Jacksonville Jaguars Day 1 2014 NFL Draft Primer

Giancarlo Ferrari-KingFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2014

Jacksonville Jaguars Day 1 2014 NFL Draft Primer

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The best way to prepare ourselves for opening night of the Jacksonville Jaguars' 2014 NFL draft is by crafting a Day 1 primer.

    The goal of this primer is to get a comprehensive overview of everything Jaguars—including a full seven-round mock draft.

    From a recap of general manager David Caldwell's excursion into free agency to exploring some of the team's biggest needs, think of this article as your go-to source for the Jags.

    Per usual, the closer we get to commissioner Roger Goodell officially kicking things off, the bigger—and sometimes nastier—the rumors become.

    Will Johnny Manziel be bringing his machismo with him to Jacksonville? Will the Houston Texans and St. Louis Rams give the Jaguars a chance to draft South Carolina edge-rusher Jadeveon Clowney?

    Or will Caldwell find a way to accumulate more picks by trading the No. 3 overall pick?

    The rumor mill is working overtime as we wait for the dazzling lights of Radio City Music Hall to explode into our living rooms.

    It's been a long time coming, but we made it. Jaguars fans, welcome to the 2014 NFL draft.

Departures and Additions

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Caldwell did a great job when it came to handling the team's personnel decisions this offseason.

    By signing productive veterans to help stabilize a young roster, he was able to shore up positions of need while allowing the Jags to compete in the interim.

    Fans of the franchise understand that the Jaguars are still in the middle of a rebuilding process. However, at the end of the day, a 4-12 record is still a 4-12 record.

    For the first time in a while, there are high hopes in Jacksonville that this team is finally ready to turn their misfortunes around. Bringing in a solid group of free agents was just another way to fan those flames.

     

    Departures

    Maurice Jones-Drew, RB: Signed with the Oakland Raiders

    Brad Meester, C- Retired

    Kyle Love, DT- Cut

    Russell Allen, LB- Career-ending injury

    Justin Forsett, RB- Cut

    Uche Nwaneri, OL- Cut 

     

    Additions

    Toby Gerhart, RB

    Red Bryant, DE

    Chris Clemons, DE

    Zane Beadles, OG

    Dekoda Watson, LB

    Tandon Doss, WR

    Ziggy Hood, DT/DE

Team Needs

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Free agency was a great start to solving the Jaguars' biggest problems.

    As noted in the previous slide, Coach Bradley got some Seattle Seahawks transplants in defensive end's Chris Clemons and Red Bryant.

    On top of that, the front office replaced long-time stalwart running back, Maurice Jones-Drew, with Toby Gerhart.

    Despite all of the strides this roster has made, there still are holes the administration must find a way to plug during the draft.

     

    Quarterback

    Without question the biggest need the Jaguars have right now is finding a franchise quarterback.

    No one's arguing that the decision to re-sign veteran QB Chad Henne was ill-conceived. However, at this point in his career, Henne's skill set makes him nothing more than a stopgap option.

    The 2014 draft is littered with quarterbacks of all shapes and sizes. 

    UCF's Blake Bortles is a big, Ben Roethlisberger-like prospect with a ton of room to grow—on a side bar, Big Ben went on 93.7 The Fan (h/t ESPN's Scott Brown) and said he thought Bortles was the best QB in this year's draft.

    Next up there's Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater.

    Heading into the 2013 college football season, Bridgewater was widely-regarded as the "top" signal-caller in the 2014 draft class. Fast-forward 10 months later, and there's now talk the 21-year-old will wind up becoming a second-round pick.

    Finally, you have Texas A&M enigma Johnny Manziel, the player that Caldwell refers to as the "one guy" who could likely play immediately from this year's class, per John Oehser of Jaguars.com.

    The options are certainly there for the Jaguars. It's going to be interesting to see if they go after a perceived "top-tier" QB or if they wait until the middle rounds to address the position.

     

    Offensive Line

    Rebuilding the Jaguars' offensive line started last season, when the team drafted former Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel at second overall.

    Improving the infrastructure of the offensive line is just as vital as finding a long-term solution at quarterback.

    Without having a level of stability and protection, any QB they wind up picking will be "thrown to the wolves," for lack of a better term.

    If you look at Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) advanced statistics to judge how the Jaguars' offensive line performed in 2013, you'll notice that their biggest issues came in run-blocking situations. Registering a -108 grade, that clearly is a major area of concern moving forward.

