The Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2013 draft was a beautifully executed performance centered around a focused plan of action.
In recent years the Jaguars drafted based on trying to fill all holes left after free agency. The problem with using this strategy is if you have 6 draft picks to fill 6 needs, you live and die with individual success. If the 5th round defensive tackle doesn’t work out, the position as a whole fails. They were singularly necessary for carrying a portion of the entire defense’s success.
The Jaguars’ new leadership, headed by David Caldwell and Gus Bradley, realized that the team had major needs, quantified those needs, and attacked only the most pertinent needs. By drafting another dominating offensive tackle in Luke Joeckel, and multiple strong safeties, cornerbacks, and speedster offensive weapons, the success of a position is now based on depth and competition instead of cross your fingers and hope.
The best part of the Jaguars’ 2013 draft, however, is the genius behind the holes they chose to fill. Caldwell and Bradley took an overview of the team and addressed the Jags pass rush in the best way possible: not drafting a pass rush. Bradley knows that part of what makes a pass rush effective is the initial coverage by the secondary. A physical, aggressive secondary can help a defensive end get to the quarterback more than a great rusher with a swiss cheese secondary. Our DBs were atrocious (Aaron Ross), old (Rashean Mathis), and injury-prone (Derek Cox). There is still potential up front with Andre Branch and Jason Babin to increase production, especially with an improved secondary helping them out.
The offense was addressed equally as graciously by Caldwell. Instead of stubbornly restructuring the offense in one draft, the offensive picks were ones that integrate with the major returning pieces. They found ways to create a harmonious environment for the offense. Instead of replacing Blaine Gabbert/Chad Henne, they decided to protect them and add unique weapons. Instead of finding a cheaper, younger replacement for Maurice Jones-Drew, they added a non-threatening change of pace component to the running game.
The Jaguars seem to be in a very Zen state right now. Everyone is smiling, no toes or egos were stepped on, and the team got better, plain and simple. It will take time to decide if this class is good, but for now the once forced optimism surrounding the Jaguars has turned into relaxed confidence. The Jaguars are still not a good team, but the franchise is now certainly in good hands.
– Lionel Joel