Three years is usually a sufficient amount of time to evaluate the impact and success of an NFL Draft class, so people are now starting to go back to see how the 2011 crop turned out. Former general manager Gene Smith made numerous terrible decisions and systematically made the Jacksonville Jaguars the worst team in the league during his tenure, and the 2011 draft is probably exhibit A.
As a result of his penchant for trading up, Smith only managed to acquire 5 players in the 2011 draft. The number of players seemed irrelevant at the time, because Smith had supposedly found the team’s franchise quarterback. In retrospect, Smith probably had one of the worst drafts in the history of the entire franchise. In his 2011 draft re-grade, NFL.com analysts Bucky Brooks agrees, as he gave the Jaguars a D.
Whenever a team misses badly on a quarterback at the top of the board, it has long-lasting effects on the organization. For the Jaguars, the strikeout proved costly, with GM Gene Smith and a pair of head coaches (Jack Del Rio and Mike Mularkey) losing their jobs largely due to the failures under center. Although the 2011 class produced a few hidden gems in Cecil Shorts and Will Rackley, the Jaguars didn’t land enough impact players to compete consistently in the AFC South.
Bucky Brooks is being quite generous labeling Will Rackley as a “hidden gem” considering he was probably the worst interior offensive lineman in the NFL last year, but he is right about Cecil Shorts. Unfortunately Shorts can’t salvage essentially a total waste of a draft class. Blaine Gabbert effectively represented the 1st and 2nd round picks, Rackley was a 3rd rounder, Chris Prosinski was a 4th rounder, and Rod Isaac was a 5th rounder. That’s it – 5 players and only one has made a noticeable positive contribution to this franchise. Shorts has a chance to be really good, but the 2011 draft will always be headlined by the epic failure that is Blaine Gabbert.
– Daniel Lago