First-year general manager Dave Caldwell addressed some of the team's most dire needs early in the draft. He selected tackle Luke Joeckel with the second overall pick to solidify the right side of the offensive line. On the second day, he drafted safety John Cyprien and cornerback Dwayne Gratz to add talent to an extremely thin secondary.
The Jaguars added speed in the fourth and fifth rounds by drafting wide receiver Ace Sanders and quarterback-turned-running back Denard Robinson, respectively.
Caldwell returned to the secondary for the team's final three picks by taking safety Josh Evans, defensive back Jeremy Harris and cornerback Demetrius McCray.
Although optimism is running through the Jaguars fanbase regarding the draft, it's way too early to tell if Caldwell made the correct decisions. It takes several years to see if a draft was successful or not, but we live in an era of instant analysis where every pick is scrutinized and evaluated the moment it happens.
So the question must be asked: How does the media grade the Jaguars draft?
For the first time in a long time, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. is high (subscription required) on the Jaguars draft, even if they didn't add a pass-rusher:
The big gripe is they really need another pass-rusher, and they didn't even add a developmental one in the draft. But overall, they did pretty well -- the roster is easily more talented than it was on Wednesday.
There's no denying the team has more talent today than it did a week ago, as Caldwell added immediate starters early in the draft. Kiper praises the first-year GM's ability to do so:
Luke Joeckel was the No. 1 player on my Big Board, and while I didn't have left tackle as a top need (in part because they have many needs), right tackle is a problem. With Joeckel's arrival, Jacksonville is now better at both tackle positions. Either Joeckel starts there and Eugene Monroe remains on the left, or they swap. Either way, they got better on the O-line.
Johnathan Cyprien was one of the best safeties in college football last season, and should be the starter at strong safety in Week 1. Dwayne Gratz is a physical corner who should also start immediately.
Joeckel fills Jacksonville's most glaring hole on the right side of the offensive line.
The Jaguars featured a revolving door of unreliable right tackles last season, and much of the blame of allowing the third-most sacks in the league (50) rests on their shoulders.
Head coach Gus Bradley reassured (per Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times Union) Monroe that he's staying at left tackle, which means Joeckel will bookend the right side of the line. Jacksonville has two quality tackles in pass protection, so the quarterback—whoever that may be—should rarely get touched.
Cyprien and Gratz add much-needed talent to a depleted secondary. Jacksonville's first three picks should make major contributions from day one.
Chris Burke considers Jacksonville's draft class as one of the best this year.
Much like Kiper, Burke likes the Jaguars draft because the team found starters at positions it needs the most help at.
If this draft is any indication, the new regime in Jacksonville will accomplish some great things. OT Luke Joeckel is a stud, and S John Cyprien easily could have been a Round 1 pick. Pencil in CB Dwayne Gratz as a starter, as well.
As much as Burke complimented the team's first three picks, he also applauded what they did on the third day of the draft:
Best of all, the additions of WR Ace Sanders and RB/WR/QB/KR/shoelace boycotter Denard Robinson will allow the Jaguars to be a lot more creative on offense.
Sanders and Robinson give the Jaguars offense the speed it's been lacking. Sanders, who's expected to challenge as the slot receiver and punt returner, plays a lot faster than his 4.58 40-yard dash indicates. The 40-yard dash time doesn't concern Caldwell, who said Sanders' "quickness is electric." (via Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union).
The team continued to add speed in the fifth round with Robinson. He ran a 4.43 40-yard dash, but it shouldn't take combine results to prove his speed. He was one of the most exciting players to watch in collegiate football due to his ability to outrun defenders.
Sanders and Robinson should not only add a spark to the offense, but to special teams, too. Sanders was an explosive return man during his collegiate career at South Carolina. He averaged 11.2 yards per return and had three touchdowns as a Gamecock. With the Jaguars lacking a dynamic punt returner, Sanders could step in as their guy.
The Jaguars announced Robinson as a running back when they drafted him in the fifth round, but he is likely to line up in a variety of positions. Whether it be running back, wide receiver, Wildcat quarterback or kick returner, the franchise is going to try to get the ball in his hands.
