Dwayne Gratz wasn't the player I expected to be selected with the 64th overall pick, that's for sure. In fact, he's not even the UConn cornerback I expected; he was teammate Blidi Wreh-Wilson.
With cornerback talent some thought was superior still on the board, the Jaguars decided to pull the trigger on Gratz. The UConn corner is a strong, physical player that should be a solid fit in Gus Bradley's new defense. In the words of ESPN's Matt Williamson:
Dave Caldwell previously stated that he sees the first two days of the draft as an opportunity to draft starters. In Gratz, the Jaguars believe they have found a cornerback that can step directly into the starting lineup.
Gratz should be able to compete for a starting spot his rookie year. With only Alan Ball, Mike Harris, and a host of backups on the roster, he should have no problem securing a starting place.
Expect Gratz to match up often with opposing number-one wide receivers. With Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Kenny Britt and company in the division, he's got a lot of learning to do on the fly.
With Mike Harris already on the roster to play in the slot, Gratz should line up exclusively outside, presumably at the left corner position reserved for the team's most proficient cornerback. He will likely learn one side or the other as opposed to moving back and forth between the left and right sides.
I expect Gratz to contribute on special teams as well despite the fact that he should be a starter on defense.
With a steep learning curve ahead of him in the AFC South, I expect Gratz to struggle a bit from the get-go. He will be tasked with handling receivers like Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne his rookie year, and Jaguars fans would be delusional if they expected him to avoid getting toasted a few times.
As a rookie, Gratz will likely be picked on by opposing quarterbacks. Expect the Texans to line up Andre Johnson against him as often as possible and dare Gratz to make a play. The same goes for the Colts with Reggie Wayne.
Gratz will likely have better success against bigger, slower receivers than smaller, faster receivers. For example, he should have far better success against receivers like Justin Hunter than guys like T. Y. Hilton. His long-range speed is questionable, meaning he will need safety help against deep threats. I expect him to be beaten deep several times this season.
In terms of stats, I expect Gratz to rack up plenty of tackles. NFL.com describes him as an "aggressive hitter" who "can put his helmet on the ball or cut down ballcarriers equally well near the line or in space." Expect a forced fumble or two and between 2-4 interceptions in addition to a solid tackle total. I foresee Gratz grading out as a below-average starter in Pro Football Focus' rankings, but that's not a surprise for a rookie third-round pick.
Dwayne Gratz has a tough road ahead of him in a division full of receiving talent, but he has the physical ability to develop into a solid starter for Dave Caldwell, Gus Bradley and the Jaguars. I expect the Jaguars to try to find another rookie or a bargain bin veteran to give Gratz some help outside, but a lot will be expected of him his rookie year.