I wanted to do something off the beaten path today. We’ve mulled over free agents and have done several different kinds of mock drafts. Last week, Mr. Sims made a comment about just how many holes the Jaguars have in their roster. The Jaguars have only 50-something players under contract. They have only 7 draft picks. They can take 80 players to camp. Do the math. Collegiate free agency is going to play quite possibly the largest role we’ve seen in adding depth. Caldwell has even said that collegiate free agency is going to be a big factor in putting together the 2013 Jaguars. I find this fact very interesting. Even though every team in the NFL dives into collegiate free agency, immediately wanting to scoop up the best of what’s left, you don’t hear many teams that plan to use collegiate free agency as a key ingredient when building a roster.
Collegiate free agents face an uphill battle of even making a team in the first place. The odds are definitely against them, and they have to work double in order to even get noticed. The new regime has been very open about creating an atmosphere of competition. What better way to do so than getting the best college free agents after the draft and letting them fight for a spot. In order for this to happen some changes had to be made. Let’s take a quick look back shall we?
- Released WR Laurent Robinson, S Dawan Landry (signed with NYJ), CB Aaron Ross (signed with NYG), DT CJ Mosley (signed with Detroit), OT Guy Whimper
- Didn’t offer a contract to CB Rashean Mathis, OT Eben Britton, RB Rashard Jennings (Oakland Raiders), CB William Middleton, DE George Selvie (signed with Tampa), TE Zach Potter, LB Kyle Bosworth
- Let FB Greg Jones sign with Houston, DT Terrance Knighton sign with Denver, and CB Derek Cox sign with San Diego and it’s looking more and more likely LB Daryl Smith won’t be with the team
Wow look at that. The team was gutted. In return the Jaguars:
- Re-signed C Brad Meester, WR Jordan Shipley, CB Antwaun Molden
- Signed LB Geno Hayes, RB Justin Forsett, DT Roy Miller, CB/S Alan Ball, DT Sen’Derrick Marks, and WR Mohammed Massaquoi
Players that have most recently been mocked to the Jaguars at No. 2: QB Geno Smith, DE Dion Jordan, DT Shariff Floyd and LT Eric Fisher.
This roster is going to be wide open. Some UDFAs could definitely step into the mix and make things interesting come training camp. Am I saying the following players are Jags targets in collegiate free agency? No. I’m simply saying that these are some players who could go undrafted who I believe could realistically at least compete for a roster spot in camp.
- OG Manase Foketi, West Texas A&M: Foketi has a pretty interesting story. He ended his 2012 season still on the Kansas State Jayhawks roster, but played his senior season with West Texas A&M. He had some kind of hiccup trying to transfer to another division one program but hit some kind of snag in the language of Kansas State’s college handbook. Basically Foketi was injured (ACL I believe) in 2011, K-State continued to pay for his college during the season he was out. He came back, tried to transfer and was basically told “no.” You can read all about it here. Anyways Foketi has divison I talent having played tackle at K-State and needless to say he dominated at West Texas A&M. He has good measurables at 6’5, 318 lbs. and had 25 reps at the combine. If this guy is even drafted, I will be shocked. He tore his ACL, tried to transfer out of a division one program, played 2012 at a small school…but I think there’s enough there to work with, or at least see what he can do at the next level.
- LB Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech: Taylor isn’t “fluid” or “explosive”. He doesn’t have an impressive 40 time. If there’s one thing I like about Taylor, it’s his ability as a tackler. It sounds silly, but how many times did you see our LBs miss tackles last year? I wouldn’t necessarily say that Taylor is a “tackling machine”, but he’s a physical and willing run defender.
- CB Demetrius McCray, Appalchian State: He fits the “mold” standing at 6’1″. He’s a tall corner who led the Southern conference in interceptions in 2011 and 2012. He runs a 4.46 which is respectable.
- SS Keelan Johnson, Arizona State:Another guy you won’t hear very much about, but he’s the type of player that can do several different things OK. He was used mainly in two deep coverage. He’s not really fluid in covering man to man, but he has done it before. He’s actually pretty good against the run though, and he played disciplined, assignment sound football at Arizona State.
- TE Joseph Fauria, UCLA: Fauria is 6’8″ and weighs 259 lbs and runs a 4.77 40 which isn’t overly impressive, but good for a guy his size. Obviously with measurables like that, it automatically makes one think of how valuable a player like him could be in the passing game, especially in the red zone. He had 6 TDs last year and could definitely create mismatches at the next level if he refines his skills a bit. I’m not sure if this one will go undrafted, but if he does I think he’d be worth taking a flier on. As of now we only have TE Mercedes Lewis, a few guys signed either during the 2012 season or after, and 2012 UDFA Matt Veldman. I think Fauria has a bit of upside to him as a pass catching TE.
I want to be clear. These are not sleepers. There’s a very, very good chance none of these guys will do anything at the next level. However, guys like these are important to a team because they provide competition.
Please keep in mind, these players are not starters. I’m not proclaiming that Joseph Fauria could take Mercedes Lewis’ job. He could beat out Veldman, Brackett, Stanback and Reisner though for the back up position, and maybe develop into something more down the road. Did you know who any of those guys I just named are? I know Veldman was with the team in 2012 training camp before going down for the year in preseason, but he showed promise. I know Isaiah Stanback played quarterback in college at Washington before being drafted in the 4th round by Dallas in 2007. He’s bounced around the league since then. I know Brackett has gone to camp with Jacksonville a few times, and I’m not even familiar with Reisner. There’s room for competition after Lewis.
In the past I’ve felt like our UDFA signings were aimless and without direction. I’m very much looking forward to not only the draft, but collegiate free agency as well. I’m confident there is a plan in place so keep an eye out for who Caldwell signs post draft.
-David R. Johns