Jacksonville Jaguars 2012 NFL Draft Picks: Grades, Results and Analysis

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistApril 26, 2012

Jacksonville Jaguars 2012 NFL Draft Picks: Grades, Results and Analysis

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars Draft Tracker will keep you up to date on all of the Jags' picks this weekend.

    Check back regularly for scouting reports, analysis and grades for every player Jacksonville takes.

    The Jaguars traded up to take Justin Blackmon to start the action with a bang.

    The stepped up to land a big pass rusher in round two in Andre Branch.

    Day three is in the books for the Jags. Check out every pick and what it means for the teal and black!

Overview of the Jaguars' Draft

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    The Jaguars have seven picks in the 2012 NFL draft.

    2011 Record: 5-11

    Team Needs: Wide Receiver, Guard, Tackle, Defensive End, Quarterback

    Popular Targets: Justin Blackmon, Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram

    Picks:

    1 (5 TRADE): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

    2 (38): Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

    3 (70): Bryan Anger, P, California

    5 (142): Brandon Marshall, LB, Nevada

    6 (172): Mike Harris, CB, Florida State

    7 (228): Jeris Pendleton, DT, Ashland

Round 1, Pick 5: Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State

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    The Jaguars know that you have to pass to win, and by taking Justin Blackmon in the first round, they've taken a step toward a 21st Century offense. Blackmon is the best receiving prospect in this draft, and Jacksonville has given Blaine Gabbert a serious target to go with Marcedes Lewis and Maurice Jones-Drew.

    Scouting report

    Blackmon is big and fast. He's got serious big-play ability. There have been some questions as to whether he's a true #1 or more of a second receiver, but regardless of his ceiling, he's instantly better than anyone else on the Jags roster.

    Greg Cosell of NFL Films said of him:

    Blackmon aligned both outside and in the slot in Oklahoma State’s offense. He is smooth and fluid as a route runner. He’s big — 6-foot-1, 207 pounds — and that size shows in his stride length. He has strong hands and a wide catching radius, comfortably snatching passes that are thrown outside of his body frame. He displays very good body control and flexibility to adjust to poorly thrown balls. With the ball in his hands, he is deceptively quick, displaying the run-after-catch ability you want to see.

    Analysis

    This is a make-or-break, no excuses pick for the Jaguars. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert has come under fire for his erratic play, and now the Jags have given him a legitimate target. Mike Mularkey is an offensive minded coach, and Gene Smith has given him the tools to build a credible offense. If the Jags don't show serious offensive improvement, Gabbert and Smith will likely shoulder the blame.

    The Jags traded up to get Blackmon, but only gave up a fourth-round pick. That's a small price to pay to get a player who could end up being a franchise-altering receiver.

    Grade: A

    I don't know if Blackmon is a true number one in the NFL. Maybe he is nothing more than a number two, but if so, he can still be an outstanding second receiver.

    What truly matters is that this shows the Jags 'get it'. They've left their ground and pound ways behind and are ready to start building the right kind of team. In the long run, this change of philosophy will pay off in victories.

Round 2, Pick 38: Andre Branch, Defensive End, Clemson

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    The Jaguars took another step toward relevance in round two with the selection of Andre Branch of Clemson. Branch is a classic 4-3 end who can rush the passer and play the pass.

    Scouting Report

    Greg Cosell, NFL Films:

    One of the first things that struck me watching Branch was how he was deployed by the Clemson coaching staff. He was what I call a “Joker”, a movable chess piece who aligned all over the defense, in both 2 and 3 point stances... There’s a lot to work with. Branch is long and athletic, and he showed at times the ability to get low and bend the edge and close with burst. There’s no question Branch has a chance to develop into a quality NFL pass rusher.

    Analysis

    The Jags had a middling pass rush last year, and there's little question that Branch was the best of the remaining rushers, and likely the best player on their board. I don't know if he has star potential, but he's likely to be a very solid end. Again, the philosophy is sound in Jacksonville where passing the ball and hitting the passer are taking center stage.

    Grade: B+

    Another great pick for the Jags. There's some bust potential, but Branch is a value pick at a position of need. It's hard to beat that combination. Honestly, the draft could not be unfolding any better for the Jags than it is right now. I have no complaints at all, and can't imagine they could have done more to improve their team than what they've done.

    After years of Del Rio, the Jags finally 'get' it.

Round 3, Pick 70: Bryan Anger, Punter, California

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    The Jaguars drafted a punter. There's almost nothing else to say. Bryan Anger is the first punter taken in the third round since 2005.

    Scouting Report

    Jeff Faraudo, San Jose Mercury News

    Anger averaged 43.5 yards per punt over his career _ second-best in school history -- and dropped 90 kicks inside the opponent's 20-yard line. He averaged 60 yards on three punts at the East-West Shrine all-star game, and performed well at the NFL combine camp.

    [Jeff] Genyk said the quality that has NFL teams interested is Anger's ability to adjust to the situation. He said that was a key to Cal improving to seventh nationally last fall in net team punting average.