    There's no doubt that the addition of guard Zane Beadles will help. Still, Caldwell must find a way to land another guard and center by the time the draft closes up shop on Saturday.

     

    Wide Receiver

    Just a few months ago, this wouldn't have even been a concern for the Jaguars. But that all changed when Justin Blackmon was suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

    The former Oklahoma State Cowboy's outlook for the 2014 season is grim. As Caldwell told Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, he doesn't know if Blackmon will be back with the team at all this year.

    Without a clear-cut No. 1 option in the passing attack, it's going to be challenging for this offense to keep up in the AFC South.

    Luckily, this year's draft sports a deep wide receiver class that will definitely make Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch happy.

     

    Playmakers

    Playmakers may not be a position, but it's something the Jaguars are in desperate need of.

    The goal this weekend will be adding guys who can come in and revamp the landscape of this organization. That has to be this regime's top priority.

    Whether that means drafting Buffalo's Khalil Mack, South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney or Sammy Watkins out of Clemson, the Jaguars have to do their due diligence and select a player who has all of the faculties necessary to provide an instant spark.

Top Targets

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    By now you'd hope that the Jaguars' big board was set in stone.

    Without having access into the war room, the best way to determine which players were lucky enough to grab a spot on that list come from combining positions of need with various media reports.

    From a pair of dynamite defensive studs to a game-changing wide receiver, here are the team's top targets on Day 1.

     

    1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB, South Carolina

    There's not much left to say about Jadeveon Clowney. All of the measurables and football skills you'd want in a once-in-a-generation edge-rusher are there. 

    He's a guy talented enough to throw on a helmet and piece together a double-digit sack campaign without breaking a sweat.

    Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) summed it up best when he wrote, "Clowney possesses an exceedingly rare combination of size, strength and athleticism."

    At the end of the day, if Clowney is sitting there at pick No. 3, it's going to be awfully tough for Caldwell and Bradley to let this kid slip any further down the board.

     

    2. Khalil Mack, OLB/DE, Buffalo

    Like Clowney, Khalil Mack is a defensive prodigy.

    You can talk all you want about him coming from a small program up in Buffalo. The fact remains, Mack's body of work is consistent and often brilliant.

    He's an artist who uses his resounding physical ability as his paint brush and quarterbacks as his easel. Once those two components get mashed together, you begin to see a vivid Andy Warhol-like image of brilliance come to life in front of your eyes.

    Tossing the art analogies aside, if Clowney is ranked No. 1, Mack should be ranked just a smidgen below on the Jags' big board.

     

    3. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

    No matter how you look at it, Sammy Watkins is the best wide receiver in the 2014 draft.

    Texas A&M's Mike Evans may have the bigger frame, LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. might be faster, but it's Watkins who is the most complete pass-catcher around.

    The Clemson Tiger is a quick-twitch athlete that generates a ton of explosion with each one of his steps.

    Put on the film and what you'll see is a young man who makes things happen, regardless of where he is on the field.

    Justin Blackmon's troubles have created a burden when it comes to the wide receiver position—a burden that Watkins could take off the team's shoulders right away.

    It wouldn't be surprising if the hierarchy in Jacksonville decides that Watkins is the one guy they can't afford to pass up on.

     

    4. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

    Of all the quarterbacks pegged in this year's draft, Caldwell told John Oehser of Jaguars.com that he believes Manziel is the one guy who could start right away.

    You can make a case for a wide receiver or edge-rusher early on. That doesn't change the fact that this team needs a quarterback in the worst way.

    Veteran Chad Henne is the favorite to be the starter heading into the 2014 season, but he has done nothing that warrants him being anything more than a short-term solution for the Jaguars.

    What makes Manziel such a scary prospect also makes him compelling. He lives outside of the pocket, using his legs and Harry Houdini-like skills of evasion to make things happen.

    There's no question that he has to embrace the nuances of the pocket and learn to work through his progressions. But if he can do that, Manziel has the arm strength, football IQ and heart to become a Pro Bowl quarterback in the National Football League.

     

    5. Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

    If you get exhausted hearing about the same guys non-stop, here's a new one for you: University of Central Florida's Blake Bortles.

    Bortles is definitely a player that the Jaguars should have on their big board.

    He's a handful to bring down in the pocket thanks to his 6'5", 232-pound frame. Add in the fact that he ran a 4.88-second 40-yard dash at this year's combine, and ladies and gentleman, you have a football player.

