Projecting the Jacksonville Jaguars' Early Returns on 2009 Draft Picks
For some teams, the NFL Draft is an opportunity to select that one player who will get their squad over the top.
For other teams, the draft gives them a chance to take players who will be pillars of the franchise—just not immediately.
In Jacksonville's case, it looks like the Jaguars were successful in getting both players who can contribute right away and players who will contribute down the road.
With preseason about a month away, I thought it would be interesting to look at Jacksonville's draft picks and predict what kind of role each of them will have in 2009.
Projected to go in the top five of this year's draft, Monroe somehow slipped to the Jaguars at No. 8.
Monroe, a 6'5", 309-pound offensive tackle, could protect David Garrard's blind side for years to come.
This year, however, it's more likely that Monroe will begin his career at right tackle, since the team signed Tra Thomas in free agency.
Still, Monroe is far too talented not to get immediate playing time as a starter.
Prediction: Starting right tackle on opening day
After all the offensive line woes in 2008, Jacksonville wisely selected Britton with its second pick.
Many people thought that Britton would go in the late first round, so when he fell to Jacksonville at the 39th overall pick, the Jaguars jumped at the chance to pick him up.
The combination of Monroe and Britton will be formidable if they stay together. But at this juncture, I don't think there's a place for Britton to start.
It's unclear exactly how the offensive line will look when the season begins. There has been talk of moving Tony Pashos from tackle to guard, which would probably be a good idea considering the trouble he had in pass protection.
Vince Manuwai is supposed back and healthy as ever, as is fellow guard Maurice Williams.
Right now, the O-line is too deep for Britton to crack. But I don't think it will take long for him to break into the starting five.
It just won't be this year.
Prediction: Backup offensive tackle
Looking at Jacksonville's roster, one of the biggest positions of need is defensive tackle.
The Jaguars still have John Henderson, but for whatever reason, he has not been the dominant player he was once.
Guys like Rob Meier and Derek Landri are solid, but you would like to have a more capable starting DT.
Enter Terrance Knighton, a 6'3", 321-pound rookie out of Temple. Besides Monroe, Knighton probably has the best chance to play immediately of any rookie.
I have a feeling that the Jaguars will employ a rotation of Meier, Landri, and Knighton to go alongside Henderson. Knighton may not be a full-time starter as a rookie, but Jaguar fans will be seeing a lot of him in 2009.
Prediction: Reserve defensive tackle who will get significant playing time
Coaches have been raving about the 6'1", 188-pound cornerback out of William & Mary.
They're not the only ones who have been impressed by Cox. A colleague on Bleacher Report, Tim McClellan, described him as "Rashean Mathis, without the dreads."
At this point, it would seem that Mathis and Brian Williams have the starting corner spots locked up.
But it's not out of the question that Cox could step up and take Williams' position.
Another possibility is having Williams move back to safety. There's a great deal of uncertainty when it comes to the safeties, and Williams could help solidify that position.
At the end of the day, I think Mathis and Williams will most likely occupy the starting positions, while Cox will be the third CB.
Prediction: Nickel corner
Mike Thomas was the first of three wide receivers selected by the Jaguars in this year's draft.
What he doesn't have in size (5'8", 195 pounds), he makes up for in speed. He ran a 4.4 at the Combine and is known for having speed to burn.
Four of last year's wide receivers are no longer with the team, so the Jaguars are obviously expecting the new guys to step up.
I just wonder if a guy of Thomas' stature can take the punishment that goes with being an NFL receiver. Also, can he get off the line of scrimmage if a bigger cornerback jams him?
There are just too many question marks surrounding Thomas for me to think that he'll be a major contributor in 2009. I think the Jaguars missed the mark on this one.
Even though he played at Rice, Jarett Dillard's production in college is staggering.
He holds the NCAA record for career receiving touchdowns with 59. He set a record for touchdown catches in a season with 13. He also caught at least one touchdown in 15 straight games. Larry Fitzgerald holds that record, having caught a TD in 18 consecutive contests.
Even though he's not much bigger than Thomas (5'10", 191 pounds), he has great hands, good route-running ability, and a tremendous vertical leap of 42 inches.
All these attributes will allow Dillard to come in and contribute as the No. 3 receiver behind Torry Holt and Mike Walker. If Walker gets hurt or doesn't live up to his potential, Dillard will slide into the No. 2 spot.
Prediction: No. 3 wide receiver
The name of Zach Miller's game is versatility, and that's why he will be an important member of Jacksonville's offense in 2009.
He played quarterback during his days at Nebraska-Omaha and was a true dual-threat QB, passing for more than 1,500 yards and rushing for more than 1,000 as a senior.
At the combine, he ran a 4.53 40-yard dash. It's not every day you find a tight end with that kind of speed.
While it's not clear if Dirk Koetter will employ the Wildcat offense this year, Miller would be a perfect candidate for the job.
Even if Jacksonville doesn't feature that offense, Miller could be used effectively in some gadget plays. The bottom line is that he's too talented not to see the field.
Prediction: No. 2 tight end behind Marcedes Lewis but will get on the field early and often.
Even though Rashad Jennings' bio says he went to Liberty, don't be deceived. The kid is the real deal.
He was talented enough to be recruited by Pitt and started as a freshman. But health issues with his family caused Jennings to move closer to move.
Having seen some tape of Jennings, he seems to have a good burst and good vision. He's not a speed demon, but he's fast enough to hit the hole and definitely runs with an edge.
I was very outspoken against the decision to let go of Fred Taylor. But Jennings will prove to be a capable backup behind Maurice Jones-Drew.
Prediction: Second string RB behind MJD
The last of Jacksonville's draft picks, Tiquan Underwood never put up tremendous numbers during his days at Rutgers. There are two primary reasons for this.
First of all, the Scarlet Knights had Kenny Britt on their team. Britt, a first-round pick of the Tennessee Titans, was the leading receiver and the primary option in the passing game.
Second, when Rutgers is successful, the team runs the ball more than it throws. A few years back when Greg Schiano took the team to new heights, it was Ray Rice and Brian Leonard (who are both in the NFL now) leading the way.
At 6'1", Underwood is the tallest receiver drafted by the Jaguars, but he's also the lightest (184 pounds).
As previously mentioned, the receiving corps got a major overhaul, which opened the door for the three rookies. But like Thomas, I doubt that Underwood will contribute too much in 2009.