The Jacksonville Jaguars are at the beginning stages of a massive rebuilding process, and it couldn't be any more obvious.
They're 0-4. They have scored an average of 7.75 points per game. They've allowed an average of 32.25 points per game. In Week 6, they very well may be the largest underdog in NFL history when they take on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
Update: Ravens are sending multiple third-day draft picks to Jacksonville in exchange for OT Eugene Monroe.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 2, 2013
While suggesting any team simply "gives up" on any season—especially only four games in—is a major stretch, the Jaguars' front office and coaching staff have assessed their current team and are rightfully making decisions based more on the future of the organization rather than the present, because the future is where potential success lives.
Let's take a peak at the players GM David Caldwell, Gus Bradley and Co. could target in 2014, when the second year of the franchise overhaul will commence.
The NFL's shopping spree will begin on March 11, and Jacksonville should be in the market to find undervalued commodities. It doesn't need to make a huge "splash," and it should focus on not "overspending" in any way, shape or form.
It's extremely early to predict whom the Jaguars will sign in next year's free-agency period, but it's not too early to pinpoint players who should be on their radar.
Danario Alexander, San Diego Chargers
Alexander is a prime "undervalued" candidate. He's dealt with leg injuries his entire career and tore his ACL this August, which ended his 2013 campaign with the San Diego Chargers.
When healthy in 2012, the 6'4'', 215-pound wideout was rather productive.
In 10 games, he caught 37 passes for 658 yards and seven touchdowns.
Here's how Alexander's per-game averages compared to the Jaguars' top receivers of a season ago:
|Catches Per Game||Yards Per Game||Yards Per Catch||TDs Per Game|
Due to his injury history, the price tag for Alexander won't be hefty, and he'll be only 26 during the 2014 campaign.
While Alexander, Shorts and Blackmon wouldn't initially receive much publicity, Jacksonville would have quite a solid—and young—wideout trio.
For a rebuilding team, youth is vital.
Josh Bynes, Baltimore Ravens
Though Bynes will be an exclusive-rights free agent at the end of the year, there's somewhat of a decent chance he won't be re-signed by the Baltimore Ravens.
GM Ozzie Newsome spent a 2013 second-round pick on springy linebacker Arthur Brown to play next to middle linebacker Daryl Smith.
Brown's battled injuries to start his professional career, a development that has allowed Bynes to get into the starting lineup.
By year two, the Ravens will want Brown on the field often.
While he hasn't been tremendous thus far, Bynes looks to be a serviceable inside linebacker with some versatility.
Here's how Pro Football Focus (subscription required), has graded him through four games:
|Overall Rating (Positional Rank)||Pass-Rushing Grade (Positional Rank)||Run-Stopping Grade (Positional Rank)||Coverage Grade (Positional Grade)|
|-1.4 (27)||+1.1 (9)||0.3 (18)||-2.2 (37)|
Nothing against Paul Posluszny, Russell Allen or Geno Hayes, but Bynes would be a fine, low-cost pickup to boost the athleticism in Jacksonville's linebacking corps.
In today's NFL, sideline-to-sideline speed is vital for a team's second line of defense.
Whoa boy, where to start?
With the way the Jaguars have played to start the year, they would appear to be in the running for a top-three selection, if not the top selection in the 2014 draft.
The ineffectiveness at the quarterback position is far and away the most troubling and destructive aspect of Jacksonville's organization.
Blaine Gabbert, picked just two years ago in the first round, has proven to be nothing but a downright bust, and Chad Henne hasn't been much better in his stopgap role.
Caldwell and Bradley will have quarterback at the top of their draft priority list, that's for sure.
Interestingly, Caldwell was the Atlanta Falcons Director of College Scouting when the team—correctly—picked Matt Ryan at No. 3 overall in 2008.
Bradley felt the massive impact a viable quarterback has on an entire team in 2012, when Russell Wilson burst onto the scene as a rookie and the Seattle Seahawks went from not winning more than seven games in any season since 2007 to an 11-5 record and a postseason win.
Let's take a look at the cream of the 2014 quarterback crop.
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Just about everyone's No. 1 quarterback heading into this year's college football season, the Louisville quarterback hasn't done anything to disappoint in 2013.
Against relatively inadequate competition, Bridgewater has completed nearly 72 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and only one interception.
Barring an unforeseen upset, the Cardinals should find themselves in a BCS bowl game against a strong opponent.
How Bridgewater and his team perform in that game will have some impact on how he's perceived by the NFL scouts, GMs and head coaches.
But regardless of how the season and Louisville's bowl game plays out, the 6'3'', 196-pound Bridgewater has proven to be a pinpoint-accurate pocket passer who understands coverages and has decent athleticism.
He should be at or near the top of Jacksonville's wish list.
Marcus Mariota, Oregon
If the Jaguars want to incorporate more read-option into their offensive system, Mariota could be their guy. At 6'4'' and 211 pounds, the Oregon quarterback is well-versed in the uptempo attack that seems to be becoming a trend in the NFL.
While he's not nearly as polished a passer as Bridgewater, his familiarity with the zone-read and special running capabilities make him an intriguing prospect.
In four games, Mariota has completed 56 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions.
More importantly, he's run the ball 21 times for 295 yards.
While the Jaguars will likely scout, analyze, interview, critique and consider a handful of the quarterbacks in the 2014 class, at this point, Bridgewater and Mariota are the only two they should realistically consider with their—probably early—first-round pick.
As the draft progresses, Jacksonville should look to address the following positions with the following prospects:
Charles Sims, West Virginia
Maurice Jones-Drew was tremendous during his prime with the Jaguars. But he suffered another possibly nagging injury this year, he'll be 29 in March and he's logged more than 1,900 touches in his NFL career.
Also, his contract is up at season's end.
With Denard Robinson and Ace Sanders on the roster, Jacksonville has two speedy yards-after-the-catch gadget players it can use as an extension of the running game.
While the 30-carry-per-game workhorse runner is a rarity in today's NFL, the Jaguars could use a powerful between-the-tackles back.
That's precisely the type of player Sims is.
At 6'0'' and 213 pounds, he has a Fred Jackson-type frame.
James Wilder Jr., FSU
The bulldozing Florida State running back runs with authority and is not a plodder by any stretch of the imagination.
At 6'2'' and 226 pounds, Wilder has the size to pound the football in short yardage situations and make smaller defenders pay down the field.
Either running back would be a nice addition for the Jaguars after the first round.
Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
If the Jaguars aren't overly impressed with Bridgewater or Mariota, they could take Clowney, the player many believe to be the best overall player in the 2014 class.
He's a freakish athlete, is stout against the run and is a tenacious pass-rusher with a variety of moves to get at the quarterback.
A signal-caller would solve much more of their problems than a defensive end, but Clowney is a Julius Peppers-esque prospect who'd dramatically boost Jacksonville's defensive front.
Aaron Lynch, South Florida
Tyson Alualu is pigeonholed as a 4-3 defensive end, the position he's currently playing in Jacksonville's defensive scheme.
Jeremy Mincey will be 30 in December, and although Jason Babin's been productive, he'll be 34 next May.
Lynch has been somewhat underwhelming in 2013, but the size (6'6'', 262 pounds) and raw talent is there. If he continues his disappointing season, there's a chance the Jaguars could snag him much later than they would have thought a few months ago.
(Adding more offensive line depth in the mid-rounds would be beneficial as well.)
The Jacksonville Jaguars are in good hands with GM David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley calling the shots.
They'll just need to piece together an intelligent, cost-effective offseason to continue their organization's rebuilding efforts.