    The trouble with the UCF QB comes down to his elongated throwing motion and the fact that he needs to learn how to place the football better when throwing across the field.

    But sitting out a season and soaking up everything he can about the game will put Bortles in a great position to have a long, productive career.

     

    6. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

    The second wide receiver on this big board is Texas A&M's Mike Evans.

    One of the benefactors of Manziel's tenure in College Station, Evans is a massive target who catches everything that comes his way.

    He's a different type of receiver than Watkins.

    While he may not be able to take the top off a defense or turn a screen pass into a 70-yard gain, Evans can obliterate defensive backs in the red zone and be a dominant force going across the middle of the field.

    At 6'5", 231 pounds, he's a walking nightmare for a good chunk of NFL cornerbacks.

    The chance of Evans landing in Jacksonville is slim right now, unless Caldwell finagles his way out of the third overall pick.

     

    7. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

    There hasn't been a greater drop-off for a player's draft stock than Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater.

    Once considered to be the best quarterback in the draft, Bridgewater has fallen from grace ever since his horrid pro day.

    NFL Media Draft analyst Mike Mayock detailed some of the concerns he's heard around the league about the Louisville QB, via Bryan Rose of SI.com:

    What I’m hearing is two things. No. 1, when we saw him throw live we didn’t see arm strength and didn’t see accuracy. No. 2, when you draft a quarterback in the first round you expect him to be the face of your franchise, you expect him to embrace the moment. I think people had some concerns about whether or not this young man is ready to step up and be the face of a franchise.

    I'm a firm believer that studying a player on tape outweighs anything else.

    If you put on Bridgewater's tape, you're going to see a guy who makes great decisions, has good mobility and pushes the ball with enough velocity to be effective at the next level.

    Whether Caldwell and the rest of the Jaguars staff believe that remains to be seen.

What Are the Experts Saying?

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    Brian Ach/Associated Press

    NFL Media Draft analyst Mike Mayock: OLB/DE Khalil Mack, Buffalo

    Talking about why he believes Buffalo's Khalil Mack will wind up in Jacksonville, Mike Mayock said, "Mack is my No. 1-ranked player. Remember where Gus Bradley comes from—the Super Bowl-winning Seahawks. Mack has got an edge and fits this defense better than anyone in the draft."

    You can't argue with that sentiment.

    Not to sound like Mayock, but if he falls to pick No. 3, Bradley and his coaching staff should "bang the table" for this kid. 

    Mack has displayed on tape that he can take over a game and that his physical skills are actually on par with everyone's favorite edge-rusher, Jadeveon Clowney.

    He's also the perfect "Leo" edge-rusher for Coach Bradley's hybrid scheme.

    Even with all of the additions that came via free-agency, Mack is a cornerstone piece for any franchise.

     

    MMQB.com's Peter King: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson

    All along I’ve thought it’d be Watkins or Mack here. One GM told me, “Take the safest guy here. David Caldwell will go safe.” Nobody truly is a safe pick in the NFL, but in the Watkins-versus-Clowney game, Watkins seems safer to me. And talk about a need pick.

    Peter King's pick makes sense if you're allowed to group the buzzword "safe" with "game-breaker."

    Watkins is without question one of the most dynamic players, regardless of position in this year's draft.

    He's the type of wide receiver whose 6'1" frame doesn't mean anything when you see him operate on film. The young Clemson pass-catcher just leaps off the field whenever he gets the ball in his hands.

    The Watkins pick will come down to whether or not the brass in Jacksonville believe they can land a premier wide receiver later on in the draft.

    If they don't believe that to be the case, King's prediction could turn out to be right on the money.

     

    NFL Media Analyst Bucky Brooks: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

    "Gus Bradley would welcome the energy and spectacular playmaking ability that Manziel would bring to Jacksonville," Brooks said when he penciled in Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel to the Jaguars at pick No. 3.

    Look, there's little doubt that Manziel would turn some heads in a Jaguars uniform. The problem is projecting him there is a delicate situation right now.

    According to Don Banks of Sports Illustrated, Manziel doesn't have any interest playing in Jacksonville—that claim was refuted by Manziel's agent Maverick Carter, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

    You never know what's true and what's hyperbole at this point in the process. But just the notion that Manziel may not want to spend a good chunk of his NFL career with the Jaguars is concerning.

