Jacksonville Jaguars' Top Needs and Fits in the 2014 Draft

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistJanuary 27, 2014

Jacksonville Jaguars' Top Needs and Fits in the 2014 Draft

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    The Jacksonville Jaguars can get the second year of their rebuild off to a great start by adding a capable quarterback and a stud pass-rusher at the top of the 2014 NFL draft.

    Targeting those two positions is a common theme as the Jaguars approach their second draft under head coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell.

    Fortunately, this year's draft class is loaded with talented prospects who would provide immediate help at both areas. In fact, the only pressing question is in what order the Jaguars will select their potential franchise passer and premier pass-rusher.

    But Caldwell and Bradley will also be aware of the need to restock the weapons available to any new man under center. That means adding a running back who can shoulder a hefty workload and a wide receiver who can win on the outside.

    Here are the best 2014 draft picks that fit the primary team needs for the rebuilding Jaguars.

Quarterback: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

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    It doesn't matter how many times the Jaguars talk up Blaine Gabbert; they are going nowhere until they solves their chronic quarterback problems.

    They must take advantage of a draft class that boasts a clutch of quarterbacks with the credentials to turn a losing team around.

    The Jaguars could be the beneficiaries of an NFL scouting community that never seems to learn from its mistakes. To some, Teddy Bridgewater is far from certain as the consensus top pick in this draft.

    The reason is an apparent lack of upper body strength, per Mike Huguenin of NFL.com. Obviously, those with this view are ignoring the success of Russell Wilson.

    Wilson has guided the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl in just his second season. He has done this despite being overlooked until the third round of the 2012 draft because of his lack of height.

    But just like with Wilson, those who chide Bridgewater for his supposed frail frame are overlooking one key fact. The Louisville signal-caller is a precise, decisive passer who can make all the throws demanded by a pro offense. Any team looking for a quarterback should start there.

    Bradley worked for the Seahawks when that franchise rolled the dice on Wilson. He won't shy away from a player who doesn't meet the so-called pro prototype.

    If Bridgewater slips past the Houston Texans and is available with the third overall pick, the Jags won't regret taking him.

Quarterback: Derek Carr, Fresno State

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    ESPN writer Michael DiRocco points out the Jaguars could wait until the second round to get their quarterback. If they choose that option, Bradley and Caldwell would find it hard to look past Derek Carr.

    The Fresno State star is in the mold of a classic pocket passer. He has a rocket for an arm, which would boost the big-play capability of the Jacksonville offense.

    DiRocco cites ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., who believes Carr will be available in the second round. That thought is echoed by NFL.com's Andy Fenelon.

    Owning that round's seventh pick would put the Jags in a great position to snare a strong-armed passer who can develop into a competent rookie starter.

Pass-Rusher: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

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    Bradley's hybrid defensive fronts are never going to work without a dominant pass-rusher or two. Veteran Jason Babin is a spent force in the "Leo" position that is vital to this scheme.

    Caldwell and Bradley could justify using their first-round selection to pick Jadeveon Clowney. The rampaging defensive end is a dream fit as the hybrid pass-rusher needed to cause havoc along the defensive front.

    As DiRocco points out, Kiper has the Jaguars deeming Clowney too good to pass on with the third pick in the first round. The former Gamecocks star certainly boasts physical traits that the Jacksonville defense is missing.

    His blink-of-an-eye takeoff speed and awesome initial strength have separated him in this draft class. They are essential attributes that all stellar pass-rushers must boast.

    At 6'6" and 274 pounds, he has the height and athleticism to create pressure as a standing rusher as well as the bulky frame to thrive from a three-point stance.

    Babin is no real solution as this team's Leo. Young Andre Branch (24), though, is a player of real potential.

    What the ex-Clemson ace needs is a partner to create problems on the other side. The Jags would be hard pressed to find a better one than Clowney.

Pass-Rusher: Anthony Barr, UCLA

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    A shrewd alternative to drafting Clowney would be selecting feared outside linebacker Anthony Barr. Taking the ex-UCLA standout could be Bradley's best way to solidify two positions along the front seven.

    Barr is a natural, lethal force on the edge. In 2013, he logged 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss, according to CFBStats.com.

    The Jaguars need a playmaker that prolific up front. At 6'4" and 248 pounds, he would work as either the Leo or at strong-side linebacker.

    In the latter position, he could join the line in base fronts and form a bookend pass-rushing tandem with Branch. That is how Bradley used Bruce Irvin with the Seahawks in 2012.

    Barr would add greater flexibility to the Jacksonville front. He would be a Von Miller-style weapon in Bradley's defense.

Pass-Rusher: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas

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    In his full mock draft, Bleacher Report columnist Matt Miller has the Jaguars selecting Jackson Jeffcoat with the sixth pick in the third round.

    Not many picks in the draft would offer a better combination of need and value. Like Barr, Jeffcoat is a natural physical fit for the "Leo" role.

    He helped himself to 13 sacks as a defensive end for the Longhorns in 2013, according to CFBStats.com. He is a quick-twitch player out on the edge.

    His first-step speed is excellent, but he is just as swift with his hands. Like Branch, he displays a natural bend to get underneath and around offensive tackles.

    When you play in the same division as Indianapolis Colts' quarterback Andrew Luck, you can never have enough pass-rushers. Regardless of who they take early, the Jaguars should pounce on Jeffcoat if he is still on the board in Round 3.

