2016 NFL Draft – AFC South – In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Jacksonville Jaguar

By Joanne Kong

Twitter: @kongfu4u 

NUMBER 5 PICK: Jacksonville Jaguars

You don’t have to be the best team in the league, just better than the team you’re playing (that week).  Unfortunately, the Jacksonville Jaguars tend to consistently fall on the losing end of that statement.  They are not the best team, nor are they usually better than the team they are playing.

The Jaguars have been members of the National Football League since 1995, but entered the AFC South Division in 2002.  They have yet to win the AFC South, a Conference Championship or a Super Bowl title.

You might not recall that in 2007, the Jaguars did win the wild card playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but lost the divisional conference game to the New England Patriots.  Of course, you probably definitely recall that the Patriots eventually went to Super Bowl XLll (42) and lost to the New York Football Giants 17-14.  Unless, of course, you were a kid in South America in 2007 and got one of these T-shirts:

patriots 19 0 shirt kids

The one thing we learned from Super Bowl XLII was that there is no requirement that a team needs to be 18-0 to win the Super Bowl.  And that David Tyree must have been eating a super sticky caramel sundae over his helmet before jogging on to the field for that ridiculous catch.  No, you don’t have to be undefeated, but you do have to be one of the top six teams (on either conference) to make the post-season.

What have the Jaguars done during the off-season?

The Jaguars have decided to clean house.

So what can be expected for the Jaguars 5th overall pick?

The Offense

The Jacksonville Jaguars offense finished 21st in the league in 2015.  Although, still in the lower half of the league, it was a vast improvement to 31st in 2014.  However, there’s clearly a lot more work to be done.  Of specific concern is the offensive line, as the Jaguars were the 4th most sacked team in 2015, allowing Blake Bortles to be sacked 51 times.

Unfortunately, the Jaguars offensive line is currently in a major state of flux.  Center, Stefen Wisniewski, has signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.  Guard, Zane Beadles, has been cut.  Offensive tackle, Sam Young, has moved onto the New England Patriots.  However, with the signing of Kelvin Beachum (OT) from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Mackenzy Bernadeau (G) from the Dallas Cowboys, the offensive front line, although in need, isn’t the biggest hole on the team.  Best available talent is always a good option during the draft, so if Laremy Tunsil (OT) is still available at the 5th pick, it might be a hard player to ignore.  But, with a deep pool of offensive lineman available in later rounds, I believe the 5th overall pick can be better used to strengthen weaker points on the team.

Skill position check list:

Quarterback: check

Blake Bortles Throwing

Blake Bortles – USA Today Sports Photo

Blake Bortles was ranked 25-out-of-37 quarterbacks who threw a minimum of 200 passes.  Bortles finished with a QBR (ESPN quarterback rating) of 46.4 and ranked 30 out of the 32 quarterbacks in the NFL.

Entering into his third season with the Jaguars, Bortles had 355 completions and threw for 4,428 passing yards, 310 rushing yards, 35 passing touchdowns, 2 rushing touchdowns and 18 interceptions.  A steady improvement from his rookie year, with 280 completions, 2908 passing yards, 419 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.  Bortles completed more passes, threw for more yards and dramatically increased the number of passing touchdowns, which all point to more confidence and better decision making on field.

Tight end: check

Injury prevented Julius Thomas from getting any real pre-season time with quarterback Bortles, so it was bound to be a rough start walking onto the field in teal, instead of orange.  It took several games for him to gain a foothold and find his place on an offense with two of the better wide receiver options in the league.  Thomas ended up with 46-out-of-79 targets for 455 yards and 5 touchdowns.  Previously with the Denver Broncos, Thomas had often been used near the goal line giving him 12 touchdowns in back-to-back years.  Now fully healthy, Thomas should only improve in the 2016 season with the Jaguars.

Receivers: check

Blake Bortles doesn’t lack targets down field.  With Allen Robinson on one side and Allen Hurns on the other, defenses are often uncertain who to cover, usually giving Bortles solid options.

Allen Robinson was a 2nd round draft pick in 2014 by the Jaguars.  He ranked 8th overall in 2015 receiver category with a minimum of 50 catches.  Robinson caught 80 receptions out-of-153 targets, 1400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.  Allen Hurns was an undrafted rookie signed by the Jaguars in 2014.  Hurns ranked 16th overall in the 2015 receiver category with a minimum of 50 catches.  He caught 64 out-of-104 targets, 1031 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.

Their numbers should only improve for the 2016 season.

Marquise Lee was also drafted by the Jaguars in 2014.  Lee was drafted in the 2nd round a few selections before Allen Robinson.  He didn’t get much field time as the two Allen’s, only 15 receptions out of 32 targets, 191 receiving yards and a touchdown, but still has potential to contribute.

