The Jaguars ended up going 4-12 in their first season. This earned them the overall 2nd pick in the 1996 Draft. I will go over each pick and say something concerning the player if deserving. I will also bring up any missed opportunity where the Jags, with hindsight on my side, could have made a better selection. I’ll also bring up anything interesting related to the draft…Jaguar or not. As Michael Buffer famously says…”LEEEET’s Get Ready to RU…(I’ll stop before I get sued!!)”
Round One/Pick #2 – Kevin Hardy, LB, Illinois – After the Jets took WR Keyshawn Johnson, which coach Tom Coughlin later admitted took a lot of media pressure off the Jaguars, They took the 1995 Dick Butkus Award winner Hardy, given every year to the best linebacker in college football. Hardy stepped in at outside LB and played fantastic. He helped lead us to our first playoffs and was voted to the All Rookie team. His career with the Jags peaked during our 14 win season in 1999. He had 153 tackles and 10.5 sacks. He was finally voted to his first Pro Bowl and was chosen for the All Pro team. He was injured during the 2001 season and never returned to the field as a Jaguar. I still thing Hardy easily goes down as one of the Jags best first round picks. Would I have picked differently? – Can’t say I would. His college teammate Simeon Rice was selected with the next pick and had a great career and was one of the better pass rushers of all time. He also was a contract malcontent who put his teams through two long holdouts. I’ll stick with Hardy. (Additional info) Number four pick was 2013 Hall of Fame inductee Jonathan Ogden, but we already had Tony Boselli, so I won’t count that as a missed opportunity.
Round Two/Pick #33 - Tony Brackens, DE, Texas – Another outstanding pick. 2nd round pick = 1st round talent. To get his story, feel free to read part five of my “Know Your Jaguars” series which focuses on Mr. Brackens. Would I have picked differently? - Absolutely not. The Jags needed a pass rushing DE. The next four DEs selected combined to have 26 less sacks then Tony.
Round Two/Pick #60 – Michael Cheever, C, Georgia Tech – Physical playing center who came in and really made a name for himself. Surprising popular for a offensive lineman. Unfortunately had severe back issues that forced his premature retirement 1998. It was too bad because he was a player that brought attitude to the Jags. Would I have picked differently? - Because injury shortened Cheever’s career and potential, I would have to take the next player taken, FS Brian Dawkins. He went on to have a Pro Bowl caliber career for the Eagles.
Round Three/Pick #63 - Aaron Beasley, CB, West Virginia – A fan favorite, Aaron was a consensus All-American in college and continued his brilliance in the pros. Beasley played six seasons for the Jags. 271 tackles with 7.5 sacks. 7 forced fumbles with 3 recovered. 15 interceptions and 75 passes defended. His best year was 1999 when he had 64 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 21 passes defended, and 6 interceptions. He returned two of them for touchdowns. You always knew when Aaron made a play because the stadium announcer would say “Tackle made by Aaron…” and the stadium would yell “BEEEEEASLEY!!!!” It was pretty cool. Would I have picked differently? - Probably not. DE Brady Smith, picked 7 picks later, had a good career but we had taken Brackens already. CB Donnie Abraham was taken next, but had a similar career to Beasley. Tedy Bruschi was taken 86th but we already took Hardy. Thank God we didn’t take #89 Terrell Owens…Great WR, Terrible Headache!!!
Round Four/Pick #110 – Reggie Barlow, WR, Alabama State – First misstep of the draft. A very talented special teams member but a very poor WR. Actually managed to get invited to the Pro Bowl one year but never lived up to a fourth round pick. Another player that left us and managed to win a Super Bowl (Tampa Bay 2002). Would I have picked differently? - Yes. Joe Horn was selected 25 picks later. Also kind of a head case but he was a great WR. That truly is about it so I can’t get too down on the selection.
Round Five/Pick #146 – Jimmy Heardon, OG, Houston – Misstep #2. Huge mistake. Never saw the field for the Jags. Went on to play eight seasons all together so maybe it was us. Would I have picked differently? - Damn Skippy!! I know we had taken Kevin Hardy in the 1st, but how nice would it have been to have Zach Thomas, selected eight picks later. We would have been set at LB for a while!
Round Six/Pick #170 – John Fisher, DB, Missouri Western – Man…The Jags drafted REALLY bad after the 3rd round in the last two years. Fisher never saw played a down. Nothing to talk about…let’s more on. Would I have picked differently? - I sincerely hope so! The player is underwhelming but still better than Fisher. I’d pick Anthony Dorsett, safety (#177), who played nine seasons to mild success.
Round Six/Pick #185 - Chris Doering, WR, Florida – Looked at as a throw away pick to please the Jag fans who are also Gator fans, the team actually traded Doering away before the season began. Chris had an unusual career. Managed to last 11 years in the NFL, yet finished with 42 catches for 472 yds and three touchdowns. FOR A CAREER!! That’s straight out STEALING!! Would I have picked differently? - ummmm YEAH!! – I’d take Marco Rivera, a 2 time All Pro, 3 time Pro Bowler, and Super Bowl Champion offensive guard.
Round Seven/Pick #227 & #228 – Clarence Jones, WR, Tennessee St. & Gregory Spann, WR, Jackson St. – WHAT THE HELL!!! Two players, both WRs, picked back to back, neither played one down of professional football. Moving on. Would I have picked differently? - Does that really need to be asked? Ethan Brooks, OT (#229 Played 11 yrs)/Jeff Smith, C-G Hybrid (#241 Played 7 yrs)/Carlos Emmons, LB (#242 Played 11 yrs)/Jay Riemersma, TE (#244 Played 9 yrs)…I could go on by I’m getting nauseous!
Unlike the previous year, it doesn’t appear the Jags even picked up any significant undrafted free agents. Less said the better.
1996 Draft Summary and Grade – Round 1 (A+) / Round 2 (A+) / Round 3 (B+) / Round 4 (C-) / Round 5-7 (F) / UFA’s (F). Totaling their entire draft, the Jaguars’ 1996 NFL draft scored a (C-). That score is incredibly disappointing when you consider they drafted one of the best linebackers of his era, the best defensive ends in Jags history, and one of the three best cornerbacks in their history. But rounds four through seven, along with no UFAs that stuck, makes for a pretty miserable draft. Two NFL drafts…both VERY top heavy and bordering on embarrassing on the later rounds. I hope 1997 gets better because I’m losing faith! See ya then.
Thanks for the hang…I’m Michael McDonald
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