Pre-Draft Needs: WR, DE, CB, DT
Round 1-Justin Blackmon/WR
Round 2-Andre Branch/DE
Round 3-Bryan Anger/P
Round 5-Brandon Marshall/LB
Round 6-Mike Harris/CB
Round 7-Jeris Pendelton/DT
DE, CB, DT
It would be hard to argue against the fact that the Jaguars have had one the worst group of receivers in the NFL in recent seasons. And with that being the case, general manager Gene Smith addressed the issue with the selection of Justin Blackmon with the team’s first-round pick. While Blackmon was clearly one of the top receivers available for this year’s NFL Draft, not every team had a high first-round grade on the wide receiver. According to an NFL personnel source with ties to several teams, at least two teams had at least a low first-round grade on Blackmon. The reasons for the lower than expected grade had to do more with his size (under 6-1) and lack of explosiveness more than anything else. However, it’s not known how those teams or any others felt about Blackmon’s off-the-field history, which became a major issue after the draft. On the positive side, Blackmon has drawn the comparison to New York Giants WR Hakeem Nicks based on his size, physicality and run-after-the-catch ability.
After posting a paltry 31 sacks last season and even worse numbers (27) in 2010, you could certainly make a case that defensive end was one of the top-two priorities for the Jaguars coming into this draft. So the selection of DE Andre Branch in the second round makes a ton of sense. And there was some thought that the talented pass rusher might be selected late in the first round because of his ability to line up as a rush outside linebacker. Branch, who is known in scouting circles for his speed off the edge and long reach, should get a legitimate chance to start right away.
The decision to use their third-round pick on P Bryan Anger drew a lot of criticism, but considering how anemic the Jaguars’ offense has been in recent seasons, you can understand the decision, And with field position so critical in the NFL, having Anger in the fold will certainly help in more ways than one. But some NFL teams do not believe in spending even a late-round selection (6-7) on a punter or kicker. Those teams would rather develop an undrafted free agent to handle those duties.
Fifth-round pick LB Brandon Marshall, who is known in scouting circles for his physical play, is capable of playing either outside linebacker position. And with starting OLB Darryl Smith on the final year of his contract, Marshall could get a shot to challenge for Smith’s job as early as his second season.
Sixth-round pick CB Mike Harris, because the Jaguars have next to no depth at the position, should have a legitimate shot to make the roster coming out of the preseason if he performs well. Harris, who only started one season at Florida St., is known in scouting circles for his intelligence and physical play.
Seventh-round pick DT Jeris Pendleton is an interesting prospect. He actually turns 29 in November and played at a lower level of college football for two seasons. But Pendelton’s tape, according to a personnel source, was good enough to warrant a late-round look despite his advanced age.
Overall, general manager Gene Smith addressed two major needs early and he’ll get at least two immediate starters out of this draft and probably three. However, there’s still plenty of work left to do with the roster going forward.