Jacksonville Jaguars: 2014 NFL draft

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars had an exceptional draft.

That's according to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who had the Jaguars as one of five teams that earned an "A" for their work from Thursday-SaturdayInsider. San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Houston and St. Louis were the other teams.

Kiper based his grades on three criteria:

How much overall talent did a team add based on board position?

How effectively did they address key personnel needs?

How efficient were they in maneuvering on the draft board?

Kiper wasn't thrilled with the value of quarterback Blake Bortles at No. 3, but he did like the Jaguars addressing their need at receiver with Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson in the second round. Even if Bortles doesn't play in 2014 -- which is the plan, according to GM David Caldwell -- those two players will help an offense that averaged just 15.4 points per game last season.

Kiper also likes Telvin Smith, an undersized linebacker whom he compares to Tampa Bay's Lavonte David, and the selection of cornerback Aaron Colvin, a second-round talent who dropped to the fourth because he tore his right ACL during Senior Bowl practices.
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A wrap-up of the Jacksonville Jaguars' draft. Click here for a full list of Jaguars draftees.

[+] EnlargeMarqise Lee
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonThe Jacksonville Jaguars added much-needed depth at the receiver position, drafting Marqise Lee in the second round.
Best move: Wide receiver is one of the Jaguars' biggest needs because of the uncertainty surrounding Justin Blackmon. They quickly snatched up Southern California's Marqise Lee when it came time for the Jaguars' first pick in the second round (39th overall). Lee is a first-round talent who slipped because his production dipped significantly in 2013 because of an early-season knee injury and inconsistent quarterback play. He's a big-play receiver (29 career touchdown catches) with good speed and elusiveness, but he also worked the middle of the field at USC. After Blackmon was lost for the second half of the season, the Jaguars had only Cecil Shorts as an outside playmaker and he was bothered by a sports hernia over the final month. Lee was one of the most dangerous players in the country as a sophomore in 2012, catching 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Riskiest move: Taking a quarterback high in the first round is always a risk unless you're able to nab a sure thing such as Andrew Luck, so the Jaguars' selection of Central Florida's Blake Bortles with the No. 3 overall pick qualifies. He has ideal size (6-foot-5, 232 pounds), a strong arm and good athleticism and mobility, but he needs seasoning and time to develop. The Jaguars' plan isn't to put him on the field in 2014 but instead have him ready for 2015. There's no guarantee that he will be ready, however, or if he can be the elite quarterback the Jaguars desperately need. Missing on Blaine Gabbert in 2011 hurt the franchise for years. Bortles is the make-or-break pick for the David Caldwell/Gus Bradley regime.

Most surprising move: Considering the Jaguars are dealing with a player who has violated the league's substance-abuse policy multiple times (Blackmon), it was interesting that they drafted linebacker Telvin Smith in the fifth round (144th overall) because he failed a drug test at the NFL combine. Smith was forthcoming about the incident, calling it a dumb mistake and saying he told Bradley and Caldwell that he had learned his lesson and it won't happen again. Caldwell said they examined Smith's background pretty intensely and told him this is his opportunity to make up for his mistake. Smith is an intriguing prospect because he fit as a nickel linebacker as someone who can cover backs and tight ends. He needs to get bigger -- he's only 218 pounds at 6-foot-3 -- but he significantly upgrades the speed on defense.

File it away: Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin suffered a torn right ACL on the second day of Senior Bowl practices, but the little time he was on the field was enough to intrigue the Jaguars, who coached the South team, and they took him in the fourth round (114th overall). However, he's probably not going to be cleared for full contact until later in training camp and will begin the season on the PUP list. Caldwell said he's planning on Colvin getting on the field in the second half of the season, though how much depends on his grasp of the defense. He fits the Jaguars' profile for defensive backs (6-0, 192), although his arms are a bit shorter than they'd like (31 inches). He should be the eventual starter opposite Dwayne Gratz, most likely in 2015 because Alan Ball's contract expires following the 2014 season.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars already were not planning on having suspended receiver Justin Blackmon in 2014.

