The Jacksonville Jaguars entered the 2014 NFL Draft coming off a 4-12 record and having suffered through some of the toughest offensive exploits in recent memory. Prior to the draft, former first round pick, Blaine Gabbert was dealt to the San Francisco 49ers for a 6th round pick. With the Jaguars looking for help in a few key places, picking at number three overall and having nine picks in total, they are looking to set up 2014 as a fresh start.
Best Pick: Marqise Lee
Lee is coming off a disappointing year at USC and has injury questions swirling around him left and right. Rewind the situation though to a year prior, and Lee was highly regarded as one of the premier players had he entered the 2013 draft. With Lee grading out for most analysts as a first round pick, the Jaguars get a WR that can come in and compete right away. With Justin Blackmon all but out for the season due to multiple substance abuse offenses, the Jaguars were left leaning solely on Cecil Shorts. Lee gives them an immediate presence on the outside, and with a little refinement, has a big opportunity to be a solid NFL wide receiver right off the bat.
Worst Pick: Blake Bortles
While Bortles isn’t a bad pick in terms of quarterback here at all, the issue is with where he was taken. Bortles coming off the board with the third pick means the Jaguars knew who their guy was and immediately went and got him. With Johnny Manziel not coming off the board until 22nd and Teddy Bridgewater not going until the final pick of the first round; the Jaguars might have missed an opportunity to trade back and gain some picks. I can’t believe some of the stories coming out of the Jaguars camp regarding Bortles sitting behind Chad Henne for a year, but if that truly is the case, the third pick gets even more cloudy.
As a whole, you have to like what the Jaguars did with this draft, When a team understands its weakness and goes after making it a strength, the planning and execution is all but evident. Grabbing both Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee in quick succession during round two was huge. Brandon Linder, the guard from Miami, should come in and compete right away. Shoring up a line to keep both Henne and Bortles on their feet is a must. I also am a big fan of the Aaron Colvin pick. Colvin should have gone higher, had his knee injury during a Senior Bowl practice not happened. The defensive help in the form of LB Telvin Smith and DE Chris Smith both represent strong value picks. Telvin will likely make an early impact on special teams while Chris could push for playing time early due to strong football IQ. Luke Bowanko has a shot to come in and also be a factor on the offensive line in camp, he could fill in at center, as well as either guard. The flier the Jaguars took on Storm Johnson in the 7th round could turn out very positive. Maurice Jones-Drew is gone, and Johnson will back up newly acquired Toby Gerhart. Johnson played college ball just down the road at UCF and will find comfort in again being teammates with Bortles.
Final Grade: B+
The Jaguars went out and filled the big impact player holes they needed to. They got their quarterback of the future and they brought in weapons to help him succeed. The linebacking issues they were looking to shore up are addressed with strong depth, and there is value across the board. If Bortles turns out to be more than just Jacksonville’s guy, this may be the draft to turn the franchise back around.