The Jacksonville Jaguars own the third overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft after going 4-12 in the first year of the David Caldwell-Gus Bradley regime. The Jaguars’ top two needs are quarterback and pass-rusher, and they’ll have a chance to nab one of the elite players at those positions with their first pick.
The decision facing Caldwell is whether to go pass-rusher first and then quarterback or take a quarterback first and then a pass-rusher.
The team’s biggest need is without question quarterback. Blaine Gabbert, whom the Jaguars selected 10th overall in 2011, has not developed into the franchise quarterback the team needs. He hasn’t even developed into a quality starter. He lost his job to Chad Henne this season after throwing seven interceptions in three starts. Henne did a solid job as the starter, but he’s not a franchise QB either.
This isn’t a secret, but the NFL is all about the quarterback and it’s imperative the Jaguars find the right one. While this class doesn’t have the sure-fire star like Andrew Luck it is a relatively deep class, and there are several players the Jaguars could consider taking third overall provided they’re available: Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles.
The Jaguars have other offensive needs –- running back, interior offensive line, and receiver -– but those will not be addressed in the first round.
The Jaguars’ biggest defensive need is a pass-rusher. The team finished last in the NFL with 31 sacks this season and have just 51 in the past two seasons combined. How important is pressure on the quarterback? Seven of the teams ranked in the top 10 in sacks this season made the playoffs.
If Caldwell chooses to take a pass rusher in the first round he may be able to nab the player that many predicted would have been the No. 1 overall pick in 2013 despite being only a sophomore: defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. He could still be available when it’s the Jaguars’ turn to pick if the Houston Texans take a quarterback and the St. Louis Rams draft offensive tackle Jake Matthews.
Bradley is a former defensive coordinator who helped build Seattle’s defense into one of the league’s best. The Jaguars addressed the secondary with five picks in last year’s draft and Bradley would love to add an elite pass rusher to complement the youth on the back end. If Clowney is unavailable, the Jaguars could go with Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt, UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr or Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack.
Check out Mel Kiper’s Mock Draft 1.0 to see what players he thinks the Jaguars should target with their first pick.