The Jacksonville Jaguars went into full rebuild mode after firing the head coach and general manager at the end of the 2012 season. Newly hired GM David Caldwell was put in a tough spot, trying to fix what was arguably one of the least talented rosters in NFL history and his primary weapon was an underwhelming crop of players that entered the 2013 NFL Draft.
Caldwell’s first draft class has been below average to be polite, but his 2 subsequent drafts have been stellar.
After finding his franchise quarterback in Blake Bortles and several young pieces to place around him in the 2014 draft, Caldwell went into the 2015 NFL draft with plenty of options. As most expected, the GM went defense with the first pick, taking the consensus top edge rusher in Dante Fowler Jr.. Unfortunately, Fowler tore his ACL in the first practice of rookie minicamp, neutering the Jacksonville pass rush for the entire season and putting undue pressure on on the rest of the draft class.
Despite the setback, it’s hard not to feel good about the rest of the draft class when reevaluating the 2015 season.
Daniel Jeremiah, former scout and now a media analyst over at NFL.com, ranked the Jaguars draft class #7 among all the classes in the NFL.
"7. Jacksonville Jaguars: T.J. Yeldon and A.J. Cann emerged as solid starters this season. Rashad Greene made a big impact on special teams."
Jeremiah has the draft classes with the top quarterbacks ranked higher (understandably so), but the Jaguars appear to have the least obvious “misses” of all the draft classes. Throwing out the 7th round picks, all of the Jaguars first 6 picks contributed or have the potential to contribute in a big way moving forward.
T.J. Yeldon might never lead the league in rushing, but he’s a dual-threat, three-down back in the mold of Matt Forte and should be the primary ball carrier for years to come. A.J. Cann is going to be a staple in the interior of the offensive line, whether it’s at guard or center. Rashad Greene is already a top-tier punt returner and should develop into a solid slot receiver.
James Sample didn’t get a lot of chances before going on injured reserve, but he’s going to get a legitimate shot at one of the safety spots in 2016. The same goes for Michael Bennett who saw more playing time towards the end of the year and looks like a decent rotational 3-technique.
Let’s hope Caldwell has similar success heading into the 2016 NFL Draft.