What they did Friday night makes it pretty clear that they're not planning on having him -- period.

The Jaguars took a pair of receivers in the second round of the NFL draft -- Marqise Lee with the 39th pick and traded up to take Allen Robinson with the 61st selection -- and plan on both being in the starting lineup in the season opener alongside Cecil Shorts. They're also going to be the building blocks, along with No. 3 overall pick Blake Bortles, of the Jaguars' offense for years to come.

[+] EnlargeJustin Blackmon
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports"We haven't heard much [from Justin Blackmon] and it doesn't sound like it's going in the right direction," coach Gus Bradley said.
Blackmon was once viewed in the same way, but three violations of the NFL's substance-abuse policy and an indefinite suspension has the fifth overall pick in 2012 clearly out of the Jaguars' future plans.

"There's some unknowns there," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said of Blackmon, who has 93 receptions for 1,280 yards in two seasons. "You don't know how it's working out. I just don't want to shut it off. I was hoping that it would be better than maybe where it's going, but we'll see.

"We haven't heard much [from Blackmon], and it doesn't sound like it's going in the right direction. Just like [general manger] Dave [Caldwell] said: 'We can't count on him.'"

Caldwell said he didn't want to address Blackmon's status again since he spoke about it during the Jaguars' pre-draft luncheon, but he did say the team cannot cut Blackmon while he's suspended. When asked if they would cut him when he was reinstated: "If that happens."

By taking Lee and Robinson, though, the message is pretty clear. Caldwell had the 6-foot, 192-pound Lee as the No. 1 receiver on their board and was surprised to see him still available when the second round began. He was worried Lee wouldn't make it to 39 and tried to work out a trade with Houston, which had the first pick.

But Lee kept sliding and the Jaguars quickly snatched him up. Lee has the playmaking ability that the Jaguars receiving corps has lacked on a consistent basis. He caught 248 passes for 3,655 yards and 29 touchdowns in three seasons with the Trojans, including 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2012.

"He's explosive," Caldwell said. "He can make defenders miss. He's very instinctive. He's got a feel for zones. He can separate in and out of breaks very well. When he gets the ball in his hands, he's a threat to take it to the house.

"He's a playmaker, and we need playmakers."

The 6-3, 220-pound Robinson is the big, physical receiver the Jaguars have lacked for years. He caught 177 passes for 2,479 yards and 17 touchdowns in three seasons at Penn State. He was the Jaguars' No. 2 receiver, and they traded their third-round pick (70th overall) and a fifth-round pick (150th overall) to San Francisco to get him.

"This is a big target, and big targets are good in this league," Caldwell said.

Especially when you can count on them.
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The pick: Brandon Linder, G, Miami

My take: The Jaguars traded their fourth-round pick (105th overall) and a sixth-round pick (179th overall) to the New England Patriots to move back into the third round to select Linder with the 93rd overall selection. The 6-foot-6, 311-pound Linder played under Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, so he’s familiar with Fisch’s offense and the zone-blocking scheme the Jaguars use. Though he played both right guard and right tackle at Miami -- sometimes in the same game -- he will compete for the starting spot at right guard. Linder is durable, having started 49 games, including 37 in a row, in his career at Miami. He should solidify the right guard spot that last season was manned by Will Rackley, who battled knee issues and struggled.

OL is OK: Offensive line apparently wasn’t the high priority many outside the organization thought it was. GM David Caldwell said the team is happy with Mike Brewster at center and is content with the depth, especially after the addition of left guard Zane Beadles in free agency. "We aren’t too overly concerned about it," Caldwell said. "You guys may think we’re crazy, but we have guys that we feel like can step in and be competitive."

