This is the place where the great Geno Smith question will begin. And if we all get the answer that we’re sort of beginning to expect, then the great Geno Smith fall will also begin here.
Earlier on as the draft was mocked and called all kinds of names, it was common to see Smith slotted in to become the next Jaguars (Jag-Wires?) quarterback. Now, that feeling has shifted dramatically, and not because new general manager David Caldwell is especially high on Blaine Gabbert, or especially low on Smith.
No, passing on Smith will likely be the result of simple priorities, and draft value. By nature since they were the second worst team in the league during the 2012 season, the Jags have multiple holes, but one especially glaring deficiency lies on the defensive line with its inability to pressure the opposing quarterback. The Jaguars had a league low 20 sacks this past season, and they’re in a position to select Dion Jordan with their second overall pick, the highly versatile edge rusher who recorded 23.5 sacks over his final two years at Oregon.
Or maybe even more importantly, they could choose to ensure Gabbert doesn’t break again by fortifying the offensive line with either Eric Fisher or Luke Joeckel, a move that’s looking increasingly possible. Indeed, there are multiple directions for the Jaguars, but Smith doesn’t appear to be one of them.
1. Let’s get the Dion Jordon question out of the way first. In a draft with few consensus picks anywhere, he feels pretty close to being one at No. 2. Are you confident with his fit, or if David Caldwell is set on a pass rusher, is there a case to be made for Ziggy Ansah?
It’s really hard to project what the Jaguars will do on Thursday, but if I were to guess, Jordan would be my pick. The team has struggled with pass rushing for a long time, and Jordan is the perfect Swiss Army knife-type player who can do a lot of things in Gus Bradley’s hybrid defense as a pass rush specialist and a linebacker.
There’s definitely a case to be made with Ansah, and I think he’s a player who can be molded to fit just about any position. However, he has a long learning curve to deal with, and I think that’s the big difference between the two.
2. Now the next obvious question: the quarterback. Taking Jordan or Ansah means passing on Geno Smith, and most likely giving Blaine Gabbert one more year. Is that the right decision? Or would you rather start over with Smith?
I think the question really just comes down to whether or not the Jaguars brass thinks Geno Smith can be a franchise QB. If they do, take him. If they don’t, build around the defense, add QB competition elsewhere and see where you’re at next year. Blaine Gabbert hasn’t earned another season at the helm, but given the team’s situation and the draft class, it looks like that’s just the circumstances the Jaguars have to work with and they can’t try to force things otherwise.
3. What about one of the top tackles? One of Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher will be available, and they would upgrade an offensive line that allowed 50 sacks this past season.
The leak on the Jaguars’ offensive line was mostly at right tackle where Guy Whimper and Cameron Bradfield were equally bad. Eugene Monroe, on the other hand, has developed into a very good left tackle who may be top five in the NFL at the position, or at the very least, top 10. Drafting Fisher or Joeckel might seem like a logical way to supply a second tackle, but it jeopardizes Monroe’s future with the team.
Moving Monroe to right tackle will almost certainly cause him to leave in free agency, leaving the Jaguars with a hole once again. Taking a right tackle with the second overall pick seems like a waste of its value, though. For those reasons, I doubt Fisher is the selection and I believe that the “interest” in him is a way for the Jaguars to garner a trade market for their selection.
4. The Jaguars hold two picks in the top 35. If Smith isn’t the pick Thursday, will a quarterback be drafted at 33rd overall? Or is help either in the secondary, or up front on the offensive line (if that wasn’t addressed in the first round) the greater priority?
I’m willing to just about guarantee that the Jaguars will select a quarterback in the first two days of the draft. There are a lot of needs on the team with secondary as the biggest, in my opinion, but the team realizes they aren’t going to fix everything in one draft. Instead, they’re going to want to add competition at quarterback and continue to do so until they find a player twho can carry the franchise.
My inclination is that the Jaguars find a way to add extra picks in a trade down from either the second or 33rd pick, and use the extra picks to select a quarterback like Tyler Wilson, Matt Scott, or Zac Dysert either late in the second round or early in the thrid.
5. What other needs should be addressed in the later rounds?
I hate to use the cop-out, “best available player” answer, but there are so many needs for the team that need to be addressed that they can go in just about any direction. I think the Jaguars will look to target big athletic defensive backs who can fit in right away like T.J. McDonald or Cooper Taylor at safety, or lengthier cornerbacks like Sanders Commings or Sheldon Price.