    "A lot of that was Bryan's willingness to not think about how far he could punt the ball, but strategically how he could punt it ... how high, hang time, away from returners," Genyk said. "I think he improved his stock with scouts. They could see he was able to modify his punts to suit the situation."

    Analysis

    While it's true the Jags had a need at punter, the reality is that they could have traded back and gotten Anger. For a draft team that was off to a great start, this is an inexplicable miss. He must have been the highest rated player on the Jaguars' board, but frankly this is hard to rationalize.

    Grade: F

    Don't take a punter in the third round. Just...don't. There's no value there. The Jaguars were not a good punting team in 2011, but hardly one of the bottom five in the league.  This wasn't a necessary pick, and I can't justify it.

Round 5, Pick 142: Brandon Marshall, Line Backer, Nevada

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    The Jaguars gave up their fourth round pick for Blackmon, so their first pick of day three came in round five. They took their first linebacker of the Gene Smith era in round five in Brandon Marshall, a linebacker from Nevada.

    Scouting Report

    Eric Galko, Optimum Scouting

    James Michael Johnson, Nevada's top defensive prospect and inside linebacker, seems to gain all the headlines for the defensive success, but Brandon Marshall is an impressive talent himself. Actually lead the team in tackles this year over JMJ, Marshall is more of a complete linebacker, showing good balance and fluidity (for a linebacker) in coverage, closes well on the ball and breaking down well, and be able to extend and drive through blocks or evade them well with balance. Not a flashy linebacker, Marshall should be able to play both weakside and strongside (depending on the scheme) and should be a long-term starter in the NFL.

    Analysis

    Gene Smith loves his small school players, and he took another one in round five. NFL teams can never have enough linebackers or corners. It's hard to judge his play thanks to playing with a more talented teammate in Johnson, but the Jags must have seen enough to pick Marshall for depth.

    Grade: C

    The Jaguars definitely need linebackers, especially with the health of Clint Session in question.  Marshall seems like an odd fit, however. He was productive and seems like a good guy, but I don't see how he makes the Jags better anytime soon.

Round 6, Pick 176: Mike Harris, Corner Back, Florida State

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    The Jaguars went the conventional late-round route with a talented corner out of FSU, Mike Harris.

    Scouting Report

    Wes Bunting, National Football Post

    Isn't afraid to be physical off the line and press. However, has a tendency to hop toward his target off the snap, isn't real balanced or technically sound with his hand placement when trying to re-route. Fluidly, is able to turn and run and possesses solid play speed, but isn't a burner. Looks like a high 4.4/low 4.5 guy who will give up initial separation vs. faster receivers. Tracks the ball well, for the most part will locate the throw and exhibits the balance to make a play.

    Analysis

    The late rounds are precisely the time to add defensive backs. Harris won't play much his rookie year but should be able to grow into a competent nickle back.

    Grade B

    Dozens of players like Harris get drafted on the last day of the draft every year. There's never any way to know which one will pan out and which one will be a roster casualty in camp. Harris is a solid prospect and should give the Jags some production down the road. This is a good pick.

Round 7, Pick 227: Jeris Pendleton, Defensive Tackle, Ashland

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    The Jaguars closed out their 2012 draft with another small-school prospect in Jeris Pendleton.

    Scouting Report

    From the Ashland Website:

    The 2011 season will be Pendleton’s second at Ashland…is regarded as one of the top defensive linemen in the GLIAC…teams with Jamie Meder to give the Eagles one of the best inside tandems in the league.

    2010: Earned honorable mention All-GLIAC honors…made an impressive debut, notching a career-high eight tackles (four solo) with 1.5 tackles for loss in the opener with Bloomsburg (Sept. 4)…recorded six tackles, a sack and a forced fumble at Northern Michigan (Sept. 25)…tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (two).

    High School/Junior College: Pendleton played two years of junior college football. He was named first team all-conference in 2009 and was cited as a second team All-America…is the son of Jerise and Dennis Pendleton.

    Analysis

    I'm not going to lie to you. I know nothing about this player. It's a classic Gene Smith move. He's a small-school player that no one knows about beyond grainy Youtube videos. We know he has size and decent speed. He's older than the average rookie.

    Grade: C

    This is your typical mid-seventh round pick. The Jags took him because they like his character and measurables. Maybe he makes the team and plays a year or two in the NFL. At this stage, that's all you can expect.

Final 2012 Draft Grade

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    1 (5 TRADE): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State A

    2 (38): Andre Branch, DE, Clemson B+

    3 (70): Bryan Anger, P, California F

    5 (142): Brandon Marshall, LB, Nevada C

    6 (172): Mike Harris, CB, Florida State B

    7 (228): Jeris Pendleton, DT, Ashland C

    FINAL DRAFT GRADE: B

    Jacksonville didn't get enough out of the final four picks, but they nailed the first two. The Jags already had a decent roster, so it's possible that adding a receiver and a pass rusher will be enough.

    It's all on Blaine Gabbert now. If he can become even an average quarterback, the Jags have a real chance to make the playoffs.