Running Back: Andre Williams, Boston College

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    Sooner rather than later, the Jaguars must replace Maurice Jones-Drew. The team has already confirmed they will let the pending free agent test the market, according to Michael DiRocco at ESPN.

    With Jordan Todman showing some promise as the proverbial change-of-pace speedster, a power runner would be welcome.

    One bruiser who could appeal is Andre Williams. The Boston College workhorse is a punishing inside runner who gets stronger as the game progresses.

    One of the two big question marks against him is his health. He pulled out of the Senior Bowl after suffering an injury, according to Mark Inabinett of AL.com.

    Kevin McGuire of CollegeFootballTalk noted that Williams was "banged up" at the end of the collegiate season. But some wear and tear should be expected on a player who carried the ball 335 times and gained 2,177 yards in 2013, per CFBStats.com.

    But what could really hinder him is his lack of all-purpose skills. As CBS Sports reporter Dane Brugler highlights, Williams doesn't offer a receiving threat and is inconsistent in pass protection.

    A premium has been placed on those qualities for running backs in today's NFL.

Running Back: Marion Grice, Arizona State

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    If the Jaguars opt for a more versatile weapon in the backfield, they could do worse than snatching Marion Grice in the middle rounds. The Arizona State star was as much a threat as a receiver as he was as a runner in 2013.

    He tallied 50 catches for 438 yards and six touchdowns in addition to 996 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, according to WalterFootball.com.

    According to a report from Doug Haller of AZCentral.com that cites ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, Grice could be available in the fifth round. He would be a steal at that stage of the draft. He could be a similar find to Andre Ellington, the flexible speedster whom the Arizona Cardinals snared in the sixth round in 2013.

    Ellington rushed for 652 yards, posted 371 receiving yards and scored four touchdowns in his debut season in the pros.

    Grice could make the same level of impact in Jacksonville.

Wide Receiver: Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

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    Despite it being a prime need, the Jaguars shouldn't contemplate a wide receiver until after the first round. They already possess some decent talent at the position.

    Ace Sanders is a roving playmaker who should get better. Mike Brown and the inconsistent Cecil Shorts III also show promise.

    But there is no denying that Jacksonville needs another reliable wideout. Justin Blackmon's troubles have robbed the unit of a potential premier playmaker.

    The team produced just 16 touchdown passes in 2013, and two of those came from Jones-Drew and Sanders.

    Wide receivers only caught eight of those scoring passes, per stats from Pro-Football-Reference.com.

    What the Jaguars miss most at this position is an obvious go-to target. They need a big-bodied flanker who can make the difficult catches and attack defenses at every level of the field.

    Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews is that player. The Commodores ace is tough to bring down once he has the ball in his hands. He knows how to use his 6'3", 209-pound frame to create separation.

    He is the kind of receiver who will make life easier for his quarterback. He is a projected second-round prospect by CBS Sports.

    He may be too good for the Jaguars to pass on at that stage.

Wide Receiver: L'Damian Washington, Missouri

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    A late-rounder who merits consideration is Missouri product L'Damian Washington. He has the physical tools to stretch any defense vertically.

    However, Washington fails in his technique. Simply put, his game lacks finesse and variety. If the ex-Tigers star can run over a cornerback or fly past him with straight-line speed, he will.

    But the pro game demands more nuance. He doesn't show a great feel for route concepts. He has also had more than his fair share of trouble in holding onto the ball.

    Washington needs a lot of work, but the potential rewards for that effort could be huge.

Defensive End: DaQuan Jones, Penn State

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    For Bradley's mix of 3-4 and 4-3 fronts and principles to work, more size is needed along the defensive line. In Seattle, Bradley built his front around a fleet-footed edge rusher on one side, with a mammoth tackle—sometimes referred to as "Elephant"manning the other.

    While he had hulking Red Bryant to clog rushing lanes for the Seahawks, Bradley had to make do with Tyson Alualu during his first season in Jacksonville.

    The 6'3", 295-pounder lacks the size and frame to succeed as a 5-technique end against offensive tackles.

    Bradley could convert defensive tackle DaQuan Jones to end, much the same way he did with Alualu. Jones is no pass-rusher, but at 6'4" and 323 pounds, he possesses the bulk to seal one side of an offensive front.

    In the video, Matt Miller identifies Jones as a solid candidate to play nose tackle. But he could just as easily fit as a two-gap end along Bradley's hybrid D-line.

    Dane Brugler of CBS Sports indicates brute strength is the defining feature of Jones' game. He also projects him as a second- or even third-round pick.

    That would make him good value as the final piece of a burgeoning defensive front.

    Sen'Derrick Marks is developing a niche as a capable 3-technique pass-rusher. He recently agreed a new four-year deal, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today. Next to Marks, Roy Miller is a fine nose tackle.

    But with former New England Patriots Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love failing to make in impact, adding Jones could fix the team's 29th-ranked run defense.

Defensive End: Deandre Coleman, California

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Deandre Coleman is tall enough at 6'5" to thrive as a 5-technique end. He is also stout enough at around 315 pounds to cause a lot of disruption on the inside.

    He is a natural in the art of drawing and commanding double-teams. With Coleman setting the edge, others usually have the chance to make the stat-worthy plays.

    Rob Rang of CBS Sports indicates that Coleman has impressed at Senior Bowl. But what he calls a "disappointing senior season in the Pac-12" leaves him projected to fall to the sixth or even seventh round.

    He would be a great value pick for the Jaguars at this stage. He even merits taking a gamble earlier.

    By targeting a select group of the players on this list, the Jags can solidify an underrated core of young talent.