holes at nearly every position, which will allow the Jaguars to find potential contributors later in the draft. The most pressing needs are the secondary, quarterback and along the offensive and defensive lines. Luckily for Jacksonville, the draft is deep with talent at most of the positions it needs help with most.
Now that the dust has mostly settled on free agency, here is my latest mock draft for the Jaguars.
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and having a good player under center improves the team as a whole.
The Jaguars could be looking at their quarterback of the future at the No. 2 pick in West Virginia's Geno Smith.
Jacksonville has a preliminary interest (per Peter King of Sports Illustrated) in Smith, which was made evident when a cavalcade of coaches and front office members attended West Virginia's pro day in March.
Head coach Gus Bradley was impressed (per Jim Corbett of USA Today) by Smith's performance at his pro day, and it's easy to see why: Smith completed 60 of 64 passes while showing off his arm strength and accuracy on the move.
Smith is not without his faults, though, which lead some people to believe he's not worth the second-overall pick.
Critics point to the high number of short passes West Virginia threw, which isn't an unwarranted concern. Almost 30 percent of Smith's passes were screens, which is about 13 percent higher than the average quarterback, according to SecondRoundStats.com.
But the high percentage of short passes didn't inflate his completion percentage too much. Smith was the most accurate passer (per SecondRoundStats.com) of the top-tier quarterbacks in the draft in several yard ranges.
He also has the mobility Bradley said (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk) he wanted in a quarterback. Smith showed off his speed when he posted the fastest 40-yard dash (4.59) among quarterbacks at the scouting combine.
The positives outweigh the negatives, however, and Smith is worth the No. 2 pick.
When a quarterback-needy team like Jacksonville has the opportunity to select a potential franchise quarterback, they have to take that chance. There are no guarantees that another quarterback will be available to them later in the draft, so they have to take one when they can.
The NFL is centered around the quarterback, and the Jaguars will have the chance to take the best one in the draft. It's an opportunity they can't afford to pass up.
Jacksonville is in desperate need of help in the secondary, and they should try to find a cornerback early in the draft.
The Jaguars are extremely thin at secondary after the departures of Derek Cox, Rashean Mathis and Aaron Ross. The team currently has just four players under contract at the position, so they will have to add some talent in the draft.
Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks is a player who would immediately step in as a starter for the Jaguars.
Banks is a physical cornerback who has the ability and the size (6'2", 185 lbs) to succeed in press-coverage, which is a major component of head coach Gus Bradley's defense.
He was a borderline first-round selection heading into the scouting combine, but a poor showing could have solidified him as a second-day pick. He ran a slow 40-yard dash (4.61), which may cause teams to shy away from drafting him.
Banks did redeem himself at Mississippi State's pro day with an improved (per Brandon Marcello of the Clarion-Ledger) 40-yard dash time, but there is still a strong chance he will be available at the top of the second round.
If he does fall, the Jaguars have to pounce on him. Banks has the ability to thrive in Bradley's defense and would be an instant upgrade over what the team has currently.
The Jaguars have struggled to get pressure on the quarterback for years due to subpar play by defensive ends. Jacksonville finished last in the league with 20 sacks in 2012 and has finished 20th or worse in the category every season since 2008.
The team has spent a number of picks trying to find a pass-rusher, but none of the players have panned out. They will likely continue their hunt for one during this draft, and Auburn's Corey Lemonier is a possible choice.
Lemonier's agility and quick first step off the snap make him an ideal candidate for the LEO role in Jacksonville's defense, which is a pass-rusher who uses his speed to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
He got to display his speed and explosiveness at the scouting combine. He ran the third-fastest 40-yard dash (4.60) among defensive ends. He was also a top performer among defensive ends in the broad jump (9'11"), three cone drill (7.14) and 20-yard shuttle (4.40).
Lemonier improved his vertical jump (34") at Auburn's pro day (per Louis Bien of SBNation.com), which would have been 10th among defensive ends at the combine.
He doesn't just possess speed and agility, but he also has a nonstop motor and never gives up on plays. If he is unable to reach the quarterback, he works his way into passing lanes to disrupt throws.
Lemonier's stock falls to the third round because he isn't the prototypical 4-3 defensive end but lacks some of the skills of a 3-4 outside linebacker.
