Saturday, June 11, 2011

KD's NFL Draft Grades - Jacksonville Jaguars

When Blaine Gabbert slid past the Tennessee Titans at 8 and the Dallas Cowboys spot at 9, they had to pull the trigger for their QB of the future. Dallas was rumored to have a deal on the table with Miami and possibly another team, had Blaine Gabbert still been available. No deal happened as the Cowboys selected Tyron Smith. Jacksonville, who owned the 16th overall pick originally, trade that pick and their 2nd rounder, the 49th overall pick to move up to the 10 spot to select Gabbert. Jacksonville's a team with a solid O-line and running game, and their defense is pretty solid all-around except for their pass-rushing ability. They're not that far away, but unfortunately, they play in the AFC South, where the Colts reign supreme and Houston is a team on the rise. Even the Titans are only two seasons removed from going 13-3. The Jaguars still needed help aside from Gabbert, and here's what they ended up with.

1st round, 10th overall) Blaine Gabbert - QB - Missouri
Many draft experts lauded Gabbert as the top quarterback in this year's draft. I'd argue that sentiment doesn't really say much considering the only reason Blaine Gabbert entered the draft a year early was because Andrew Luck didn't. Gabbert comes from a spread system and may need a year to work on his footwork and taking snaps from center. He looked very mechanical doing so in the pre-draft process and his not working out at the Combine is telling.

How he fits in: There's no doubt that the Jaguars will be Blaine Gabbert's team, the question is simply, when? David Garrard is 33 years old and has taken his fair share of hits in recent years. However, he's still a solid quarterback and is better than most people give him credit for notching a 90.8 QB rating and threw for 23 scores against 15 interceptions and nearly 3,000 yards. Obviously with Maurice Jones-Drew, you'll be running the football a lot. Gabbert will get a chance to learn in his rookie year, but if the Jags fall out of playoff contention early, I think the transition will be put in motion.

Outlook: Gabbert's a smart guy with decent arm strength and accuracy. However, he comes from a system that emphasized a lot of short routes and quick reads. He'll have to adjust to taking deep drops and turning his back to the defense on play action passes. He's pretty mobile, and while not as thickly built as David Garrard, he's not afraid to make plays with his feet. I think he'll eventually become a solid starter in the NFL if he's able to sit and watch and learn for at least a part of a year. His learning curve will be lessened if Maurice Jones-Drew keeps on performing at his impressive level.

3rd round, 76th overall) Will Rackley - G - Lehigh
The Jaguars have a good, young pair of bookend tackles in Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton and they've already got a center of the future in John Estes behind veteran stallwart Brad Meester. Their guard play is holding the entire unit back from being an elite line. Vince Manuwai has really fallen off from what he was early in his career and Justin Smiley's been a disappointment. Rackley should be able to step in at left guard as a rookie and win the job. Rackley's got left tackle experience and is very strong in his hands and initial punch. He's got to be more consistent and tends to get caught off guard by blitzes and stunts. If he can work on improving his technique, he's got a chance to win that starting spot. His jump from the Patriot League will be big, much like the Jets Vladimir Ducasse last year, who really struggled.

4th round, 114th overall) Cecil Shorts - WR - Mount Union
Just three spots after Miami selected Edmond Gates, the other small-school standout receiver went to the Jaguars. Shorts hails from the Division III Mount Union program that produced the Colts Pierre Garcon. The Jaguars are prepared to lose Mike Sims-Walker in free agency, and need someone to help lessen the sting. Shorts was exteremely productive his last 3 years with the Purple Raiders notching over 4,400 yards and 60 TDs while playing receiver, quarterback, and returning kicks and punts. He ran in the 4.5s despite reports that he had clocked a 4.35, and suffered an injury in the Shrine Game. He's not as fast or athletic as Pierre Garcon was, and he's built differently at 5'11" 205lbs. He can play in the slot or on the outside, but he too will have a big jump in competition, much like G Will Rackley.

4th round, 121st overall) Chris Prosinski - S - Wyoming
Jacksonville has struggled with their safety play since Reggie Nelson busted a few seasons ago. Courtney Greene and Michael Hamlin aren't bad young players, but there's almost no depth to speak of behind them, and Sean Considine is the only other safety on the roster. Prosinski was Wyoming's best player and a team captain and is very smart having received offers from both Harvard and Princeton coming out of high school. At 6'1" 210lbs with limited athleticism, he profiles as an in the box strong safety. I don't expect him to get a starting job, but he should make the roster and serve on special teams as a rookie.

5th round, 147th overall) Rod Isaac - CB - Middle Tennessee State
A 5'10" 196lbs corner back who's very strong (350lbs bench) and a 4.41 forty time, Isaac was a small-school guy whose stock gained a lot of steam as the draft approached. Jacksonville's got some good depth at the corner position and Rashean Mathis is still going strong. The rest of the names however profile as backup playres except maybe Derek Cox. Most are retreads from other teams who couldn't find their way. Isaac might be talented enough from a physical standpoint to work his way up the depth chart as a rookie, but he too, much like nearly their entire draft class, will have a big jump in talent level getting to the NFL. Jacksonville could, and probably should, make a play at a CB in free agency. If they do, Isaac will have to battle some young veterans to earn his way onto the field.

Overall Grade: C
It's tough to really grade the Jaguars draft. Their entire class could conceivably all start the season on the bench. Aside from Gabbert coming from the Big 12 Conference, all the other players they drafted come from small-schools or weak programs who will have to really up their level of play against the NFL-level competition (unless we're counting Wyoming as a powerhouse). Gabbert will eventually get the keys to the franchise, but that could be in week 8 this year, or sometime next year. Based on what I've seen, he'll have to make a lot of adjustments to his game before he's ready to start. Will Rackley might have the best chance to start as a rookie and he fills a need. Cecil Shorts fills a smaller need, but he could see the field as a kick/punt returner. Posinski and Isaac should be special teams contributors, but when you look at this class a few years from now, I still think you only see two starters; Gabbert and Rackley. And while Jacksonville's got a nice team in place, they didn't add a pass-rusher and they're not as close as this draft class would indicate they think they are. Ultimately, this class will be judged by Gabbert's play in the future.

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