Projecting Jacksonville Jaguars' 2-Deep Depth Chart Pre-2014 NFL Draft
The pre-2014 NFL draft starting lineup for the Jacksonville Jaguars is littered with members of the team's successful haul in free agency. But even after solidifying more than one area of need via the veteran market, some key positions should be altered by the draft.
These are likely to include pass-rusher, specifically at defensive end. Many draft pundits believe the Jags won't be able to resist one of two highly touted hybrid pass-rushers.
There is also likely to be a shakeup at quarterback, at least in the projected depth behind incumbent Chad Henne. Jacksonville is widely expected to add a new passer early in the draft to provide Henne with some serious competition.
Here is what the Jags' two-deep depth chart looks like now, including how it could be affected by this year's draft.
Starter: Chad Henne
The Jags were quick to anoint Henne this season's starter not long after handing him a new contract. But that is merely a stop-gap measure. Henne will be pushed by a prominent draftee.
Depth: Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
In his latest mock draft, WalterFootball.com writer Walter Cherepinsky sends Jimmy Garoppolo to the Jags in Round 2. Cherepinsky cites the team's obvious need at the position, coupled with rumored interest in the ex-Eastern Illinois strong-armed standout:
The Jaguars have to take a quarterback early for obvious reasons. As mentioned earlier, there have been reports indicating that Jacksonville wants to draft Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round.
The Jaguars have had plenty of time to assess Garoppolo, thanks to some firsthand knowledge gained working with the passer at the Senior Bowl, per NFL.com College Football 24/7 scribe Chase Goodbread.
Starter: Toby Gerhart
Jacksonville general manager David Caldwell didn't swipe Toby Gerhart from the Minnesota Vikings just to warm the bench. Instead, the rotund bruiser will be given his first shot at leading a running game in the pros.
NFL.com reporter Marc Sessler has already stated that head coach Gus Bradley sees Gerhart as the team's "bell-cow" back.
Depth: Jordan Todman, Denard Robinson
Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson will add some speed to complement Gerhart's punishing power. Robinson in particular could see his number of carries expand.
Florida Times-Union writer Vito Stellino indicates a full-time move to running back will benefit Robinson:
Robinson has embraced his new position and bulked up from about 197 to 212 pounds when he returned this week for the start of offseason conditioning drills.
The Jaguars won’t be able to look at him in practice until organized team activities start next month, but Bradley likes what he’s seen of Robinson so far.
Starter: Bradie Ewing
Depth: Will Ta'ufo'ou
Despite Ewing's arrival, the Jags would be wise to keep Ta'ufo'ou around. As ProFootballTalk reporter Mike Wilkening notes, Ewing has started only two games in as many seasons, thanks to a spate of injuries.
Ta'ufo'ou started seven games in 2013, although the ground attack he featured in averaged just 78.8 yards per game, finishing 31st in the league, per stats from NFL.com.
Starters: Cecil Shorts III, Mike Brown, Ace Robinson (Slot)
Even without the suspended Justin Blackmon, the Jaguars have some quality at this position. Most notably, Cecil Shorts III is primed for a big season.
He is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is keen to make a big impression, per Florida-Times Union reporter Hays Carlyon. Shorts has the talent to deliver and earn himself a healthy second deal.
Another player likely to impress is Ace Sanders. Last season's fourth-round pick proved to be a useful weapon for creative offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.
Depth: Tandon Doss, draft pick
Sports Illustrated scribe Don Banks believes the Jags will use the third overall pick to select former Clemson ace Sammy Watkins. However, their current options at the position, along with the presence of more than one enticing lineman, make it unlikely Jacksonville will go receiver so early.
Caldwell is more likely to draft a solid, mid-round pass-catcher to pair with new arrival Tandon Doss.
Starter: Clay Harbor
Clay Harbor appears set to supplant Marcedes Lewis as this team's leading tight end. The Jags brought Harbor back on a two-year contract, and should make better use of his "move" skills.
Depth: Marcedes Lewis
Lewis is still a talent, but he has rarely played to his potential, and doesn't seem to fit the new direction at the position. He is more of a classic, in-line tight end, while Jacksonville has shown interest in roving, hybrid-style players this offseason.
Starters: LT Luke Joeckel, LG Zane Beadles, C Patrick Lewis, RG Will Rackley, RT Jake Matthews
This is where the first big shakeup should take place. Florida Times-Union reporter Ryan O'Halloran has stated the Jags are keen on using the third overall pick on Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews.
It is a move Caldwell and Bradley should make, just one year after drafting Matthews' college teammate Luke Joeckel. The Jacksonville O-line was diabolical in 2013, limply surrendering 50 sacks.
The Jags need Matthews and Joeckel as bookends in an AFC South loaded with star defensive talent like Houston Texans D-lineman J.J. Watt. Read this for a more in-depth look at why Jacksonville would be smart to take Matthews.
Joeckel and new signing Zane Beadles can form an accomplished combination on the left. Meanwhile, Matthews would solidify the right side while the team makes do with Will Rackley at right guard.
There is still a huge question mark at center. Patrick Lewis is pencilled in here, but the arrival of a draftee wouldn't be a shock.
Depth: Mike Brewster, Austin Pasztor, draft pick
Austin Pasztor and Mike Brewster are on hand to offer depth, but it's still safe to assume a mid to late-rounder is selected for extra cover, probably along the interior.
