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Thursday, December 19, 2013
QB or DE? That is the question for Jags

By Michael DiRocco

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars need a quarterback.

They also need a pass-rushing defensive end or outside linebacker.

The question in May's draft will be which one they should grab first.

Johnny Manziel
If you believe you can build around a quarterback such as Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, you grab him. Right?
Six weeks ago there wasn't a question the Jaguars would be taking a quarterback with their first-round draft pick. But that was when they were winless and held the No. 1 overall pick. And it was also before two of the top college quarterbacks decided they were going to return to school in 2014.

Now, things aren't so clear.

The Jaguars currently sit at No. 4 in the draft order and have two winnable games remaining, which means they could be picking in the 5-7 range. That would most likely not allow general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley to have their pick of the quarterbacks that are available.

Depending on their draft board and what happens ahead of them (a trade?), they may not even be able to get their No. 2 choice. Would taking the pass rusher they desperately need and picking up a quarterback in the second or third round make more sense in that scenario?

This debate is going to go on for months, especially after the Jan. 15 deadline for underclassmen to declare and there's a set list of quarterbacks that will be available. Here's a quick argument for each, with the caveat that Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, UCLA's Brett Hundley, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and UCF's Blake Bortles decide to declare for the draft as most expect:

Take the QB

This isn't a secret, but the NFL is all about the quarterback. Elite teams have great quarterbacks. All you have to do is look at the teams in the hunt for the playoffs. For the most part, they all have very good quarterbacks, and the teams that don't are going to be early exits.

It's imperative the Jaguars find a franchise quarterback. While this class doesn't have the sure-fire star like Andrew Luck it is a relatively deep class, and there are several quarterbacks who have the pre-draft look of a franchise QB: Bridgewater, Manziel, Bortles, Hundley, and Fresno State's Derek Carr. Any one of those has the potential to develop into the quarterback around which the franchise can be built.

That's pretty much the golden rule of the NFL now. If you can get what you believe will be a franchise quarterback, you grab him. No questions asked. Everything else is secondary to finding that guy.

So, take the quarterback.

Take the pass rusher

Remember that line about the depth of this quarterback class? That means you should be able to find a quarterback in the second or third round. There are plenty from which to choose: Alabama's A.J. McCarron, LSU's Zach Mettenberger, Georgia's Aaron Murray, Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas and Miami's Stephen Morris, for example.

Aaron Murray, Jadeveon Clowney
With such a deep quarterback class in this year's draft, it may benefit the Jaguars to chose an elite defender first such as South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney.
Are they as highly rated as Bridgewater, Bortles or Manziel? No, but that doesn't mean they won't be better players. Colin Kaepernick was a second-round pick. So was Drew Brees. Russell Wilson was a third-round pick. Tom Brady a sixth. Tony Romo went undrafted. They seem to be doing pretty well.

The NFL is all about the quarterback, which also means finding a way to stop great QBs. You do that by pressuring them over and over again. That's why teams need elite pass rushers and the Jaguars have a chance to get one of the most gifted ones we've seen in a long time.

Remember Jadeveon Clowney? The guy people said would have been the No. 1 overall pick last year had he been able to come out? The player some experts said shouldn't even play in 2013 because he'd be risking too much? He could still be available when it's the Jaguars' turn to pick. Can't pass him up.

Or UCLA's Anthony Barr and Buffalo's Khalil Mack. All have the ability to become double-digit sack machines.

So, take the pass rusher, then the quarterback.