Ace Sanders to Jaguars: How Does Wide Receiver Fit in Jacksonville?

Brad Hill@CaliforniaJag and JaguarsBlogContributor IApril 27, 2013

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Wide receiver Ace Sanders #1 of the South Carolina Gamecocks returns a punt 54 yards for a first quarter touchdown against the Michigan Wolverines in the Outback Bowl January 1, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The Jaguars traded down from 98th overall to 101st and picked up an extra seventh-round pick. With their new pick, they grabbed South Carolina wide receiver and return man Ace Sanders. You can see how I graded the Sanders pick in my Draft Tracker.

Sanders is a playmaker in every sense of the word. He's tough to tackle and can contribute both offensively and in the return game. Let's take a look at how Sanders will fit in with the Jaguars.


Ace Sanders is listed as a wide receiver, but let's be real: his main impact will be on the return game. Sanders was exclusively a punt returner in college, but I don't see any reason he couldn't return kickoffs in the NFL as well.

Sanders should immediately elevate the Jaguars' return game to one of the NFL's best. He's extremely explosive and can make guys miss, even despite his lack of size.

During his punt return that made every highlight tape in the country, Sanders made EIGHT defenders miss. There is a stop cut in that tape that just makes your jaw drop.

Sanders should step in as the primary punt returner from day one, and could very possibly be the primary kickoff returner as well. Though there will be "competition" in the literal sense of the word, there really isn't going to be any competition: Ace Sanders will be the Jaguars' return man.

In addition to his contribution in the return game, Ace is no slouch as a receiver either. He had 531 receiving yards and nine touchdowns as a receiver in 2012, and scored 16 total touchdowns in three years in college. Darren Page of Page Football Scouting is a fan of Sanders' receiving ability:

I expect Sanders to battle Jordan Shipley in camp for the "starting" slot receiver spot. I expect the two to rotate at the position over the course of the season, but Sanders should be the long-term solution at slot receiver. With Cecil Shorts, Justin Blackmon and Ace Sanders, the Jaguars have the makings of an extremely dynamic receiving corps.


Early Projections

I would be surprised if Sanders didn't break a punt or two for a touchdown this season. He's extremely explosive and can make people miss as a returner, and should be able to find the end zone. I'll say two return touchdowns, but he has the potential to score even more than that.

If Sanders is the kickoff returner as well, I would expect him to be an upgrade over anybody the Jaguars have used in that spot in quite some time. He should also be able to break one or two for touchdowns.

As a receiver, Sanders should share time with Jordan Shipley in the slot. I don't expect much in terms of stats...maybe 25 catches, 300 yards and a touchdown or two.

Ace Sanders gives the Jaguars the ability to throw a wrinkle in their offense. He could potentially carry the ball on end-arounds or jet sweeps similar to Mike Thomas' former role in the offense. I'd expect him to get 10 carries or so over the course of the season.

I expect Sanders to be too small of a factor in the Jaguars' offense his rookie year to find himself on the Pro Football Focus wide receiver leaderboard, but I would be surprised if he didn't grade out as one of the top ten return men in the league.

Sanders should make an impact from day one. The Jaguars' return game just got a massive boost, and their ability to attack defenses from the slot improved as well. Great addition.