Jaguars Building Toward a Bright Future with Blake Bortles and Young WRs

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Jaguars Building Toward a Bright Future with Blake Bortles and Young WRs
Craig Ruttle/Associated Press

When head coach Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell took the reins for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013, they stated that it was their intention to build for the future through the draft, rather than try to salvage today through free agency.

After a horrendous start to last year, the Jaguars gave their fans some reason for optimism by playing .500 football over the season's second half.

That optimism hasn't waned through two days of the 2014 NFL draft.

With their first two picks this year, the Jaguars not only filled two glaring holes on the roster, but they also created a new pitch-and-catch combo who could pay dividends for the team for years to come.

With the third overall pick the Jaguars became the first team in 2014 to address the NFL's most important position, selecting Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles.

The pic was viewed in some circles as a reach:

Of course, it's worth considering the source of that criticism.

Say what you will about the Jaguars' decision to draft the 6'5" Bortles over the likes of Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins or Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, but there's no escaping this fact: The Jaguars desperately needed a quarterback.

Bortles certainly fit that bill for the Knights in 2013, throwing for over 3,500 yards and 25 touchdowns while leading Central Florida to a win in the Fiesta Bowl.

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports compared Bortles to a mixture of two other AFC South quarterbacks:

Bortles has the arm strength and delivery that is reminiscent of Andrew Luck and also the mobility and some of the inconsistencies of Jake Locker. Bortles projects to the NFL somewhere in the middle of those two players.

Brugler's colleague, Pete Prisco, hailed the selection as a home run, giving the pick an A+ grade:

Of course, it wouldn't matter if Bortles was a cross between Joe Montana, Dan Marino and Otto Graham if he doesn't have anyone to throw to. With Cecil Shorts coming off an injury-plagued year and Justin Blackmon suspended indefinitely, the cupboard was awfully bare in that regard.

That led Caldwell to use pick No. 37 on a receiver, taking USC's Marqise Lee.

Entering the 2013 season, the 6'0", 192-pound Lee was widely considered the nation's top wide receiver. However, Lee struggled with injuries in 2013 at USC, managing only 791 yards and four touchdowns.

However, as Rob Rang of CBS Sports wrote, Lee's talent (especially in the open field) is undeniable:

His vision, elusiveness and acceleration make him a terror after the catch, whether as a receiver or returner. Plucks the ball easily and can track over either shoulder. Plays bigger than his size, showing the ability to go up and high-point passes amidst tight coverage and is an attentive, physical downfield blocker.

The Lee pick, just like Bortles, received a very favorable grade from Prisco:

And the Jaguars weren't done.

Toward the end of Round 2 the Jaguars did some wheeling and dealing, acquiring pick No. 61 from the San Francisco 49ers.

The team then turned that pick into another weapon for Bortles, adding lanky Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson.

The 6'3", 220-pound Robinson, who racked up nearly 100 catches and 1,500 receiving yards in 2013 en route to a second-straight Big Ten Receiver of the Year award, offers the Jaguars a physical presence that Brugler compared to Anquan Boldin of the San Francisco 49ers:

Robinson doesn't have elite speed, but like Boldin he is a good-sized athlete with deceiving acceleration and strength at the catch point to be both a possession target and big play-threat.

There's upgrading the passing game, and then there's overhauling it. The Jaguars definitely went for the latter.

Mind you, this isn't to say that all the Jaguars problems are solved. In fact, if what Caldwell told ESPN Radio (via John Breech of CBS Sports) is any indication, it may be a while before we see Bortles in action as the Jaguars' starter:

To be honest with you, probably 2015. We'd like to give Chad this whole year and go with Chad this year. Blake's got some development to do. We're going to be getting him ready, so come 2015 he's ready to compete for that spot.

That may not be what some fans want to hear, but it fits with the philosophy that Caldwell and Bradley have adopted.

The Jaguars aren't going about things like the Oakland Raiders did this year, spending loads of coin on veteran free agents in an attempt for a quick-fix.

They're laying a foundation, trying to build a team that will be able to sustain the success they hope to eventually achieve.

Rather than flail away at the present, the Jaguars are looking to the future.

And that future is looking bright.

Now, it's just a matter of having the patience to let Caldwell and Bradley finish the job they started.

 

Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.

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