Jaguars in position to add another top-5 pick in NFL draft
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell has a fairly common draft philosophy:
When picking in the top five and building a team, Caldwell believes you should select a guy who plays one of the premier positions — quarterback, left tackle and pass rusher.
Caldwell landed two of those in his first two years in Jacksonville — both in the top five — with left tackle Luke Joeckel in 2013 and then quarterback Blake Bortles last season.
If he sticks to the script, the Jaguars likely will add USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams on Thursday night.
Jacksonville has the third overall selection in the NFL draft, and if the top two selections are quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota as many expect, the Jaguars would have their choice of the best non-passer available.
“I think it’s a great situation,” Caldwell said.
Drafting Williams would make a lot of sense, even though he probably would line up mostly as a defensive tackle in coach Gus Bradley’s hybrid, 4-3 scheme. He’s versatile enough to play outside and would help the Jaguars fortify a line that could be without defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks to start the season.
Marks, who led the team with 8½ sacks in 2014, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the season finale. He hopes to return during training camp and be ready for the season opener, but there are no guarantees.
The Jaguars also could use help on the edge, where 33-year-old veteran Chris Clemons started every game last season and finished with eight sacks.
Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr. might seem like an ideal choice to eventually replace Clemons, but the 265-pound Fowler is considered a tad heavy to play Jacksonville’s hybrid Leo (edge rusher) position.
If Jacksonville doesn’t go defense with its first pick, Caldwell likely will look at adding a receiver. Although he drafted USC’s Marqise Lee and Penn State’s Allen Robinson in the second round last year, neither is considered a burner who can stretch defenses and open things underneath for the team’s top free agent acquisition, former Denver tight end Julius Thomas.
So maybe Alabama’s Amari Cooper or West Virginia’s Kevin White would fit nicely. After all, Caldwell has said repeatedly the goal of this offseason is to surround Bortles with more talent.
“For us, if there’s a difference-maker there, a perennial Pro Bowler for eight, nine, 10 years and really be a 1-A type of receiver, I think we’re not in that phase to pass up that type of player,” Caldwell said.
This much is certain: the rebuilding Jaguars still have plenty of holes and not enough draft picks to fill them.
Here are some other things to know about the franchise heading into the draft:
TOP 10 AGAIN: Barring a trade, the Jaguars will draft in the top 10 for the eighth consecutive year. They have little to show for the previous seven, which included four busts. Defensive end Derrick Harvey (2008) and receiver Justin Blackmon (2012) are out of the league, and defensive tackle Tyson Alualu (2010) and quarterback Blaine Gabbert (2011) have been relegated to backup roles.
BLACKMON’S FUTURE: The Jaguars seem to have some clarity on Blackmon’s potential reinstatement. Caldwell said he’s doesn’t expect to have the former Oklahoma State star back in 2015. “It’s a league situation, and they going to go at their own pace,” Caldwell said. Blackmon is suspended indefinitely for repeated violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy.
RB NEEDED: Jacksonville made an offer to sign free agent running back DeMarco Murray in March, but it came up well short of the five-year, $42 million contract he signed with Philadelphia. Nonetheless, it was a clear indication about how the Jaguars feel about their backfield. So they are likely to add a back in the early rounds to compete with Toby Gerhart and Denard Robinson.
OTHER NEEDS: Aside from pass rusher, receiver and running back, the Jaguars could use a safety, a linebacker and more depth along the offensive line.
STRONG TIES: In Jacksonville’s 20-year draft history, the team has selected eight players from nearby Florida and seven from cross-country USC. The next most is four by Florida State, Tennessee and Virginia.
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