The Jacksonville Jaguars look to be headed in the right direction in 2014. Head coach Gus Bradley has instilled a competitive, winning attitude, and he’s slowly filling up a once pathetic roster with hard-working, quality talent. He’ll aim to do so even more when he takes on the 2014 NFL Draft, where the Jags should look to land a franchise passer and beef up an improving defensive unit.
To see what Jacksonville might look to do over the course of the draft specifically, let’s take a closer look at their key needs on both sides of the ball:
Offensive needs: QB, WR, TE
Blaine Gabbert is now a 49er and Chad Henne isn’t a long-term solution at quarterback for the Jags. They could take a crack at starting over early with Johnny Manziel or another big name, but the rumor mill suggests they would rather just wait until round two. There they could have their sights on someone like Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo. It’s not crazy to think the likes of Zach Mettenberger or Derek Carr could fall there, either, while many now expect Teddy Bridgewater to take quite a tumble, as well.
Justin Blackmon is looking at a potential year long suspension, which should have the Jags thinking about a new toy for the passing game. Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans are certainly in the mix to start things off in round one, but a round two or three selection is probably much more likely.
Tight end isn’t a huge need, but it’s not exactly ideal at the moment, either. Marcedes Lewis is mostly just a blocker at this point in his career, while Jax could try to get a little more explosive at the position. Taking a chance on someone like Oregon’s Colt Lyerla in the middle rounds could be an interesting idea.
Defensive needs: DE, CB, LB
The Jaguars are a ball control, defensive-minded team now, so it only makes sense that they start the 2014 NFL Draft off with a solid defensive stud. Khalil Mack or Jadeveon Clowney figure to help them set the tone for a terrific draft, and it’s likely one of them or a franchise passer at this point. If they don’t get either of them, though, they’ll likely try to beef up their pass rush at some point. Round two or three would still allow them to get a solid pass rusher.
Corner is actually a pretty big need for Jacksonville, so they should look to land a defensive back at some point early in the draft. The way this might shake out, though, the third round might be their best chance. That still should give them a chance at someone like Marcus Roberson or E.J. Gaines.
Linebacker could use some depth, as well, while the Jags could still use a high quality safety to pair with Johnathan Cyprien. The third or fourth round could still give them a shot at guys like Dion Bailey, LaMarcus Joyner or Craig Loston. They all could easily be gone by the end of the second, too, so perhaps someone line Kansas State’s Ty Zimmerman is more realistic.
Overall, it’s beyond clear there are a lot of problem areas in Jacksonville. Landing a franchise passer is pretty key, so naturally the Jaguars will have to do so with one of their first two picks. The other will probably be on a big defensive impact player. If they land Clowney or Mack right away in round one, they’ll almost certainly feel pressured in taking their passer in round two. Just like that, Jacksonville becomes limited in other key needs such as corner and safety.
In other words, they’ll have to pick their battles and go one selection at a time. As long as they land that franchise passer and keep getting better on defense, they can’t go wrong in this year’s draft.