2013 NFL Draft: Jacksonville Jaguars spotlight
Prospects the Jacksonville Jaguars should consider with their 2013 NFL Draft selections.
This is the second of a team-by-team series, analyzing five prospects each team should consider in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell was asked during the early stages of free agency who would be the team's starting right tackle.
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"That's a good question. Good thing we don't play tomorrow," the first-year GM quipped.
While the Jaguars have a high-profile decision to make at quarterback -- let Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne battle it out again or trade for Seattle Seahawks backup Matt Flynn -- whoever is under center Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season needs better protection.
The Jaguars gave up 50 sacks last season and ranked 26th in sacks allowed per pass play. Right tackle and another guard are two glaring holes along the line. Former second-round pick Eben Britton fell out of favor and is headed elsewhere, and Guy Whimper and Cameron Bradfield were lackluster in manning the right tackle spot.
However, teams rarely target a right tackle with the No. 2 overall spot, and the Jaguars don't figure to be interested in a quarterback that high despite their visit to meet with West Virginia's Geno Smith. With plenty of holes to file on both sides of the ball, Jacksonville would likely listen to any serious trade offers, but with a dearth of marquee talent at the top of the draft the Jaguars likely will focus on a difference-maker on the defense before addressing other needs later.
"We'll get it pared down to 10 guys and let's take a hard look at them and we're doing that now, regardless of position, could be LEO (pass rusher), could be QB, could be corner, could be tackle," first-year head coach Gus Bradley said at the owners meetings in mid-March. "The evaluation is never-ending. We're going to watch tape, we're going to meet with people, challenge them and make sure it's the right pick for us. We don't know what position it is, but we're open and we'll be spending a lot of time on the road these next couple weeks."
Jacksonville Jaguars 2013 draft picks: 2, 33, 64, 98, 135, 169, 208
Primary needs: OL, DE, QB
General manager: David Caldwell, first season
Five draft picks that clicked:
--WR Cecil Shorts III, 114th overall, 2011
--CB Derek Cox, 73rd overall, 2009
--RB Maurice Jones-Drew, 28th overall, 2006
--CB Rashean Mathis, 39th overall, 2003
--DT John Henderson, 9th overall, 2002
Five players who should be on the Jacksonville Jaguars' draft radar:
Player, school (overall rating, position rating)
DE Dion Jordan, Oregon (1, 2)
Bradley learned from Pete Carroll in Seattle to trust your gut and put the criticism of the "experts" in a quiet pocket somewhere. The Seahawks were widely panned for using a first-round pick on Bruce Irvin last year, but the raw West Virginia pass rusher filled a rare skill set for the "LEO" position and quickly emerged as one of the NFL's elite young pass rushers as a rookie.
Jacksonville had just 20 sacks all of last season and ranked dead last in sacks per pass play, further exposing a thin secondary. Jason Babin was picked up toward the end of last season, but he's inconsistent and needs a complementary weapon on the other side.
Does Jordan fit that "LEO" position Bradley watched Chris Clemons excel in for Seattle? At 6-feet-6 and 248 pounds, he's an exciting athlete who moved all over Oregon's defense and provides intriguing versatility. However, he's also a big gamble at No. 2 considering his injury history.
OT Terron Armstead, Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2, 33)
Bradley loves athletes, and few prospects displayed better raw skills than Armstead. He entered the Shrine Game as a likely third-day pick before showing well and earning an injury-replacement spot at the Senior Bowl. From there, Armstead scored an invite to Indy and proceeded to set a combine record for offensive linemen with a 4.71 40-yard dash.
A dominant force in the SWAC, Armstead will need time to adjust to the NFL. That makes the Jaguars a good fit. They aren't going to be competitive right away and Armstead can learn the ropes on the ride side before potentially taking over the blind-side spot from Eugene Monroe down the road if he progresses to that point.
OG Brian Winters, Kent State (3, 64)
The Jaguars needs to significantly upgrade both lines to become more competitive, and Winters has experience at tackle and guard that would immediately increase competition across the o-line. He turned down FBS offers to play for Kent State, and started 12 games at right tackle as a freshman. He started eight games at left tackle the following season, and that's where 33 of his 49 career starts came at. Winters has the height to play outside, but his physicality and toughness -- and lack of elite foot speed -- could make him a better fit inside in the pros.
RB Christine Michael, Texas A&M (4, 98)
Michael is one of the bigger boom-or-bust prospects in the running back class. On the downside, he tore his ACL at Texas A&M, clashed with the coaching staff and ran a pedestrian 4.54 40 at the combine. On the flip side, he's also a strong 5-10, 220 pounds (Maurice Jones-Drew is 5-7, 210, by comparison) and was very productive when healthy and given consistent playing time.
How much of a workload Jones-Drew can handle coming off his 2012 foot injury with 1,570 carries under his belt remains to be seen. The Jaguars signed Justin Forsett as a third-down back, but the ground game fell off the cliff after MJD went down last season and a viable backup with starting potential down the road is warranted.
CB Tharold Simon, LSU (5, 135)
Simon surprised many with his decision to leave LSU a year early, but he could prove a value pick in the middle rounds. At 6-2, 202 pounds, he provides good size to potentially play a press-cover role similar to what Bradley employed with Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner in Seattle. The Jaguars lost their top cover corner, Derek Cox, in free agency, and Simon's experience in the SEC makes him a better candidate to start early on than some of the corners ranked above him.
WR Rodney Smith, Florida State (6, 169)
The Jaguars don't have proven depth behind Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts III after releasing concussion-prone Laurent Robinson. At 6-5, 225 pounds, Smith enjoyed a solid week at the Shrine Game and is a potential sleeper. It doesn't hurt he's from Miami and played his college ball a few hours away in Tallahassee.
DE Joe Kruger, Utah (7, 208)
The youngest of three Kruger brothers, Joe played alongside Dave at Utah and older sibling Paul played for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens before signing with the Cleveland Browns as a free agent. Joe is following in Paul's footsteps by leaving the Utes program after his junior season. Joe Kruger offers a versatile skill-set despite his 6-6, 269-pound frame and closes quickly on the quarterback.
For more NFL draft news and analysis, follow Derek Harper on Twitter at @DerekAHarper.
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