Starters: Khalil Mack/Chris Clemons (Leo), Sen'Derrick Marks, Roy Miller, Red Bryant (Elephant)
The defensive line is where things could get particularly interesting. To be clear, in the opinion of this writer, Jake Matthews is the team's best pick at No. 3.
However, if either one of Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack make it past the first two picks, Bradley won't be able to resist. It's difficult to find a mock draft that doesn't have the Jags taking Mack.
NFL.com Media analyst Charles Davis sends the ex-Buffalo rush linebacker to Jacksonville, as does fellow NFL.com pundit Brian Baldinger. They are joined in their thinking by Sports Illustrated scribe Chris Burke, who sees Mack as the ideal fit for the critical "Leo" role along Bradley's hybrid front.
That makes sense, although the Jags have already covered themselves in that position by signing Chris Clemons and keeping Jason Babin. Yet both are closer to the end of their careers than the start.
If Caldwell's is the strongest voice in the draft room, Matthews should be landing in Jacksonville and Clemons starts at end. But if Bradley's enthusiasm leads the way, expect Mack's name to be called, heralding the formation of a fearsome three-man rotation at "Leo."
That wouldn't be the worst thing, even after bringing in Clemons. The Jaguars simply can't have enough quality pass-rushers, especially in a division featuring Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
The rest of the defensive front is more than solid. Sen'Derrick Marks is a useful 3-technique pass-rusher, while Roy Miller is a smart and study nose tackle.
New arrival Red Bryant could be the key though. His ability to absorb blockers and collapse one edge will be vital to the run defense in base situations.
Depth: Jason Babin, Andre Branch, Ziggy Hood, Tyson Alualu, draft pick
Babin will offer quality depth as a seasoned and dangerous situational pass-rusher. Andre Branch can do the same. The youngster doesn't deserve to miss out on a starting berth, but probably will, given the new recruits at his position.
At tackle, Ziggy Hood will prove a very useful signing. He can support Marks as another capable interior pass-rusher.
The only area of concern is depth behind Miller at nose tackle. It's a safe bet that a draft pick is added to solve the problem.
In a separate report, Carlyon suggests Notre Dame's Louis Nix III could interest the team. But with more pressing immediate needs, bank on the Jags waiting before adding another big man in the middle.
Starters: Paul Posluszny (MLB), Geno Hayes, Dekoda Watson
Paul Posluszny will rightfully resume his role as the quarterback of the Jacksonville defense. The ultra-productive middle 'backer could enjoy a monster season playing behind improved talent up front.
On the outside, expect Dekoda Watson to prove a boost after arriving from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He should provide a credible pass-rush threat off the edge.
Steady veteran Geno Hayes fits this scheme well as a quick pursuit, solid-tackling linebacker.
Depth: draft picks
The roster is currently littered with uninspiring depth players at this position. But the likes of J.T. Thomas, John Lotulelei and Nate Stupar could soon be pushed aside in favor of a few late-round draftees.
The Jaguars are expected to use the later stages of the draft to bolster their options at this position, per Florida Time-Union writer Hays Carlyon. He suggests ex-Florida State prospect Telvin Smith as a possibility.
Cornerback: Alan Ball, Will Blackmon, Dwayne Gratz (Slot)
Alan Ball and Will Blackmon make sense as the current starters, leaving 2013 third-round pick Dwayne Gratz to continue learning the ropes from the slot.
Both Ball and Blackmon have the size and tenacious demeanour to execute Bradley's press-based schemes. Gratz has also shown he is not hesitant about getting in the faces of receivers and jamming them at the line.
Depth: Sherrod Martin, Jeremy Harris, Jamell Fleming
All three of these fringe corners have good size for the demands of Jacksonville's aggressive coverage techniques.
Safety: Johnathan Cyprien, Guy Winston
The Jags have a rising star in Johnathan Cyprien. Last year's brutal-hitting second-rounder will emerge as a lead-by-action playmaker in 2014.
Next to Cyprien, things aren't anywhere near as solid. Expect Guy Winston to be given first crack at the free safety job, if only for his connection to Bradley from their days with the Seattle Seahawks.
Depth: Josh Evans, Joe Young, draft pick
Caldwell and Bradley would be smart to add a safety during the draft. In his latest mock draft, Bleacher Report columnist Matt Miller has the Jags waiting until Round 7 to select Mississippi State's Nickoe Whitley.
Whenever they do it, the Jaguars must supplement Josh Evans and Joe Young with a pick or two.
Kicker: Josh Scobee
Punter: Bryan Anger
Long Snapper: Carson Tinker
Returners: Tandon Doss, Denard Robinson
Dependable pair Josh Scobee and Bryan Anger make the kicking game a genuine strength. Things should be more expansive in the return game, thanks to the arrival of Doss.
He can dovetail with the naturally explosive Robinson to provide some big plays and help this team with the field position battle for a change.
Heading into the 2014 NFL draft, the Jaguars look stronger in key areas, particularly along the defensive front and in the running game. The next step has to be fortifying the O-line and finding the quarterback of the future.
If Caldwell and Bradley are smart with their primary picks and stick to scheme-specific fits with later choices, this roster will be deeper and better than it's been in years.