The Jacksonville Jaguars- for the first time in a long time- had what most would consider a good to great draft. More than just adding new players, 2014’s draft can be considered the first true one under the new regime, and one that gives the Jags a complete makeover going forward.
Before delving into the draft picks, it’s important to note the moves the Jags made beforehand. Shipping defunct franchise quarterback Blaine Gabbert off to San Francisco, and also allowing franchise running back Maurice Jones-Drew to join Gabbert in the Bay area (but in Oakland), were major moves.
The Jags went into May’s draft knowing it had major needs and holes to fill- particularly on an offense that has continuously ranked towards the bottom of the barrel the last few seasons. With the 3rd overall pick, the Jags took a power swing on their first at-bat. UCF’s Blake Bortles, who we’ve since learned was the Jags’ guy all along, would be the first quarterback taken off the board.
Personally I’m not thrilled about Bortles, so naturally, I wasn’t thrilled about the pick. He’s good, but not great at any particular attribute and the trajectory of his college career is too similar to that of Gabbert’s for my liking. But, if the Jags feel like they’ve found their man then there’s no arguing that. Besides, if he does play worthy of his 3rd pick billing, then from a value standpoint he would not only be the best pick the Jags made, but the best pick period.
As it stands now, though, the best pick the Jags made on paper is USC WR Marqise Lee with pick number 39.
It was tough to narrow it down to a “best” pick as most of the picks were truly great picks. Oklahoma’s Aaron Colvin is a 1st round talent who unfortunately got hurt. Florida State’s Telvin Smith was the most productive player on the best team in the country. Borltes’ backfield mate Storm Johnson is a steal in the 7th round. But when factors like talent, need, overall impact are combined, Lee seems to stand out the most.
The USC wideout was widely considered the best at his position coming into the season. But injuries, coaching carousels, and erratic quarterback play all played into a season that can be considered underwhelming by his standards. With talented but troubled wideout Justin Blackmon’s return looking less and less likely, the Jags need guys that can catch the ball. Plus with a young quarterback in the fold, Jacksonville has to protect him with weapons.
Now, while I think Penn St. wideout Allen Robinson may be just as good as Lee (and physically more in that Blackmon mold), I think Lee’s versatility separates him. Lee can lineup all over the field and can even be used in the return game. He’ll relieve the pressure off the emerging Cecil Shorts and will allow Robinson to play the outside where he’s better suited.
While I expect most of the Jags picks to contribute, Lee’s impact will have ripple effects that can affect the entire landscape of the offense going forward.