What’s next: The Jaguars have five picks remaining: one in the fourth (114th overall), two in the fifth (144th and 159th overall), one in the sixth (205th overall) and one in the seventh (222nd overall).
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The pick: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State

My take: The Jaguars traded their third-round pick (70th overall) and a fifth-round pick (150th overall) to San Francisco for the 61st overall selection and took Robinson. The Jaguars got the big, physical receiver they needed in the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Robinson, who caught 177 passes for 2,479 yards and 17 touchdowns in three seasons at Penn State. That including a junior season in which he caught 97 balls for 1,432 yards and six touchdowns despite playing with a freshman quarterback. The Jaguars will pair him with Marqise Lee, whom they took with the 39th pick, to give them a young tandem that can hopefully grow along with rookie quarterback Blake Bortles.

Goodbye, Justin?: If there was any doubt that the Jaguars have pretty much given up on receiver Justin Blackmon, Robinson’s selection should all but cement it. GM David Caldwell said the team has already planned on not having him in 2014 and coach Gus Bradley said Friday night that he had hoped things would have gone better than they have. The Jaguars have had little contact with Blackmon and he still must apply for reinstatement and likely will have to serve an additional suspension before being cleared.

What’s next: The Jaguars have seven picks in Rounds 4-7 Saturday and are expected to address offensive line, running back and pass-rusher.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The pick: The Jaguars got their first-round pick some help by taking USC receiver Marqise Lee with the seventh pick of the second round (39th).

My take: Lee was considered a first-round talent but slid into the second round because teams are concerned with the sprained left MCL that he suffered last season, according to multiple reports. Even so, this is a fantastic pick because it addresses the team's biggest need on offense after quarterback. He fits the qualities the Jaguars were searching for in a receiver: size and play-making ability. Lee (6 feet, 195 pounds) had a monster sophomore season (118 catches, 1,721 yards, 14 TDs) but he was hurt by his knee injury and poor QB play last season (57 catches, 791 yards). Lee also has experience as a kickoff returner.

The Blackmon factor: The Jaguars needed to make receiver a priority because of the uncertainty surrounding Justin Blackmon, the team's first-round pick in 2012. Blackmon is serving an indefinite suspension because of his third violation of the league's substance-abuse policy and general manager David Caldwell said last week that the team was not planning on having Blackmon in 2014.

What's next: The Jaguars should continue to address needs on offense in the third round, likely taking an offensive lineman in the third round with the 70th overall selection.

Jaguars chat recap

May, 9, 2014
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Here are highlights from the weekly Jacksonville Jaguars chat. You can find the full transcript here.

Tony (Richmond, CA): Did the Jags jump the gun on Blake Bortles? Would it have been wiser to employ a strategy similar to Cleveland and move up later in the round after picking up a big time player early in the round?

DiRocco: According to a source, there were other teams interested in Bortles and he probably wouldn't have been available if they dropped too far. Several GMs phoned David Caldwell after the draft and said they would have taken Bortles if the Jaguars hadn't.

Dirk (Jax, Fl): I think we all learned about this new regime and contrary to what every media outlet reported, that Caldwell isn't afraid to take chances. Picking Bortles at 3 is taking a major risk mainly due to the fact he is a project, and your risking everything on potential. Me I would have drafted either [Khalil] Mack or [Sammy] Watkins, two super studs that would be major impacts right away. I trust and believe in Dave, what are your thoughts on this risky pick?

DiRocco: Caldwell has shown so far that he's a savvy personnel guy and talent evaluator so I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt. I'm with you, though, I would have gone Watkins/Mack.

Sean (Jax, FL): Mike, where do you see the Jags going with their 2nd round selection? Are center and receiver to 2 biggest possibilities?

DiRocco: That's what the rumblings around the facility are. And Dave made a statement today about drafting that said he wasn't concerned with making a splash. He just wants to go about his business.

Tom (NYC): What impresses you most/least about Bortles?

DiRocco: I like his size, arm strength, and mobility, as well as his willingness to admit his weaknesses. I don't like the fact that he gets sloppy in his mechanics and footwork. But that can be fixed.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars have found their quarterback.

Now what?

