The narrative of the pre-draft offseason has a certain ebb-and-flow. Players rise and fall due to college all-star games, the combine, pro days, and further tape evaluation (versus the pure speculation that often occurs early in the pre-draft process). These could be called the “skills” factors that change a player’s draft stock. Along with these factors, however, are “intangibles” factors that become elucidated from a player’s comments while meeting with teams and the media, as well as reports from said player’s coaches. Furthermore “intelligence” factors (or “stupidity” factors) play a role in a player’s draft stock – for example when a player gets arrested during the pre-draft process or when he shows up to the combine looking like this. In the midst of the sexy 40 times and glowing pro-day reports however, some players fall for little-to-no reason at all. Amongst all the hype, the lack of hype or slightly negative news often makes these players an afterthought – until the draft comes around. These are the players I’m going to take a look at today – players who could be Jaguars, but aren’t being discussed as so.
The first of the potential Jaguars is a player who was once at the top of draftnik big boards and was often mocked to the Jaguars before the college season ended. Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB from Georgia was a player who went from top-5 lock to mid-first round player almost overnight. Somebody was doing some PR sabotage on Jones, because his medical history of “spinal stenosis” and his decision to skip the combine were seemingly publicized simultaneously. While spinal stenosis is nothing to sneeze out, there’s been little reported on what the USC doctors actually said about Jones’s back. You can be sure that NFL teams are getting access to those reports, if Jones truly believes he has nothing to hide. The counteracting positive PR spin on this from Jones’s camp cites Dr. Craig Brigham as saying that Jones’s completely cleared medically to play football, but the damage has been done – at least in terms of Jones’s mock draft status. He’s not my favorite player in this draft, but he’s got the production, demeanor, and athleticism to be the number two pick in this draft, especially when you look at the way the Jaguars’ defense is headed. The LEO position, in Seattle at least, has excelled using undersized 3-4/4-3 hybrid ends, and there is nobody that fits that position best and has the production to match it as Jarvis Jones. However, if there does turn out to be disconcerting news about Jones’s neck, Jones obviously won’t be the pick at number two, and will slide to the late first or early second round. Remember, Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski and San Diego LT Marcus McNeill were both arguable first round talents that got taken in the second round after being unofficially and officially diagnosed with spinal stenosis. The same condition actually forced McNeill’s early retirement (he was 29 years old) from the NFL last year, despite not affecting him almost at all early in his career. Jones is a wildcard all throughout the first round, and he’s a guy that could be in the conversation for the Jaguars’ #2 pick or their #33 pick.
The other potential Jaguar that isn’t getting any mock-draft love right now is also dropping because of a medical condition – Star Lotulelei. The discovery and “diagnosis” of Lotulelei’s heart problem was even more nebulous than the appearance of Jones’s medical condition but, unlike Jones’s, Lotulelei’s actually occurred during the pre-draft process and forced him to miss the combine. It’s unclear whether Lotulelei actually has a heart condition or whether training/dieting/other factors caused him to have an abnormal test result, which prompted further evaluation. Regardless, Lotulelei has been cleared by medical personnel to participate in a full pro-day workout this Wednesday and was cleared to return to practice over three weeks ago, just after the NFL Combine. Lotulelei’s Pro Day will be a hot topic this week, and it’s likely that his narrative will take a turn for the positive this week and push his draft stock back into the top 10 range.
Lastly, here are some guys who I think you’ll hear more and more about as potential Jaguar fits in the coming weeks.
Eric Fisher, LT
Fansided’s latest mock had the Jags taking Fisher, and why not? If you’d consider Joeckel at #2 and if Fisher is what everyone says he is, he has to be considered there too. During the Senior Bowl, the rave reviews of Fisher put him at the top of my Round 2 wish list. Right now, he might not even be available to the Jags in round 1. You’ve heard the arguments against Fisher earlier this week, but I think if he’s the top player rated on your board, you take him. Eugene Monroe is under contract for only one more year, and if he has a bad season – or such a good season that he commands top dollar – he will put the Jaguars in a predicament at one of the most important positions in football.
Dee Milliner, CB
Milliner is a polarizing player in somewhat of a non-traditional sense. He’s a fairly complete prospect without huge holes in his game, but people are highly divided over whether he deserves to be a top 5 pick – despite the fact that he plays a high value position. While I understand that he may not be as polished or have as much potential as other top 5 CBs (e.g. Patrick Patterson), the whole top of the draft is less talented than usual – meaning that all top prospects may not be as polished or complete as in previous years, which should even out the playing field. If you think Milliner can be a legitimate #1 cornerback (e.g. Joe Haden), he’s worth the pick at 2. I think what actually depresses his value in this draft is the number of legitimate big, physical corners this draft has to offer – Xavier Rhodes, Desmond Trufant, Johnthan Banks, David Amerson, etc. The Jaguars have the ability to pick at a different position and still potentially snag a quality #1 cornerback at 33 if they choose to go that route.
Chance Warmack, OG
Warmack is much-beloved by a few writers here on Black & Teal, and trading back to around pick 10 to snag Warmack and some extra picks/ammunition would be pretty enticing for Caldwell and the Jaguars I’d imagine. But despite the sub-par offensive line play last year and the relative lack of depth at guard, I don’t think the Jaguars will consider Warmack at 2. I’m as strong a believer as any that positional value is overvalued in the NFL draft, but drafting in the top 5 gives a team the ability to acquire elite, cheap talent at football’s most valuable positions, and you simply can’t pass that up. Some may argue against this position, but let me tell you why you can’t pass that up – because if you don’t get those players in the draft, you’ll never get the chance to get them. Look at the top quarterbacks in the league – Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, etc. Unless a quarterback is 6’0, was underperforming, and just had shoulder surgery, you’re not going to get a chance to nab one in free agency. Are you really going to wait for the top quarterback in the league to have four neck surgeries and then get released by the team he was drafted by? With few exceptions, good quarterbacks don’t hit free agency and aren’t readily available for trade. This continues to be true for the other elite positions – left tackle and defensive end, primarily, and these positions are traditionally highly overpaid if a decent one hits free agency. On the flip side, great guards hit free agency all the time – you don’t even have to give up draft picks to trade for them. You may have to overpay some, but you do it to snag a top-5 guard in the league – a Steve Hutchinson or a Carl Nicks. Although I do think that the importance of the guard position is rising due to the rising value of defensive tackles and their increasing pass-rush abilities, I don’t think it’s risen so much that Warmack will be considered at two. On the other hand…
Geno Smith, QB
– Zain Gowani