The 2015 NFL Draft is under wraps and the Jacksonville Jaguars have 8 new players to show for it. Unfortunately, first round pick Dante Fowler Jr. will be sitting out the 2015 season with an unfortunate knee injury sustained during rookie mini-camp, but the Jaguars still have 7 new players who could contribute in 2015.
Over the past 2 seasons, draft selections came in with an almost guaranteed roster spot. In fact, most draft picks in 2013 and 2014 had a clear path to the starting job. Thanks to sound drafting and quality free agent acquisitions, general manager David Caldwell finally has the roster in a respectable enough state that rookies need to come in and actually earn roster spots.
Consequently, in this series we’ll analyze each draft selection and see how the positional depth chart shakes out with their addition.
After looking at second round pick T.J. Yeldon, third round guard A.J. Cann, 4th round safety James Sample, 5th round pick Rashad Greene, and 6th round pick Michael Bennett, let’s turn our attention now to our two seventh round picks – tight ends Neal Sterling and Ben Koyack.
The Jacksonville Jaguars biggest acquisition this offseason was former Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas. Brought in to be the dynamic pass-catching tight end this team has needed for the last decade or so, Thomas should get a heavy workload right away for the Jaguars. The same goes for Marcedes Lewis, the veteran tight end who is by far the best blocking tight end currently on the roster.
The Jaguars decided to invest a couple of developmental picks in the seventh round on two very different tight end prospects in Neal Sterling and Ben Koyack. So where do they fit? Here’s the depth chart from 2014 along with stats and grades from Pro Football Focus.
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Sep 14, 2014; Landover, MD, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis (89) stands on the field during warm ups prior to the Jaguars game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Clearly, Julius Thomas is going to be the go-to guy on offense for Blake Bortles. He was given a massive contract this offseason to add a playmaking element to the passing game and he should be on the field more often than not. What the Jaguars do with Marcedes Lewis should be a little more interesting. He’ll definitely be on the field during two tight end sets, but will the Jaguars use him exclusively on running plays? Lewis has seen his blocking prowess deteriorate in the last few years, but he’s still the best option on the roster for that particular job.
Clay Harbor is the odd man out here, as he shouldn’t see the field too much unless there is an injury to Julius Thomas. Harbor showed some ability in the passing game, but he’s not a lock to make the roster.
The rookies don’t really have a defined role right now, as there just aren’t enough snaps to go around. The two prospects provide vastly different skillsets, as Koyack is a more traditional inline blocking tight end, and Sterling is essentially a really big wide receiver.
For now, I expect Koyack to be kept on as the 4th tight end to block on big offensive sets, while Sterling is relegated to the practice squad as a “jar on the shelf.”
2015 Tight End depth chart
- Julius Thomas
- Marcedes Lewis
- Clay Harbor
- Ben Koyack
- Neal Sterling (Practice Squad)
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