     

    Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

    "Gus Bradley and Dave Caldwell bring to town a guy that, if his buttons are pressed properly, can become as good as if not better than J.J. Watt," Florio wrote about South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney.

    Clowney is the pass-rusher everyone is still talking about.

    It's crazy to think that this conversation really started to gain momentum when Clowney eviscerated Michigan running back Vincent Smith during the Outback Bowl.

    If the Houston Texans decide that Mack is the guy they want on their club and Clowney somehow makes it past the St. Louis Rams at pick No. 2, he would be welcomed with a smile in Jacksonville.

    A smile that Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck may not appreciate when he prepares to play the South Carolina extraordinaire twice a year for the next decade.

Latest Rumors, Reports & Analysis

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Johnny Manziel Doesn't Want to Play in Jacksonville

    As noted in the previous slide, according to Don Banks of Sports Illustrated, if he had it his way, Johnny Manziel would rather play outside of Jacksonville.

    I've also heard that Manziel himself isn't wild about the idea of landing in Jacksonville, one of the NFL's smaller markets, and that the Jaguars would not be his first choice of employers. It's not a preference based on people, only location.

    Manziel's agent may have denied those claims to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, but it's still something to take into consideration.

    If the Jaguars had any intention of taking Johnny Football early in the draft, a report like this could be just enough for the administration to collectively change their minds.

     

    Could the Jaguars trade out of the No. 3 pick?

    NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport made waves when he reported that the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions were both looking to trade up in the draft. 

    2 teams that had conversations about moving into the Top 5 the last few days: The #Lions & #Bills. As of now 1 exec said they want a bargain

    — Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 6, 2014

    The whole "bargain" part of the discussion isn't that appealing, but nonetheless, this gives Caldwell the option of accumulating even more picks while moving down the board.

    One thing that's obvious watching film on this year's class is that it's deep. Picking up more picks could be a great way to rebuild this roster in one fell swoop.

     

    Johnny Manziel will be the Jaguars Quarterback of the Future

    Contrary to the report that Manziel doesn't want to play for the Jaguars, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle tweeted that word is the Jaguars will draft the polarizing QB.

    Word's spreading among media here that Manziel is going to Jacksonville at 3.

    — John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) May 7, 2014

    We've talked about why Manziel would make sense. The team needs a long-term answer under center which makes any link to Johnny Football a real possibility.

    Of all the potential rumors and narratives leading up to the draft, the Manziel one is by far the most riveting.

7-Round Mock Draft

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    Round 1, Pick No. 3: Khalil Mack, OLB/DE, Buffalo

    The good news for the Jaguars is that there are four great options to potentially choose from in the first round.

    However, if Clowney winds up going No. 1 overall, Mack wouldn't be a bad consolation prize.

    He's the quintessential "Leo" defensive end who could help launch this defense into another stratosphere.

    Watch the tape, and you'll instantly see that all the tools are there for him to become one of the NFL's top defensive players in a few seasons.

    Unless the front office decides Watkins is the second-best player in the draft, Mack has to be the pick.

     

    Round 2, Pick No. 39: Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss

    The beauty of having a deep draft class is that you can land fantastic players in the middle rounds.

    Going by the notion that Watkins is not the pick in Round 1, the Jaguars will have a shot at drafting a guy like Donte Moncrief out of Ole Miss.

    Moncrief has avoided media attention thanks to some of his peers. But that doesn't mean the Ole Miss product can't play football.

    A player who's constantly been overlooked, coming out of high school he was rated as Rivals.com's 17th-best wide receiver prospect in the nation (h/t Hugh Kellenberger, The Clarion-Ledger).

    All he did was catch 156 passes for 2,371 yards and 20 touchdowns in a three-year span at Ole Miss.

    Now, Moncrief will be looking to show the NFL that he's being overlooked once again. That will give the Jaguars a chance to a draft a player that Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) said might actually be better than Watkins. 

     

    Round 3, Pick No. 70: Trai Turner, OG, LSU

    With aspirations to improve the team's offensive line, the Jaguars could turn to LSU guard Trai Turner in Round 3.

    The 6'3", 310-pound guard is a mauler. On tape, he easily dials up enough strength to push opposing defenders off the line of scrimmage.

    He may not be the most seasoned lineman available in Round 3—Furman's Dakota Dozier would take that title—but Turner's ceiling is the highest of any guard in the entire 2014 class.

