Jacksonville Jaguars: The worst draft mistake of all time

Will the Jacksonville Jaguars ever recover from not selecting J.J. Watt instead of Blaine Gabbert in the 2011 NFL Draft?

When you look at the Jacksonville Jaguars draft classes over the years, you might find yourself asking the same question over and over again.

Some draft picks were slam dunks. Tony Boselli in 1995. Fred Taylor and Donovin Darius in 1998. Jalen Ramsey, Josh Allen – they fit that category as well.

And then, there are some that remain head-scratchers. Reggie Williams and Matt Jones in consecutive seasons. Blake Bortles over Khalil Mack. Even the Leonard Fournette pick in 2017 gets plenty of attention with Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes on the board.

Every team has a “Why them” pick. The Jacksonville Jaguars seem to have more of them and more often than any other NFL organization.

When discussing the worst draft pick of all time for this organization, there really is no comparison. In 2011, the Jacksonville Jaguars wanted a quarterback and moved from the 16th pick in the first round to the 10th pick held by the Washington Redskins. Gene Smith, who served as the team’s general manager from 2009-2012 took Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert with the traded pick.

The Washington Redskins drafted Ryan Kerrigan out of Purdue. While Kerrigan has carved out a solid NFL career. Gabbert has bounced around the league as a backup. It’s a bit odd to me that he still has an NFL career and Bortles is searching for work.

The pick of Gabbert over Kerrigan isn’t the complaint here as the Jaguars could have taken J.J. Watt with the 10th pick as the Houston Texans grabbed him one pick after Jacksonville made its selection. And if you ask Jacksonville Jaguars fans what was the worst pick in the team’s history, most likely Watt’s name gets mentioned.

That and the 2010 selection of Tyson Alualu when the front office could have brought Tim Tebow home to Jacksonville.

The 31-year-old Watt is regarded as one of the best pass rushers of his generation, despite injury concerns the past few seasons. He has record 96 sacks in his career and has been nothing short of outstanding:

  • Five-Time Pro Bowl (2012–2015, 2018)
  • Five-Time First-team All-Pro (2012–2015, 2018)
  • Three-Time NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2012, 2014, 2015)
  • Two-Time NFL sacks leader (2012, 2015)
  • NFL 2010s All-Decade Team
  • Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year (2017)
  • Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year (2017)

With the selection of Watt in the 2011 Draft, everything changes for the Jaguars. It was the same season David Garrard dealt with a back injury that forced Gabbert into the game in Week 4. The Jacksonville Jaguars fate was sealed as the rookie looked like he needed more time to develop and seasoning in the huddle.

There are other Draft picks who fell flat once they signed their name on the dotted line. R. Jay Soward from USC, Luke Joeckel, who was the first draft pick of the David Caldwell era in Jacksonville. I don’t know if you count Justin Blackmon a bust based on talent, but based on his off-the-field issues, he had a brief NFL career.

Taven Bryan is in the third year of his rookie deal. The defensive tackle must improve his play in the Jaguars defensive scheme, or the University of Florida star could be on his way out in 2021.