There aren’t many wide receivers worth drafting this year, so it’s lucky for the Jaguars that wide receivers are not a priority.

Running back: check

The Jaguars signed Chris Ivory during the off-season.  Ivory is a big addition to the Jaguars run game, giving the team additional versatility in rushing plays.  T.J. Yeldon, drafted in the 2nd round in 2015, rushed for 740 yards and 2 touchdowns last year and based on his progress during his rookie year, will only get better.  Ivory will be a good addition to the offense near the goal line.  Ivory’s numbers have steadily improved in New York, and there’s no indication that won’t continue in Jacksonville.  If the Jaguars’ goal was to improve their run game, looks like they might have succeeded.

Chris Ivory Running

Chris Ivory – ESPN Photo

The Defense

While the offense has improved from previous years, the Jaguars defense has declined.  Ranked 20, in 2014, the Jaguars defense finished 26th out of the 32 teams last year.  According to Football Outsiders, the Jaguars defense was worse against the pass, ranking 31, than against the run, ranking 17.

Jaguars Defense

Jaguars Defense – AP Photo

The Jaguars seem to be facing the same problem as several teams in the league.  There isn’t just one bleeding wound they need to stop, there are several.  For the Jaguars, the biggest hole is their secondary.  Ranking 31st against the pass says it all.

The Jaguars probably recognized the deficit in their defense.  During the offseason, the clubhouse signed former Denver Broncos Malik Jackson (DE), former New York Giant Prince Amukamara (CB) and former Cleveland Browns Tashaun Gipson (DB).

Malik Jackson was drafted by the Broncos in the 5th round in 2012.  His stats are nothing but impressive with a combined 45 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries and 7 pass break-ups in the Broncos 2015 Super Bowl Championship year.  Paired with Dante Fowler Jr., a first round pick in 2015 who is recovering from injury, the Jaguars defensive front line should only improve.

Malik Jackson

Malik Jackson – USA Today Sports Photo

Prince Amukamara was drafted by the New York Giants in the 1st round in 2011.  In 2015, Amukamara had a combined 63 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception and 10 pass break-ups.

Tashaun Gibson was an undrafted free agent rookie signed by the Cleveland Browns.  In 2015, Gibson had very solid year with a combined 60 tackles, 2 interceptions and 2 pass break-ups.

So what should the Jaguars do with their first round pick?

In the 2016 draft, with the 5th pick, the Jaguars should pick a free safety or cornerback.

In my opinions, there are two worthwhile players that could shore up the defensive secondary in the first round.  Yup, you’ve probably guessed it…

Jalen Ramsey (FS)
Jalen Ramsey

Jalen Ramsey

With a respectable height (6’1”) and arm length (33 & 3/8”), Ramsey hits the entire physical checklist for an NFL defensive back.  In 2014, Ramsey had 79 tackles, 2 interceptions and 12 pass break-ups.  His 2015 season also had a solid 10 pass break-ups.  Ramsey has an impressive vertical, which with his height can add to big plays against any receiver in the league.  Unfortunately, his play-reading ability lacks instinctual intelligence, which may hinder his ability to make big plays in the pros.  Ramsey has a solid frame and with his feet set, the ability to make stops, quick break-out and stopping ability to backtrack, but his agile feet can often be tripped up by faster opponents.

Jalen Ramsey will mostly like be gone by the fifth pick, and if so, the Jaguars will want to take the next best option available.

Vernon Hargreaves III (CB)
Vernon Hargreaves Celebrating

Vernon Hargreaves – Tampa Bay Times Photo by Loren Elliot

At 5’10”, Hargreaves has a less than desirable height for a cornerback, but his vertical should be able to put pressure on most receivers.  Hargreaves has quick hands and agile feet, able to break plays and intercept receivers, but does not appear to have the speed for downfield pursuit.  Regardless, his lack of speed doesn’t hinder his athletic and playmaking ability on the field.  As a freshman, he three interceptions and 14 pass break-ups, as a sophomore, he had 3 interceptions and 13 pass break-ups and in his junior year, he had 4 interceptions and 4 pass break-ups.  Hargreaves is known to have an aggressive competitiveness that can work for and against him in the league.  He’ll need to stay focused on the field, but can be solid immediate addition to the Jaguars secondary.

***

The Jaguars offense is on the rise, and if the off-season signings are any indication for the upcoming season, the Jaguars should be fierce competition in the AFC South.

And honestly, would you really want to mess with this?

Baby Jaguar

I didn’t think so.

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