Jaguars Found Great Value in 2014 NFL Draft


Most teams don’t expect their rookies to contribute very much, especially the players selected after the first and second rounds. The Jacksonville Jaguars were a completely different case study heading into the 2014 season, as a dearth of talent throughout the roster forced mid-to-late round rookies into prominent roles early in the season.

The Jaguars scraped together a 3-13 season in 2014, but it’s hard to deem their entire campaign a failure when they seem to have found a handful of gems in the draft.

Chris Tripodi over at Draft Insider recently put together a list of the top 10 values from the 2014 NFL Draft, and the Jaguars made 2 appearances thanks to Brandon Linder and Telvin Smith.

"3. Brandon Linder (OG-Jac, Round 3, Pick 93)Another first-year offensive lineman that started all 16 games in 2014, Linder had his share of his early struggles, much like Linsley. From Week 3 on, however, Linder was rated as Pro Football Focus’ sixth-best guard and did an excellent job opening running lanes on the inside and protecting fellow rookie QB Blake Bortles.Linder’s best attribute coming out of Miami was his size and strength at 6-5, 311 pounds. Despite showing limited range and heavy feet while with the Hurricanes, Linder proved to be effective on screens this season when given the opportunity to pull into space. His active hands made him very effective against both the pass and the run.While many starting lineman have been drafted in the late third-round range, Linder’s immediate impact along the Jaguars’ offensive line will continue to be felt heading into the 2015 season. Jacksonville’s guard tandem of Linder and Zane Beadles should remain intact for years to come, but the Jags still need help at both tackle spots and center if they hope for Bortles to take the next step. Hitting like this on another third-round pick would go a long way towards that goal.10. Telvin Smith (LB-Jac, Round 5, Pick 144)Coming out of Florida State, there were some who questioned whether Smith should move to safety due to his size, as he weighed in around 220 pounds at the NFL combine. His talent was that of a top-100 player, but those questions dropped him into the fifth round, where Jacksonville was more than happy to draft one of the most talented players available at that spot.Smith was used mostly in a situation role for the season’s first 10 weeks, and put together a monster performance against the Browns in Week 7, excelling both as a pass rusher and in coverage. Smith had a strip-sack and an interception of Brian Hoyer, while using his 4.5 speed to chase down multiple running players and getting impressive depth to break up numerous passes in coverage.The first-year linebacker wasn’t officially inserted into the starting lineup until after Jacksonville’s Week 11 bye, and while the big plays disappeared in a full-time role, Smith flashed a great deal of difference-making potential in 2014. Whether he’s better off as a starter or playing mainly in sub-packages, there is an NFL role for Smith and he has the talent to make a greater impact than most fifth-rounders, even if he’s relegated to part-time status."

We’ve raved plenty about these two players on the site, but it’s nice to see them getting recognition from other outlets outside of Jacksonville. Linder was easily the Jaguars best offensive lineman this past year, and he looks like a guy who could develop into a perennial pro bowler. The same goes for Telvin Smith, who looked like the biggest playmaker on defense in spurts during the 2014 season. His speed is something the Jaguars have never had at linebacker, and he will be a lethal 3-down linebacker once he puts on a little more weight.

General manager David Caldwell had a mammoth task when he took over 2 years ago, but this franchise will be in good shape if he keeps selecting contributors like Linder and Smith in the late rounds of future drafts.