Grade: “Not bad, but I have some issues”
- Picking Christian Ponder at 16th (see my reasons above)
I can give GM Gene a “pass” for picking Ponder this early in two scenarios: 1) there is a quick run on quarterbacks and Gabbert, Newton, Locker and Mallet are already taken. If that happens and the Jaguars are sold on Ponder, they should pick him at 16, because he will undoubtedly be the next quarterback off the board at that point and trading back becomes a serious gamble. 2) more than just being “sold” on him, they are 100%, beyond all shadow of a doubt that Ponder will become “the Man” in Jacksonville, as our long-lived franchise quarterback.
- Jake Locker (QB Washington)
One year can change things quite a bit, huh? One year ago, Jake Locker was in the same shoes that Andrew Luck is now walking in. Considered the clear #1 overall draft pick going into last season, his 2010 campaign disappointed for several reasons: injuries, weak talent protecting him and catching his passes, and his own performance. He is no longer guaranteed to go in the first round, much less #1 overall, and despite possessing all of the physical and mental tools to became a successful pro QB and to perfectly passing the GM Gene background check (senior, hard worker, team captain), he is not as NFL-ready as Christian Ponder. Due in part to his tendency to scramble for yardage (and he is an excellent runner), Locker has suffered many different injuries, which call into question his durability, and he must develop the patience to stay in the pocket and make his reads instead of always being quick to use his legs. Unlike Ponder, picking Locker at 16 would be a closer fit to his projection and would qualify as less of a reach. However, watching tape of his senior season makes me wonder if he can be a franchise QB or just an average QB with tremendous (but underdeveloped) physical skill, which the Jaguars have had with both Leftwich and Garrard for almost a decade now.
- Ryan Kerrigan (DE Purdue)
I not a gambling man, but if they allowed betting on this kind of thing in Vegas, the odds would be heavily favored towards Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan as the Jaguars’ 2011 first round draft pick. He fits almost too perfectly, that you have to question if there’s something you’re missing. He has all of the Gene Smith accolades: Senior, team captain, hard worker, good size, non-stop motor, and he is a “Big Man” (aka Lineman). Gene Smith’s first three picks in 2009 were all lineman and his first four picks in 2010 were all lineman. Despite all of this, I have the sneaking feeling that he would never become a great player for the Jaguars, only a good player. Good is not enough of a return for a middle-first round draftee and I simply don’t see Kerrigan developing into an elite pass rusher of the next decade. He don’t have the game speed and offers little upside. If we do select him, I hope he proves me wrong, but I’m nowhere close to sold on him.
- Any of the offensive tackles
The Jaguars BAP draft philosophy combined with Gene Smith’s belief that the defensive and offensive lineman are the biggest strength of the 2011 draft class, we cannot rule out the Jaguars taking an offensive tackle with their first round pick. I personally think the Jaguars are set at this position – Eben Britton showed major improvements until he went on IR shoulder injury and Eugene Monroe played consistently in his second year, with few sub-par performances. I can see Smith trying to upgrade at the tackle position, specifically the right side. We can’t rule out Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo, Wisconin’s Gabe Carimi, Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod or Colorado’s Nate Solder. If they are the BAP when the Jaguars pick, then expect them to stay true to their philosophy. But considering how much holes are on the defensive side of the ball, I hope if the Jags do pick up an O-lineman, it comes after round 1.
- Adrian Clayborn (DE Iowa)
Another player whose draft stock was hurt in his senior campaign; I saw the Orange Bowl this year and he looked like a monster against Georgia Tech. He rarely showed that dominance in his senior campaign, so although he has all the GM Gene tools (senior, team captain, high motor), I don’t think he is the pass rusher the Jaguars are looking for. He sometimes reminded me of Derrick Harvey when watching him play his senior year. That’s about the last person you want to be compared to in the Jaguars’ draftee discussion.
- Aldon Smith (DE Missouri)
Unlike Clayborn and Locker, Aldon Smith had a tremendous 2010 campaign. Coming out of nowhere he has earned himself a potential top-20 pick in the upcoming draft – but who exactly is Aldon Smith? He is this year’s big swing-type (can play either 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB), like Jason Pierre-Paul was last year. He is very powerful, very quick, and a true pass rusher. However, he is a redshirt sophomore and is the extremely raw type of project that will take time to develop. He is a very, very risky pick and with the 16th pick and many holes left to fill on the Jaguars’ roster, I don’t know if Gene Smith is looking to take that big of a gamble.
- Akeem Ayers (LB UCLA)
Like every other part of the of the Jaguars’ defense, the linebackers also need a personnel boost. If the season started tomorrow, the starting LB’s would be Daryl Smith, Russell Allen, and Jacob Cutrera/Kyle Bosworth – so in other words we desperately need some talent from the draft, free agency, or likely both. Ayers would be an outside LB and though he’ll likely be a solid player, I still have two issues with him. One is his straight-line speed, which can be problematic against speedster RBs. Also, he would need to be an effective pass-rusher (look how much the Jags used Daryl Smith to rushing the passer last few seasons) and I’m not positive he could ever be effective at apply pressure. He is coming out as a Junior, which is a negative, but he was a team captain at UCLA. I have the impression that Ayers will not fit BAP at #16.
Grade: “With the 16th pick of the draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select…(PLEASE NOT HIM)”
- Ryan Mallett (QB Arkansas)
The strike against Mallet is the sour taste that the Jaguars’ faithful and most in the organization still have after drafting another former Arkansas quarterback selected in the 1st round, the infamous Matt Jones. Ryan Mallett has possibly the strongest arm in the draft and excels at reading defenses, but has very poor footwork (think Byron Leftwich). His intangibles and off the field demeanor are what concern me. There are some drug rumors surrounding him and many analysts think he is an extremely risky pick because of his attitude and lack of leadership. I simply don’t believe Gene Smith would have any interesting making a guy like Mallett the face of our franchise, which still has ticket issues to solve and doesn’t need any further negative PR.
- Jimmy Smith (CB Colorado)
It’s one thing to have confidence in your abilities and Jimmy Smith certainly does. Comparing himself to one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, Nnamdi Asomugha, Smith said the following, “I like the comparison, he’s a shutdown corner in the NFL. I think I have better ball skills than he does, though.” Smith has incredible size and speed for the CB position and no one doubts his talent. However, he has failed multiple drug tests, been arrested multiple times, and has a reputation for lying to his coaches. One NFL personnel man told the Miami Herald that he “would never draft” Smith, following that with, “He’s a great player. But he’s a piece of [expletive]”. No doubt, the Jaguars need to upgrade the secondary, but a personality like Smith’s is not going to contribute to team chemistry in the locker room. The only defensive back besides Patrick Peterson or Amukamara that I’d be OK with the Jags drafting in the first round would be Brandon Harris of Miami, but only if the Jags could engineer a trade-down scenario to get him.
So there’s how I evaluate the names that have been linked to the window in the first round that the Jaguars are drafting in. It’s certainly not out of the question for Gene to surprise us with another unknown player, like Tyson Alualu last year. I hope one of these players’ names (as long as it’s not Mallet or Smith) is called by Commissioner Roger Goodell at the end of this month and if we’re very lucky, the player will be from my first category.
- Zoltan Paksa