It’s time to target some of the team’s other pressing needs in the second and third rounds on Friday. Two areas the Jaguars may address are center and wide receiver. Here’s a quick look at some of their options:

Center

Players available: Weston Richburg, Marcus Martin, Bryan Stork, Russell Bodine, Travis Swanson.

The skinny: The Jaguars have said they have confidence in third-year pro Mike Brewster but they heavily pursued Alex Mack in free agency and there are rumblings that they are targeting Richburg and Martin in the second round. Richburg was on the North roster at the Senior Bowl so the Jaguars did not get a chance to work with him, but they did meet with him in Mobile, Alabama. Some draft analysts believe Richburg is talented and smart enough that he could step in and play right away. They had Stork and Swanson, though, and both would be potential targets in the third round or later if the Jaguars decided to go receiver in the second round.

Wide receiver

Players available: Marqise Lee, Jordan Matthews, Bruce Ellington, Davante Adams, Jarvis Landry and Cody Latimer are atop the list of potential targets in what is considered a very deep group of receivers.

The skinny: The Jaguars are looking for bigger receivers. Lee (6-foot, 195 pounds) likely would have been a top-10 pick in 2013 had he been able to leave school early. He had a monster sophomore season (118 catches, 1,721 yards, 14 TDs) but he was hurt by poor QB play last season (57 catches, 791 yards). He also seems to always be nicked up, but he’s still the best receiver remaining. The Jaguars pick seventh in the second round and would likely have to move up a few spots to get him. The coaching staff worked with Matthews at the Senior Bowl and liked the former Vandy standout’s size (6-3, 206) and production (232 career catches) in the SEC. Latimer is another big receiver (6-3, 215) that some draft analysts had going in the first round.
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars’ new quarterback probably isn’t going to see the field in 2014.

That’s the plan, anyway, and he’s fine with it.

Bortles
That’s the reason to like, and dislike, the Jaguars’ selection of Blake Bortles with the third overall pick on Thursday night.

General manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley have been adamant that Chad Henne will be the team’s starter this season and that a rookie was going to spend the year developing on the bench . They’re not backing off from that approach. Bortles is going to start, and likely finish, the season on the bench.

"It’s such an important position in this league and you want to do it right," Caldwell said. "That’s what we’re about. … We have to make it work. We can’t just throw him out there. We’ve seen what happens when that happens."

Caldwell was speaking in general, but he just jettisoned an example of what happens when a QB is rushed on the field when he traded Blaine Gabbert to San Francisco for a sixth-round pick. Gabbert was thrust into the starting role as a rookie in 2011 after the team cut David Garrard days before the season began and backup Luke McCown struggled. Gabbert went 5-22 as a starter and was bothered by a string of injuries.

So the Jaguars don’t want to rush Bortles on the field and he supports the decision.

"I would have no problem with it, but I would go into practice every day and prepare every day like I’m a starter," Bortles said. "I think that’s the kind of mindset you’ve got to have when you’re in that position. But I would have no problem doing that and taking a full year to learn and soak up as much information as I can."

Bortles played in a spread offense at Central Florida and he has experience under center. But he’s going to have to adjust to a pro-style offense. He’s got to improve his footwork, his feel in the pocket, and adjust to the speed of the game. He’s perhaps the most physically gifted quarterback in the draft, standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 232 pounds. He’s got a big arm, extends plays with his mobility, and is strong enough to bounce off contact, too.

Caldwell said the coaching and scouting staffs were unanimous in support of Bortles being the Jaguars’ pick. The Jaguars were so enamored with him that Bradley said the team would have taken him even if Jadeveon Clowney was still on the board.

Bortles may turn out to be a very good quarterback -- possibly even elite -- but it won’t happen until at least 2015. And if that happens, it will be a home run pick, the kind that turns a franchise around. But there’s a negative to the choice: the Jaguars need immediate impact players, especially on offense.

