In the fifth of a series of off season articles going over the nineteen NFL drafts performed in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ history, we will continue with 1997. We have previously examined:
The Jaguars improved to 9-6 in their second season, clinching the #5 seed in the playoffs. They then proceeded to beat both Buffalo and Denver on the road before finally losing to New England in the Championship Game. It was a truly amazing and unanticipated season. This earned them the overall 21st pick in the 1997 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 Huey Lewis famously sang…”We gonna go Back in Time!!!”
Round One/Pick #21 – Renaldo Wynn, DE, Notre Dame – Renaldo was a serviceable player. He played for the Jags for five years. Played multiple positions. Was named to the Pro Football Weekly’s All-Rookie team his rookie year. He played overall 13 seasons in the NFL. In those 13 years though, he only accumulated 27 QB sacks. That is barely over two a year. Because of that, this pick would have to be marked as a HUGE disappointment. Would I have picked differently? - I’d have to say yes. Three picks after us, the Steelers took CB Chad Scott, who went on to play 11 years. He finished his career with 297 tackles and 21 INTs, with 4 of them returned for TDs. That would have been a nice pick. (interesting note – In the first round of the 1997 draft there were 10 eventual All-Pro players selected, including Hall of Fame inductee Walter Jones, soon to be inductees Orlando Pace and Tony Gonzalez. Even Warrick Dunn has HOF potential. Good Year!) (Disgusting fact – With the 27th pick, the Panthers selected WR Rae Carruth, who still resides in jail after being convicted in 2001 of conspiracy to commit murder in the killing of his pregnant girlfriend in a drive-by shooting. May he rot in hell.)
Round Two/Pick #50 - Mike Logan, CB, West Virginia – Second year in a row the Jags selected a CB out of West Virginia, But Logan wasn’t as successful as Aaron Beasley. Constantly injured, Logan missed 21 games in the four years he was with the Jags. While in Jacksonville, he posted 80 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INTs, and 12 passes defended. Not really getting your second round pick’s worth. He had more success after leaving Jacksonville and going to the dreaded Steelers, where he earned a Super Bowl ring for the 2005 season. Would I have picked differently? – Again there is no question. Ten picks after the Jags, the Packers selected Darren Sharper, an outstanding safety who played 14 years in the league. He was voted All-Pro five times and was voted to the All-Decade team for the 2000′s. Pretty impressive. (Slightly interesting – Marcellus Wiley, who was selected two picks after Logan, would go on to have a mildly successful career that included a Pro Bowl selection in 2001. He eventually signed as a free agent with the Jags in 2005 and played two seasons before retiring.)
Round Three/Pick #79 – James Hamilton, LB, North Carolina – WHO?!?! Two seasons. 16 games played. SEVEN TACKLES! one sack! one forced fumble. TAKEN IN THE THIRD ROUND!!! Would I have picked differently? – damn right! If the Jags wanted a LB here, they could have selected the next one taken. Bertrand Berry was selected seven picks after Hamilton and had a wonderful career, even with a one year stint in the CFL in 2000. He finished his career with 232 tackles and 65 sacks. Quite an upgrade he would have been. (Other Oddity – Bob “The Beast” Sapp was selected 69th by the Bears. After two years and one game played, his career was over. Thank goodness he had wrestling, kick-boxing, and scting to fall back on!)
Round Four/Pick #114 – Seth Payne, DT, Cornell – Another serviceable but underwhelming player for a fourth round pick. Struggled with injures in his first two years, he surprised with three 16 game seasons. While with the Jags, he put up 136 tackles and 8.5 sacks. Known more for being one of the three players taken from the Jags by the Texans in the 2002 Expansion Draft. Along with Tony Boselli and Gary Walker, they went to Houston and the Jags were saved from salary cap hell. Seth ended up returning to the Jags in 2007 but was cut before the season started. Would I have picked differently? – I would have thought so, but after looking at the picks made after Payne, there was no one who really stood as a marked improvement. Will stick with the Payne.
Round Five/Pick #147 – Damon Jones, TE, Southern Illinois – Jones played five years for the Jags before injuries ended his career prematurely. Missed 30 games in those five years. Stats are interesting though. Only caught 41 passes for 550 yards. But 34 of those catches resulted in first downs and 11 went for TDs. This is a player who obviously was very talented yet had a body that sabotaged his career. Would I have picked differently? – At pick #169, the Buccaneers selected CB Al Harris who went on to post 468 tackles, 21 INTs, and two Pro Bowl appearances. Though I was a fan, I would probably have to go with Harris. (Fact – One of the few Jags who had a truly original nickname…”The Big Sofa.”)
Round Six/Pick #184 - Daimon Shelton, RB, Sacramento State – Man…We are in an “Obscure Small College” run at this point. A fullback that played four years for the Jags and went on to have an 11 year NFL career. Scored one TD in his Jag tenure. Might be what you’d expect with a sixth round pick. Would I have picked differently? – Yes I would. Grady Jackson, who eventually came to Jacksonville as a free agent during the 2007 season, has had one hell of a career for a sixth rounder. Standing 6-2 and weighing 345 pounds, Jackson is just a mountain of a man. He retired in 2010 with 359 tackles and 35.5 sacks. Would have been nice to have had him in his prime!
Round Seven/Pick #221 - Jon Hesse, LB, Nebraska – Typical seventh rounder. Never saw the field. Practice team member. Snatched by the Broncos midway through the season. So even though Hesse never saw one snap in 1997, he got a Super Bowl ring. Life ain’t fair sometimes! Would I have picked differently? – Yeah…Definitely. DT Jason Ferguson was selected eight picks after the Jags and though he didn’t stand out, he got the job done. He played 13 seasons, with 325 tackles and 21.5 sacks. That would have worked.
Undrafted Free Agents of Note:
Al Wallace, DE, Maryland – Didn’t turn heads in training camp and never made the 53 man roster. Went on to have an 8 yr career, 159 tackles, 6 forced fumbles, 5 fumbles recovered, 4 INTs, 13 passes defended, and 23 sacks. Hmm…Maybe we should have kept him!
Todd Fordham, OT, FSU – A very versatile player we were lucky to find. Played for the Jags for six seasons, filling in for injured tackles and guards his first couple of years. Earned some outright starts later in his career.
1997 Draft Summary and Grade – Round 1 (C-) / Round 2 (D) / Round 3 (F) / Round 4 (B) / Round 5 (B-) / Round 6 (C) / Round 7 (F) / UFA’s (D). Totaling their entire draft, the Jaguars’ 1997 NFL draft scored a (D+). That score is poor. Considering the Jags were moving into a period of successive playoff appearances, it’s obvious we were having more success bringing in free agents because we sure weren’t building towards the future with this draft class. I’ll be back soon with the 1998 draft. See ya then.
Hi…I’m Michael Mcdonald.
Write me on Twitter @gumbussy.