When Roger Goodell stood at the main podium at Radio City Music Hall to announce that the Washington Redskins had traded the 10th overall selection, the Jacksonville Jaguars were not the first team to spring to my mind.
It made sense for either the Minnesota Vikings (12th overall) or the Miami Dolphins (15th overall) to jump into the spot to claim the dropping Blaine Gabbert. The Vikings were in desperate need of a successor to Brett Favre at quarterback but decided to stay where they were and add Christian Ponder, while the Dolphins instead reaffirmed their belief in Chad Henne by taking the top-rated guard Mike Pouncey in the first round.
Surprisingly, the Jacksonville Jaguars gave up their first- and second-round selections to move up six places to 10th overall. They in turn took Blaine Gabbert as their quarterback of the future.
Most Jaguars fans will tell you that they do indeed need a quarterback. To an extent that is true, as David Garrard is not an elite quarterback.
Garrard however is a good, serviceable quarterback who, with the right pieces around him, could take his team deep in the playoffs. Garrard is 33 years of age but hasn't lost much of his athleticism, as he still rushed for 279 yards last season. On a run-first team, which is what the Jaguars will be as long as Maurice Jones-Drew is running behind their physical offensive line, David Garrard could still give the team three more quality seasons.
In fact, last season was one of his best as the team's starter. He may have recorded a career high in interceptions (15) but he also had a career high in touchdowns (23) by some distance, as he had never scored more than 20. This is made even more impressive by the fact that he only played in 14 games. He averaged 195 yards per game during the season, which may not be on Peyton Manning's level but he did have a 90.8 quarterback rating that was the second highest of his career.
When evaluating Garrard's numbers you have to take into account the quality around him. The Jaguars are undoubtedly a run-first team. Their best receiver is tight end Marcedes Lewis while Mike Sims-Walker is solid, but not a spectacular first-choice receiver and won't be a major attraction on the free-agent market.
Sims-Walker had a down year last year as Mike Thomas emerged as the team's best wide receiver. Thomas is a solid player but on a playoff team he would be just a slot receiver because of his 5'8”, 198-pound frame. At that size he cannot repeatedly beat first-choice corners on the outside.
Outside of Thomas and Sims-Walker (who did manage seven touchdowns last year) the Jaguars didn't have a wide receiver that caught more than 11 passes. This partially reflects the team's run-first identity, but no quarterback is going to be elite if only two of his top six pass-catchers are wide receivers. Do the Jaguars think that Blaine Gabbert can make a team that currently has only Mike Thomas as a somewhat established wide receiver any better in the short term?
Maybe they do, but they did not draft him for the short term. Gabbert is a long-term option, there is no doubt about that.
However, was he really worth giving up a first- and second-round pick when he is not the final piece of the offense? Not to mention the fact that the defense is lacking a lot of pieces also, most notably a pass rusher.
It may have made more sense for the team to trade down from 16th overall and pick up a developmental quarterback such as Andy Dalton or Colin Kaepernick, which would have allowed them to improve the offense further with a Titus Young, Kyle Rudolph, Torrey Smith or Randall Cobb.
They also gave up the chance to pick up Da'Quan Bowers, as he went two spots after the Jaguars' initial second-round selection that eventually became the Indianapolis Colts' Ben Ijalana.
The Jaguars had a porous defense last season as they ranked 27th in the league giving up 26.2 points per game. Offensively they ranked 18th.
The Jaguars are not a team like the Miami Dolphins, who are some good quarterback play away from the playoffs. They have too many holes to put the franchise on the shoulders of a young quarterback irrelevant of what happens in free agency.
Blaine Gabbert is going to be under a lot of pressure in Jacksonville when he eventually becomes a starter. Hopefully, for both he and the franchise, the team will not push David Garrard out of the starting spot too soon.
This article originally appeared on www.ffblife.com.
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