The Jaguars scored just 15.4 points per game last season and ranked 31st in total offense, 31st in rush offense, and 22nd in pass offense. Bortles won’t make a dent in those numbers in 2014. That job falls again to Henne, who has never thrown for more touchdown passes than interceptions in his six seasons in the NFL.

"This is not a quick journey, a race to the end," Caldwell said. "It’s a marathon. Well, hopefully not a marathon. We want to build for the long term."


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The pick: The Jaguars addressed perhaps their biggest need by selecting Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles.

My take: It’s a bit of a surprise pick because general manager David Caldwell has already named Chad Henne the starter in 2014 and they weren’t expecting a rookie quarterback to play right away. That means they’re not counting on getting anything from the third overall pick in the draft this season and possibly even into next season. The Jaguars have holes all over the roster and could have gotten immediate impact players by taking linebacker Khalil Mack, who went fifth to Oakland, or wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who went fourth to Buffalo. There’s no question the 6-foot-5, 232-pound Bortles is the most physically impressive quarterback in the draft. He has a big arm and moves well outside the pocket. However, he played in a spread offense that stressed shorter and more horizontal throws in college and will have to learn to play in the pocket.

Fixing flaws: Say this for Bortles: He's conscious of what he needs to do to improve. Analysts highlighted some poor mechanics and fundamentals on 2013 tape, specifically his lower body and footwork. Bortles obviously worked on that pretty hard in the first few months of 2014, because he was much cleaner in his mechanics at his pro day. His balance was better, the ball came out of his hand cleaner, his throwing motion was more economical and, as a result, he threw the ball harder and more accurately.

What’s next: The Jaguars don’t pick again until 39th overall (seventh pick in the second round) and still have pressing needs to address at pass-rusher and receiver. This is a deep draft at receiver, so the Jaguars could put off taking a receiver until the third round. Names to watch include Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews and Alabama’s Kevin Norwood, both of whom were on the South roster the Jaguars coached at the Senior Bowl.
Which player should the Jacksonville Jaguars take with the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft? It’s a question GM David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley are trying to answer before the first round on Thursday. Not that they are asking, but I’m here to offer some help. Every day until the first round I’ll argue for a certain player. We're going to go with the caveat that each of the players is available when the Jaguars make their selection.

Today I wrap up the series with a push for a trade.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars still have a lot of work to do on the roster.

Matthews
Evans
They need upgrades at nearly every position, with priorities on quarterback, pass rush, receiver and running back. The best chance to find players to fill those roles -- at reasonable cost, which is also important -- is through the draft.

The best way to attack those needs is by trading the No. 3 overall pick.

The Jaguars have 11 picks, and general manager David Caldwell said he would ideally like to have 12-14. Any team that wants to move up to third would have to part with at least three picks, most likely including a second- and third-rounder. Though the roster has improved since Caldwell and Gus Bradley arrived in early 2013, it wouldn’t be out of the question for 10 or more draft picks to make the roster.

There have been rumblings that Atlanta (No. 6), Tampa Bay (No. 7) and Detroit (No. 10) want to move up for a shot at a quarterback, receiver Sammy Watkins, or linebacker Khalil Mack. They would be the most likely trade partners, because Caldwell would rather stay inside the top 10 if possible.

Dropping out of the top four picks pretty much prevents the Jaguars from landing any of the general-accepted four blue-chippers: Watkins, Mack, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and offensive tackle Greg Robinson. But this is a deep draft on offensive talent, and that is where the Jaguars are going to focus most of their attention after a defensive-oriented draft in 2013.

Caldwell would still be able to land a quality receiver, whether it’s Texas A&M’s Mike Evans or LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. Or he could take Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard to pair opposite Dwayne Gratz. Or Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who was perhaps the best player at the Senior Bowl. Or one of the quarterbacks, whether it's Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, or Teddy Bridgewater.

Caldwell also could go with Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews, who draft analysts believe is among the safest picks in the draft. A league source said last week that Caldwell might be targeting Matthews, which if true would mean the Jaguars will have drafted offensive tackles in back-to-back years. They took Luke Joeckel with the No. 2 pick in 2013.

