Nov. 12, 2011; Landover, MD, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver Michael Floyd (3) catches a touchdown pass in front of Maryland Terrapins defensive back Trenton Hughes (21) in the second quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

NFL Draft 2012 - Top Receivers for Jacksonville

Who Can The Jags get to help Mike Thomas? Source: Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE

The wide receiving position in Jacksonville is dismal.  It’s almost depressing to look down the roster and see who is available to catch the ball.  Here at B&T we’ve done an in depth analysis of the Jaguars’ wide receiving woes, but we’re now able to look to the future and contemplate who we should take in the draft to establish a receiving corps to rival the likes of Harrison and Wayne in Indy or Carter and Moss in Minnesota.

There are four very, very good looking prospects coming out of the combine.  Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Alshon Jeffery, and (now) Stephen Hill out of Georgia Tech.

But before we delve into who the Jags should take to focus their passing game around, we have to establish what it is that the Jaguars need.  The Jaguars really only have one good receiver on their roster, Mike Thomas.  Thomas plays best in the slot and benefits from having prototypical #1 or #2 receivers on the outside to draw coverage.  Unfortunately the Jags have yet to find a true #1 or #2 receiver to put outside.  Recent experiments have included Mike Sims-Walker (twice), Jason Hill, and Jarett Dillard.

With two open spots to fill the Jags are likely looking for a speed threat (what Hill was supposed to be) and a strong, big bodied possession receiver.  While the Jaguars will probably target one of the two in free agency, it’s helpful to look at the draft and see who the Jaguars could make off with in order to gauge what they could need best.

Which brings me to the draft scenario.  The Jaguars may be looking to trade back in the first round, or into the second round if the man they want is no longer available at seven or if they think it isn’t worth picking up the player at that point.  The only wide receiver I see worth taking at seven is Justin Blackmon.

Blackmon has been a sexy wide receiver pick since he started posting monster numbers over at Oklahoma State (read: since the dawn of time).  Blackmon benefitted from a mature quarterback in Brandon Weeden (age 28) and a passing game tailored to getting wide receivers open and swinging big.  His 38 touchdowns in the last two seasons at OSU demonstrate a nose for the endzone.  Coupled with his ability to rack up yards no matter where he catches the ball, Blackmon has been proving he’s a true #1 since he first took to the field.  However, at only 6’1″ and 215 pounds, the Jags may look for a bigger target to give Gabbert as he develops.

If Justin Blackmon is not available at seven, or if the Jaguars feel they don’t need him, look for the Jaguars to trade back in the first round.  Later in the first round, the Jags should have the ability to pick up either Michael Floyd or Alshon Jeffery.

Floyd, in my humble opinion, is the better of the two (and not because he’s from Minnesota).  Floyd is a decent 6’3″ 220 pounds and can be very dynamic on the outside.  While not as prolific at finding the endzone as Blackmon, Floyd’s four years at Notre Dame resulted in a respectable 37 touchdowns.  Most notably, he didn’t drop a pass until very late in the last season.  He has incredibly sure hands and manages to look the ball into his hands as he catches, focusing well.  I rank him higher largely because of his maturity as a receiver and his consistency in the Notre Dame offense.  His 4.47 40 times isn’t bad either.  Floyd could be an excellent possession receiver for the Jaguars.  He outplays the defender with crisp route running.

Alshon Jeffery is also a superb mid to late first round prospect.  His size is superb at 6’4″ 229 pounds.  If the Jags really need a true #1 receiver and Blackmon is off the board, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them take the Junior out of South Carolina.  Jeffery had a major decline in production in 2011 (49 receptions, down from 88 in 2010) but still appears to be a dominant force in a good system.  It didn’t help that the quarterback play in South Carolina was very poor.  Though that begs the question, if he only excels with a perfect quarterback, how will he help Gabbert?  I trust that Jeffery will be able to be a successful NFL wide receiver and will be a safe pick that could provide a stable wide receiver for the Jags.

Stephen Hill looks like he could be a legitimate speed threat coming out of the second round. Source: Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

To this point, I haven’t mentioned Kendall Wright.  Wright seems to be free-falling down draft boards, especially after running a 4.61 40 at the combine.  In contrast, Stephen Hill out of Georgia Tech is climbing rapidly due to his 4.36.  Hill is projected as a second round pick, but knowing Gene Smith he could easily be taken late in the first.  Hill is coming through the same school that produced Calvin “Megatron” Johnson.  While only catching 28 balls in 2011, Hill notched an impressive 29.3 yard average and 820 yards.  The speedster forces the defense to be wary of deep balls, ensuring that a defender has to play over the top to protect against a long pass, thereby freeing up space for Maurice Jones-Drew to run.  If the Jaguars are tired of seeing eight and nine man fronts against Pocket Hercules, expect the Jaguars to take a long look at Stephen Hill.  Being 6’5″ and 206 pounds is a knock against him as a physical presence.  Think Randy Moss.  Yeah, I didn’t think that was a bad thing either.

While I think that those four are top prospects are for the Jaguars, there are plenty of good wide receiving prospects in this draft.  I also have Nick Toon (Wisconsin) and Mohamed Sanu (Rutgers) rated pretty highly for myself and the Jags. But hey, it’s all speculation at this point.

- Luke N. Sims

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Tags: Alshon Jeffery Blaine Gabbert Calvin Johnson Cris Carter Jacksonville Jaguars Jarett Dillard Jason Hill Justin Blackmon Kendall Wright Marvin Harrison Maurice Jones-drew Michael Floyd Mike Sims-walker Mike Thomas Mohamed Sanu NFL Draft 2012 Nick Toon Randy Moss Reggie Wayne Stephen Hill

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