Robinson is a playmaker whenever he touches the ball, so he could add a spark to Jacksonville's return game.
The Jaguars have a great kicker-punter combination in Josh Scobee and Bryan Anger. They may also finally have a pair of dangerous return men to go with them.
Evan Silva doesn't think as highly of the Jaguars draft as other experts do, but he does think the team is on the right track:
The Jags still have a laundry list of needs -- pass rusher and quarterback most glaring among them -- but from all indications Caldwell is off to a strong start.
He, like the other writers who graded the draft, praised what the Jaguars did during the first two days. He was exceptionally high on third-round pick Dwayne Gratz:
Joeckel and Cyprien were widely considered first-round locks before the draft, and I thought press-corner Gratz was a sleeper for the top 32.
Gratz is a perfect fit in Coach Bradley's defense. He is a strong, physical cornerback who plays well in press coverage, which will be a key component in Jacksonville's defense. He disrupts receivers at the line of scrimmage and can mirror receivers throughout their routes.
Gratz will be given the chance (per Jaguars.com) to earn a starting role throughout the summer, which means Jacksonville's first three picks could be in the starting lineup Week 1.
Silva also expects big things for fifth-round pick Denard Robinson:
The Robinson pick may be laughed at in some circles, but he has a genuine chance to be the Jaguars' running back of the future.
It's obviously too early to tell if that's the case at this point, but it's not hard to get excited about Robinson.
He is a speedy playmaker the Jaguars offense has been missing for years. Robinson has big-play potential whenever he has his hands on the ball, which is something that happened a lot when he was in college. He set a college record for rushing yards by a quarterback (4,995), which could be attributed to his breakaway speed.
Robinson is willing (per Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union) to line up wherever it would help the team, and the Jaguars could get creative with his abilities. Including the planned role at running back, he could see time as a slot receiver, Wildcat quarterback and kick returner.
The Jaguars are going to find creative ways to get Robinson the ball, which should lead to many explosive plays in the coming years.
GM Caldwell did a tremendous job adding players to overhaul the Jaguars' roster, according to Vinny Iyer:
New GM David Caldwell aced his first test.
Caldwell's best move may not have been anything he did during the draft, but what he didn't do:
Caldwell also was smart not to reach for a quarterback when the value was never quite there, and got an intriguing undrafted free agent in Arizona's Matt Scott.
Scott was a quarterback prospect who was linked to the Jaguars for much of the draft process.
In addition to the interest, new Jaguars quarterback coach Frank Scelfo was Scott's coach in college and helped him prepare for the East-West Shrine Game.
Scott is a developmental quarterback who has a ton of upside. He has a strong arm to stretch the field vertically and has accuracy throwing out routes. He's also an excellent runner who can make plays with his legs using his speed.
Scott has an outside chance of making the 53-man roster but might be better served to spend time developing on the practice squad. Either way, the Jaguars found a nice prospect in undrafted free agency.
Much like the other writers, Pete Prisco considers GM Caldwell's first draft a success:
In his first draft as general manager of the team, Dave Caldwell did a nice job. They had major needs at all spots in the secondary and he addressed it early and often.
The Jaguars went back to back on the second day of the drafting adding talent to the depleted secondary. Prisco thinks Jacksonville's second-round pick was the team's best selection of the draft:
I like second-round safety Jonathan Cyprien, who will be an immediate starter. He is a safety with range, which this team needed.
Cyprien is a perfect fit for the scheme Coach Bradley is trying to install for the Jaguars defense. He's an in-the-box safety who plays like an extra linebacker. He can fight through traffic to get to the ball-carrier and is a reliable tackler once he gets there. He also has the athleticism to drop back in coverage.
Bradley used Kam Chancellor as the in-the-box safety during his time as the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator, and he's looking (per Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union) to use Cyprien the same way.
Cyprien is going to step in as the starter from day one, and he should thrive in Bradley's scheme.
The Jaguars weren't able to fill all the holes on their roster with the first draft of the Caldwell era, but they addressed most of them. But for now, the future is looking bright in Jacksonville.