He has all the abilities needed to be productive in the LEO role, and the Jaguars could solve their pass-rushing woes by drafting Lemonier.
Jacksonville could continue to add talent to its depleted cornerback group by drafting Georgia's Sanders Commings.
He excels at press-coverage when he can use his big frame (6'0", 216 lbs) to reroute receivers off the line of scrimmage. He also has great agility for a cornerback of his size and can keep up with the fast outside receivers and knock away passes.
Commings doesn't have great footwork or quickness but posted a respectable 40-yard dash time (4.41) at the combine to quiet any doubts of his speed.
He could also eventually moved to safety, which is another area of weakness for the Jaguars. He's a solid special teams contributor, too, so he could make an impact for Jacksonville in several aspects of the game.
Commings' physical nature and press-coverage abilities make him a perfect fit in Bradley's defense, and he could be a mid-round gem.
Offensive line is another area where the Jaguars need help, especially at right tackle.
Jacksonville featured a revolving door of right tackles last season and none of them proved effective. Cameron Bradfield, Guy Whimper and Eben Britton all saw time at the position last season, and to be blunt, they were terrible.
Right tackle is the weakest link of the offensive line, and the Jaguars have to address it during the offseason. Although the free-agent tackle class was rich with talent, the team has yet to sign any of the available players.
The draft is full of talented offensive linemen, and Jacksonville may wait until then to find a player.
San Jose State's David Quessenberry would be a good pick who could challenge for a starting spot on day one.
Quessenberry is a good athlete who shows quickness and agility in passing sets, which would make him a natural fit in the team's zone-blocking scheme. He has a strong punch and can ride defensive ends around the pocket and away from the quarterback.
He got to show off his skills and agility at the combine, where he posted the third-fastest 20-yard shuttle (4.45) among offensive linemen
Quessenberry's pass-protection ability would receive a warm welcome from Jaguars quarterbacks. The offensive line allowed the third-most sacks (50) last season, and his presence would have to lower that number.
Quessenberry would have the opportunity to challenge for a starting role for Week 1, and he would be an improvement over anyone the Jaguars currently have at right tackle.
Cornerback isn't the only position in the secondary where the Jaguars are thin; the team has just one strong safety under contract after releasing Dawan Landry in March.
The only player currently under contract is the unproven Antwon Blake, who has 12 combined tackles in his one-year career. Jacksonville has to add a strong safety who can potentially compete for a starting role.
The franchise can find that by using a late-round pick on Notre Dame's Jamoris Slaughter.
Slaughter is a versatile player who lined up all over the field in his collegiate career. He is a solid pass-defender who can knock defenders off their routes and has the read-and-react skills to knock away passes. He is a strong run defender who can fight off receivers to contain rushers on the edge.
Slaughter falls to the late rounds of the draft for a couple of reasons.
The first is an injury concern: He suffered a torn Achilles tendon last season that caused him to miss all but three games.
Although he is a versatile player, he lacks a true position, and teams may be wary of where he would fit in their defense.
When healthy, Slaughter is a very good player who could challenge Blake for the starting strong safety role. If he checks out medically, he is worth the risk for the Jaguars to select him this late in the draft. At the very least, he would be able to contribute on special teams.
And seriously, Slaughter is the perfect name for a football player.
The Jaguars could use their final pick to add depth at tight end. Marcedes Lewis is cemented in the starting role, but the unit lacks talent behind him.
Jacksonville can add Maryland's Matt Furstenburg as a player who could develop into a second tight end behind Lewis.
Furstenburg is an athletic and agile tight end who is a reliable receiver. He has a good release off the line and can adjust to throws.
He was able to show off his athleticism at the combine. He posted the second-fastest 40-yard dash (4.62), second-best vertical (35.5"), fourth-fastest 20-yard shuttle (4.35), fourth-fastest 60-yard shuttle (11.76), sixth-best broad jump (9'7") and sixth-fastest three cone drill (7.09) among tight ends.
Furstenburg has the natural athletic ability to be a receiving threat at tight end in the NFL. The Jaguars could find a suitable backup and a good pass-catching tight end late in the draft if they select him.