As of now Jadaveon Clowney is the top overall prospect in 2014. He’s been mocked to Jacksonville early on, but as draft season has progressed, and especially after his pro day, Clowney is widely considered to be the first player take on May 8th.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if he slides to Jacksonville at three, I have no doubt Jacksonville would take him. However, it’s looking more and more likely he won’t be there when Jacksonville makes their first pick.
Naturally, in most mocks I’ve seen, if Clowney is gone (which is a huge possibility) most analysts have the Jags going with one of the top three quarterbacks. Yes it’s possible that Jacksonville could select either Bridgewater, Manziel or Bortles, but they would have to genuinely be the highest ranked player on their board. I highly doubt Jacksonville would take one of these rookie signal callers just because they “need” a QB. Do the Jaguars even feel they need a new quarterback after re-signing Chad Henne as they stated a few months back? Did that statement hold any weight in the first place?
What I’m getting at is that there is a good a chance Clowney won’t be there when the Jaguars are on the clock. There is also a good chance the top three QBs will not be the highest ranked players on their board. In this situation, it’s only natural to clamor and campaign for trading back for more picks, but the problem with that is finding a dance partner. So let’s just say the Jaguars don’t trade back, and are forced to follow their board and pick the best available player.
So what are their options? I’ve only got four players I could justify taking with the third overall pick if Clowney and Bridgewater are gone.
It’s no secret that Dave Caldwell believes in improving the offensive line. He made Luke Joeckel the second overall pick last year, signed Zane Beadles in free agency this year, and most recently signed Alex Mack to an offer sheet that the Browns matched only three hours later, making Mack the highest paid center in the league and keeping him in Cleveland.
The fan base would cringe. The experts would have a field day. The haters would hate and Jacksonville might as well just go ahead and move to London, but what if either Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews were the highest ranked players on Jacksonville’s board? It sounds ridiculous, but it’s really not completely out of the realm of possibility. Chad Henne is a statue. The offensive line play was terrible last year, and yeah Austin Pazstor was just re-signed, but between the three would you really march out Pazstor over Robinson or Matthews?
I’d take Matthews if things happened to roll out this way. Yes, Robinson has a much higher ceiling, but Robinson is much more efficient in the run game than pass pro. As an offensive tackle, I’ll take the guy who is more pro ready in pass protection, and that guy is Jake Matthews. He is considered as much a safe pick as there can be…if there is such a thing. He played with Joeckel in college, and the two would form one of the most formidable offensive tackle tandems in the NFL.
What if neither Matthews nor Robinson are in consideration in the Jaguars war room? Who else could be in play at three? I wouldn’t mind seeing wide receiver Sammy Watkins or Buffalo defensive end Khalil Mack.
The Jaguars are once again wide receiver deficient. Cecil Shorts III is a solid second receiver and Ace Sanders has a bright future, but the Jaguars roster does not have a player like Sammy Watkins. He has that height/weight/speed combination that NFL teams go bananas for, and he would give Henne a receiver who can take over games. Watkins would become a weapon for an offense that currently has none.
Nov 29, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Bulls linebacker Khalil Mack (46) after a game against the Bowling Green Falcons at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bowling Green beat Buffalo 24 to 7. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Khalil Mack has shown that he’s every bit as athletic as Jadaveon Clowney, is more scheme versatile, and he doesn’t have all the character concerns that Clowney does, even though I’m skeptical of those in the first place. With all the free agent additions Jacksonville has made along the defensive line like former Seattle defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, DT Ziggy Hood and re-signing Jason Babin, it couldn’t be any clearer that the defensive line is of the utmost importance. Mack can play the run just as well as he can rush the passer. He can rush from the three tech. He can even play some outside backer.
What all of this boils down to is how Caldwell values each player in relation to his position. If Jacksonville is stuck at three and if Clowney is gone and if they don’t like any of the big three QBs, will Jacksonville go best available?
How would you feel about getting Robinson, Matthews, Watkins or Mack if any of the top three quarterbacks were still in play?
-David R. Johns