Caldwell said last week that the Jaguars’ chances of trading down would increase if Houston is unable to move the No. 1 pick. As of last Friday Caldwell said he fielded calls from two teams, but declined to say which teams. An educated guess would be that Atlanta is one of the teams based on their reported desire to trade up and Caldwell’s relationship with Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff.

The Jaguars’ roster still has a lot of holes. Trading down for more picks gives them a better chance of getting those filled as quickly as possible.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- No NFL general manager ever admits they had a bad draft or pulled a bonehead trade and I'm certainly no different.

Bridgewater
Mack
My turn as the Jacksonville Jaguars' GM in our NFL Nation mock draft on Tuesday -- in which all 32 team writers acted as their team's GM -- netted linebacker Khalil Mack with the No. 3 pick and, after a trade with New England, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at No. 29. The trade cost me a second-round pick (39th overall), one of two fourth-round picks (114th overall), one of three fifth-round picks (150th overall), and a seventh-round pick (222nd overall), but I felt it was worth it to secure the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft and a player I believe will be an elite player.

I could have gone receiver Sammy Watkins at No. 3. That is a significant need as well. I also had talks with Houston reporter Tania Ganguli about moving up to No. 1.

Instead, I stayed put and ended up with what I believe are the two best fits for the franchise.

However, to get an objective viewpoint on whether that is the case, I turned to NFL Insider Matt Williamson. He was in our live chat on Tuesday and critiqued each pick, so he knows how everything played out in the mock draft. I asked him to pull no punches in rating the selections.

Here is his take:

"Only one round has gone by in our Sportsnation Mock Draft, but to me, the Jaguars were the big winners. This team needs franchise building blocks and I believe that they got one on each side of the ball at two of the most important positions on the field in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, my number one rated quarterback, and Kalil Mack, an ideal fit in Gus Bradley's defense at the LEO position. The Seahawks were built on a playmaking quarterback that is excellent at limiting mistakes and a defense with an oversized secondary and great depth up front. That is the path Jacksonville is taking."

Aww, thanks Matt.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- An elite pass-rusher and a franchise quarterback. Not a bad haul in the first round in the NFL Nation mock draft that was held on Tuesday afternoon.

Bridgewater
Mack
Each of the NFL Nation bloggers whose team had a first-round pick acted as general manager and made picks they thought the team they cover would make. In doing my best David Caldwell impersonation, I grabbed linebacker Khalil Mack with the third pick and then jumped back into the latter part of the first round and landed Teddy Bridgewater at 29.

Here's what I was thinking as the draft unfolded ...

I actually went after Jadeveon Clowney. I had some discussions with Houston reporter Tania Ganguli to move up to No. 1 but I felt the price was too high. The Jaguars need to continue to build the roster and I thought losing as many picks as she wanted was not the best approach. Ganguli managed to work out a deal with Buffalo reporter Mike Rodak, though. I wrote about that the Mack selection and how he would fit with the Jaguars earlier Tuesday.

I didn’t really consider taking a quarterback at No. 3 because I wasn’t completely sold on any of them that high. It would have been too risky of a pick and right now the Jaguars can’t afford to take those kinds of risks.

However, when Bridgewater dropped into the teens I got interested, and when he was still on the board at No. 20 I knew I needed to take a shot to land the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft and a guy I believe can be an elite quarterback.

So I exchanged a few emails and texts with New England Patriots reporter Mike Reiss, who had let everyone know he was open to trading down, in an attempt to work out a trade for the 29th overall pick. Complicating things was the fact that another team got into the mix.

After some quick back and forth, Reiss and I settled on this deal. In exchange for the 29th pick I agreed to give him the Jaguars’ second-round pick (39th overall), one of their two fourth-round picks (114th overall), one of their three fifth-round picks (150th overall), and their seventh-round pick (222nd overall).