     

    Round 4, Pick No 105: E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri

    The fourth round is a great place to add a quality cornerback into the mix.

    E.J. Gaines out of Missouri is a nice fit for the Jaguars. Bleacher Report's Ian Wharton was the one who mentioned that Gaines played a ton of Cover 3 while in college.

    That's the same scheme that Coach Bradley taught up in Seattle and brought with him to Jacksonville.

    He may not have Richard Sherman-type size—Gaines is only 5'10"—but his gift for breaking down routes and getting his hands on the football makes him a gamer this team would love to have on their roster.

     

    Round 4, Pick No. 114: Christian Kirksey, OLB, Iowa

    A need at linebacker makes this pick a no-brainer.

    Iowa's Christian Kirksey has enough speed and tackling ability to become the team's weak-side linebacker of the future.

    The knock on Kirksey has been his size. At 6'2", 233 pounds, his frame isn't as a boisterous as some of the linebackers in this year's draft.

    What you have to like about Kirksey is that he makes up for that lack of size in leaps and bounds with his instincts and overall football acumen.

    I've used the term before, but he really is a "jack-of-all-trades" type of player. Finding a spot for him in Bradley's creative 4-3 defense will be easier than you think.

     

    Round 5, Pick No. 144: David Fales, QB, San Jose State

    The quarterback carousel ends here—at least for now.

    If the Jaguars decide not to go after a signal-caller in the first couple of rounds, San Jose State's David Fales is a great value pick in Round 5.

    A smart QB who's astonishingly accurate working within the confines of the pocket, Fales could turn out to be a pleasant surprise for this team.

    The arm strength may not be there, but Fales is capable of processing defenses and adjusting on the fly. Two traits that make him valuable in offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch's system.

     

    Round 5, Pick No. 150: Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma

    Speaking of value, the fifth round could be the place where the Jaguars hit the jackpot.

    Oklahoma's Aaron Colvin is one of the most gifted cornerbacks in the 2014 draft by far.

    On film, he's displayed great technique and elite ball-skills. But the best part about him is that he always finds a way to compete.

    So why has he fallen down draft boards?

    It was Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio who reported that Colvin tore his ACL during practice at the Senior Bowl.

    If he falls into the fifth round, the reward for his services far outweighs the risk. The healthier he gets, the quicker everyone will realize how good this guy really is.

     

    Round 5, Pick No. 159: Aaron Lynch, DE, USF

    USF's Aaron Lynch is a pass-rusher with so much potential it's scary.

    A guy B/R's Matt Miller compared to Cleveland Browns linebacker Barkevious Mingo in his pro comparison video, Lynch would be a steal at this juncture in the draft.

    A quarterback-driven league means there is always a need for pass-rushers in today's NFL. Though he's rough around the edges and his technique is flawed, he's the type of project that's worth undertaking.

     

    Round 6, Pick No. 179: Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State

    Toby Gerhart may be the guy who's going to shoulder the load this season, but adding another running back during the draft is a must.

    Arizona State's Marion Grice is a gritty competitor.

    He's shifty, fast and can inflict a ton of damage when he's utilized in the passing game.

    Grice may not be fully prepared to handle more than 15 touches a game right away, but that will change in due time.

    This pick gives the Jaguars another weapon they can deploy to keep opposing defenses off balance.

     

    Round 6, Pick 205: Bryan Stork, C, Florida State

    Brad Meester's retirement means one of the most important positions on the field now has a vacancy.

    Bryan Stork is an experienced center who played his college ball at Florida State.

    While he isn't a dominant type of player by any means, his unrelenting motor and strong technique will help him earn a spot on this roster.

     

    Round 7, Pick 222: Xavier Grimble, TE, USC

    Round 7 is the ideal place to take a chance on a player based purely on his skill set.

    For that reason alone, USC tight end Xavier Grimble is a guy worth considering.

    Grimble was compared to New York Giants tight end Kellen Davis by Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) because of his 6'4" frame and impressive physical stature.

    The main concern with Grimble is his lack of elite speed and his struggles getting off the line of scrimmage. Concerns that are a non-issue for his former USC head coach Ed Orgeron.

    Orgeron told Ross Jones of FOXSports.com that he believes Grimble "is going to be an All-Pro in the NFL."

     

    All 2014 draft projections provided by NFLDraftScout.com (viaCBSSports.com), unless noted otherwise. All CFB stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com unless noted otherwise. Combine results courtesy of NFL.com.