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Thursday, April 17, 2014
Analyzing Kiper Mock 4.0: Jaguars

By Michael DiRocco

The Jacksonville Jaguars have the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft and most people assume the team is going to take either a pass-rusher or a quarterback, which are clearly the team’s two biggest needs after winning just six games combined the past two seasons.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s fourth 2014 NFL mock draftInsider is out on ESPN Insider today and his choice is a departure from what he predicted the Jaguars would do in his first three mock drafts.

Kiper has the Jaguars passing on a quarterback and a pass-rusher and instead taking wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who is the most explosive offensive player in the draft. Watkins would immediately become the team’s No. 1 receiver and boost an offense that averaged just 15.4 points per game last season.

Kiper’s pick is interesting because he had the Jaguars taking defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in his first three mock drafts. However, he now has the Houston Texans taking Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick. He predicts the St. Louis Rams would take offensive tackle Greg Robinson with the second pick, which would leave outside linebacker Khalil Mack, Watkins and quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel on the board.

The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Mack is a perfect fit for the Jaguars’ leo spot, which is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker whose main responsibility is rushing the passer.  He was a very good pass-rusher at Buffalo (28½ sacks) but he expands the leo position even more because he’s athletic enough to play in coverage. Mack also seems to have a knack for creating turnovers. He picked off four passes and forced an NCAA-record 16 fumbles in his career.

The Jaguars do need a quarterback, but general manager David Caldwell has said he doesn’t want a rookie quarterback playing right away and it appears the Jaguars like Jimmy Garoppolo, Derek Carr, Zach Mettenberger and AJ McCarron as much or more than the top quarterbacks. Those four players should be around when the Jaguars are picking at No. 39, and Kiper believes they’ll take Garoppolo, whom the Jaguars coached at the Senior Bowl.

It’s hard to argue with selecting the 6-1, 205-pound Watkins, who caught 101 passes for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Jaguars haven’t had an elite receiver since Jimmy Smith (1995-2005). Justin Blackmon, the team’s first-round pick in 2012, has the potential to become an elite receiver but has already violated the league’s substance abuse policy three times and is currently suspended indefinitely.