I don’t like the Jaguars draft.

My main problem is this draft year’s isn’t likely to help the 2011 season one iota. I don’t endorse the building for the future philosophy, not for a team that was in the thick of the playoff race in mid-December four and a half months ago. Keep in mind, too, that this is the NFL, a league where an average of 50 percent of the playoff teams change from one season to the next. The word parity is tossed around the NFL because, well, there is more parity than in any other major sport. Going from last in a division to the playoffs is a common occurrence. Except in rare incidences, NFL teams play for the here and now, not the there and later.

Obviously everything is speculation now. No one knows, for example, if Blaine Gabbert is a franchise quarterback of the future or a bust etc. I’m the first to admit I’m definitely not a “draft expert”. I put quote marks around the term because I wonder if there truly is such a thing as a “draft expert”.

Let’s examine the Gabbert selection. He is clearly a gifted athlete who excelled as a quarterback at Missouri. Some predictions had him as the No. 1 overall draft selection, but he began sliding down the draft boards. He obviously wasn’t viewed as a franchise quarterback by Buffalo, Cincinnati, Arizona and San Francisco. Each admittedly needs help at quarterback yet all passed on Gabbert. Carolina chose Cam Newton ahead of him and Tennessee surprised a lot of people by picking Jake Locker.

Another team that reportedly needs quarterback help is Washington, but it traded its pick to Jacksonville with Gabbert available.

As a side note, Jaguars fans who were angered because Jacksonville didn’t draft Tim Tebow a year ago must be angrier now. The knock on Tebow was he came out of a spread offense at Florida and his game wouldn’t translate well to the NFL. You heard the criticism. His doesn’t see the field well. His footwork is bad. His release is slow. Never mind that Tebow led the Gators to great success. Never mind he is a hometown boy with an incredible following and likely would have helped the Jaguars sell thousands of tickets. Never mind his rating on the “good character meter” is off the charts.

It is difficult to swallow the Jaguars’ reasons for taking a pass on Tebow after they selected Gabbert, who ran a spread offense at Missouri and now must be developed into an NFL quarterback. To be clear, this isn’t a knock on Gabbert. This is a knock on General Manager Gene Smith’s explanation of why he didn’t take Tebow.

In moving up from No. 16 to No. 10, the Jaguars had to give up a second round selection, the 49th overall pick. It should be noted that with the 49th pick the Jaguars likely could have helped their lowly rated defense. Tampa Bay picked Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers with the 51st pick. The New York Giants took North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin with the 52nd pick. Both were rated top 10 overall selections before being derailed by injury and character issues, respectively. Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea , by the way, went to Chicago with the 53rd pick.

With the 49th pick the Jaguars could have addressed their wide receiver needs. Maryland’s Torrey Smith went 58th to Baltimore and North Carolina’s Greg Little went 59th to Cleveland. The Jaguars went for an offensive guard, Will Rackley of Lehigh, in the 3rd round (76th overall). FSU guard-center Rodney Hudson was a second-round pick (55th overall) by Miami. For the record, Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallet (third round, 74th overall) would have been available.

Again, no one knows how these players will develop, but Jaguars fans should follow their careers with interest.

Another reason I don’t like the Jaguars draft is GM Smith’s love affair with drafting players from small schools. I get the sense Smith thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room and wants everyone to know it.

I know the NFL is full of stars who played at small schools. And I know some players are overlooked by big school recruiters coming out of high schools. I know some players develop physically later than others and grow into future NFL players while playing at small schools. And I know some players have issues in high school (grades or character) and wind up at small schools because of those issues.

I also know no GM loves the small school players more than Smith. Four of Jacksonville’s five picks came from non-BSC programs or lower NCAA divisions. Only the Miami Dolphins drafted that many (out of six). Smith has selected 14 players from non-BCS schools out of the 20 draft picks he’s made as the Jaguars GM. It’s still too early to pass judgment on most of those picks, but thus far only defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (Temple), cornerback Derek Cox (William & Mary) and tight end Zach Miller (Nebraska-Omaha) have paid any dividends.

How will Rackley, wide receiver Cecil Short (fourth round, 114th, Division Mount Union), safety Chris Prosinski (fourth round, 121, Wyoming) and defensive back Rod Issac (fifth round, 147, Middle Tennessee State) perform in the NFL?

Of course only time will tell, but for the here and now I don’t have high hopes.

  1. Wyman Stewart says:

    Lots to be said for this post.

    Drafting Gabbert is not that bad an idea, given that last years new players are not likely ready to carry the Jaguars to the playoffs, especially deep into the playoffs. This team is at least one more season away from being a realistic contender, which points to a different QB being in place at that time.

    The major drawback, as you aptly point out is Smith’s draft selections veer in the direction of players who are not likely to pan-out by NFL standards. I look at it as building creditable depth over a 3 year period, then you take those who survive those 3 years, match them to a year or two of BCS caliber draftees, to create a Super Bowl caliber contender. This means the Jaguars, at best, will be contenders no earlier than 2013 or 2014. What this accomplishes is to give the Jaguars a foundation for many years into the future, which it has not had since the salary cap problems forced the Jaguars to cut deep into the bone, to get under the salary cap. Will it work? Time will tell. Is it worth a try? You have to try something. Otherwise, this team will not survive in Jacksonville as a perennial bottom-dweller.

    If this does not work, Los Angeles may be calling; perhaps before this experiment is over. Let’s hope this major gamble works. Flawed? Probably. Cheaper, most likely. Small market? That’s the Jaguars!

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