The Jacksonville Jaguars have more needs to fill than any other team during this week’s NFL draft. This is due to several reasons: The mediocrity of the roster, the loss of several starters and modicum of acquisitions during the free agency period, and the transition to a new style of football. Pick a position at random and chances are the Jaguars need a player in that role. While there are many different directions the team may go, there are a few players to watch when the Jaguars are on the clock.
Early during the offseason, the Jaguars did not have a general manager or a head coach, and the direction of the team was much in the air. Once Dave Caldwell was hired as the general manager, and Gus Bradley as head coach, we could start hypothesizing the schemes the offense and defense would play, and what kind of personnel moves the Jaguars would make.
Almost everyone in the organization, from owner Shad Khan down, has emphasized the word “rebuild.” The Jaguars are rebuilding, and they are doing so through the draft, picking players that fill a “need,” rather than the “best available player.” This was made evident by the team releasing players under contract, and only making four player acquisitions during free agency. Unsurprisingly, the four players signed fit the scheme, filled a need and are younger.
Alan Ball fills a “need” and fits Gus Bradley’s defensive scheme as a lengthy cornerback. Roy Miller and Sen’Derrick Marks will respectively fill the one- and three-technique tackle positions on the defensive line. Geno Hayes, an outside linebacker, is familiar with Bradley from his rookie season with the Buccaneers. Remember during that season, Bradley was the linebackers coach under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin in Jon Gruden’s coaching staff. The defensive scheme Bradley is thought to be bringing to Jacksonville is rooted in Kiffin’s philosophy.
Looking closely at the players in the upcoming draft, we can move these positions down a notch on the list of needs. That doesn’t mean the Jaguars won’t draft these positions, just that these positions are not necessarily as high a need as some others.
With the second pick in the draft, the Jaguars will more than likely add more defensive line help. Ideally, the Jaguars would probably like to trade this selection later in the first round and add more picks in this year’s, and/or next year’s, draft. If they can do that, look for them to target defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. Otherwise, with the second overall pick, I would expect them to draft defensive end Dion Jordan.
Ansah and Jordan are players that could fit a couple different needs for the Jaguars. Jordan could fill the needs as the weak-side defensive end, or as an outside linebacker. Ansah, on the other hand, could play that same defensive end position, and also a five-technique defensive tackle. Both players would fit Bradley’s scheme.
The second round will be interesting to watch. With the first pick in the round, the Jaguars will look to fill a need that they didn’t fill in the first, or again trade it away to add more picks. Two names that may not make it to this pick, but would be ones to watch, are defensive end Datone Jones and cornerback Desmond Trufant. Another player that the Jaguars would have to think long and hard about is Jonathan Cyprien, a strong safety from Florida International University.
Cyprien is widely considered one of the top two players at the position, but if he is not available the Jaguars may not draft a strong safety until a late round, if at all. Due to the scheme, the position can sufficiently be filled with a more economical player, but if the opportunity to draft a player such as Cyprien in the second round presents itself, the Jaguars might pull the trigger.
Based on scheme fit and need, other players I’ll be paying specific attention to for the Jaguars in the rest of the draft are Sio Moore, Sanders Commings and Cooper Taylor. Depending on how the front office feels about the quarterback position, the Jaguars have shown interest in Geno Smith in the first round or Ryan Nassib in the second. If they do not take either, they’ll probably look to add Landry Jones or Ryan Griffin later in the draft.
Another area the Jaguars need to address is the offensive line. Despite the increasingly popular choice of a left tackle by NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah, Charley Casserly, and USA Today's Nate Davis. where the Jaguars select a Left Tackle with the second overall pick. They have a quality NFL starter in Eugene Monroe. The quality decreases the further away from him you look and veteran Center Brad Meester will not be around after this year. The Jaguars will definitely look to add more strength to the line, but I see the talk of an offensive tackle as a smokescreen.
An important note mentioned earlier is that the Jaguars are looking to rebuild the franchise through the draft. They understand that it will not be completed in one draft. Dave Caldwell has announced that the team is open to trade their first-round pick to acquire more draft choices. They’ll probably look to do this with several of their current draft selections. Look for the team to balance filling needs and scheme fits in this draft, with acquiring draft picks later in the draft, or in future drafts.
There are still a few days until the 2013 NFL Draft is underway. Moreover, the draft itself will take a few days to complete. Anything can change between now and Sunday; that is part of the excitement and drama that is the NFL Draft. No matter what happens, to be successful, the Jaguars will have to address several needs.