I felt it was a good deal because I still have a fourth- and two fifth-round picks and eight picks total, which still gives me some ammunition if I wanted to trade back into the third round. Plus, I got the quarterback I wanted more than any other.

I know he had a poor pro day workout, but the bottom line is he's the most pro-ready quarterback and he has more experience in a pro-style system than any of the other quarterbacks. When you put on the tape there are no reservations about Bridgewater.

There are some bad throws and bad decisions, as there are with any quarterback, but the tape shows a quarterback who has good feel and mobility in the pocket, goes through progressions, and has a strong enough arm to succeed at the NFL level.

Not a bad start.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With the third pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select ... Khalil Mack, linebacker, Buffalo.

That's what happened early Tuesday afternoon in the NFL Nation mock draft. Each of the bloggers who cover a team with a first-round pick acted as general manager and made picks they thought the team they cover would make. In doing my best David Caldwell impersonation, I grabbed Mack.

I actually went after Jadeveon Clowney. I had some discussions with Houston reporter Tania Ganguli to move up to No. 1 but I felt the price was too high. The Jaguars need to continue to build the roster and I thought losing as many picks as she wanted was not the best approach. Ganguli managed to work out a deal with Buffalo reporter Mike Rodak, though.

[+] EnlargeKhalil Mack
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesKhalil Mack could be the playmaker the Jaguars' defense sorely needs.
It was a pretty steep price: The Bills gave up their first-round pick (No. 9), their second-round pick (No. 41), their 2015 first- and third-round picks, and their 2016 second-round pick.

Nobody was jumping to No. 1 to take one of the quarterbacks, Mack or receiver Sammy Watkins so when I heard about the trade I knew I wasn't getting Clowney. Sure enough, the Bills took him.

St. Louis followed by taking offensive tackle Greg Robinson, which left me with an interesting dilemma: Mack or Watkins.

I couldn't really lose. Both are elite players and both would fill some pretty pressing needs, but the deciding factor was how deep of an offensive draft this is. While I couldn't get a player of Watkins' caliber later in the draft, the receiver position is pretty deep and I would be able to add a pretty good player later.

The draft isn't deep on elite pass-rushers and linebackers, and Mack fills both needs there.

The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Mack fits right into coach Gus Bradley's defense as a "leo," a hybrid end/linebacker whose primary responsibility is to rush the passer. The Jaguars certainly need help there after finishing last in the league the past two seasons in sacks (20 in 2012 and 31 last season). Mack also makes big plays, and that's where he can really help.

In addition to making 327 tackles in four years, Mack also recorded 28.5 sacks and forced an NCAA-record 16 fumbles. Look at what he did against Ohio State in the 2013 season opener: nine tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Take Paul Posluszny out of the mix and the Jaguars linebackers had two interceptions, two sacks, four pass breakups, one forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries in 2013. That’s from Geno Hayes, Russell Allen, J.T. Thomas, John Lotulelei, and LaRoy Reynolds.

Mack brings a couple of other things the Jaguars desperately need at linebacker: athleticism and speed. He ran a 4.55 40-yard dash and played in coverage as well as being a pass-rusher at Buffalo.

I didn't really consider taking a quarterback at No. 3 because I wasn't completely sold on any of them that high. It would have been too risky of a pick and right now the Jaguars can't afford to take those kinds of risks.
Which player should the Jacksonville Jaguars take with the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft? That's a question that GM David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley are trying to answer before the first round on Thursday. Not that they're asking, but I'm here to offer some help. Every day until the first round I'll argue for a certain player. We're going to go with the caveat that each of the players is available when the Jaguars make their selection.

Today I make the case for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Tuesday will be offensive tackle Greg Robinson.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars shouldn't care about a poor pro day.

They shouldn't care that at 214 pounds he's a little slight for his 6-foot-3 frame.

They shouldn't care that he likes to wear a glove when he throws.

Just turn on the tape of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and that should assuage any concerns about taking him with the No. 3 overall pick.

Turn on two games in particular: the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Florida and the Russell Athletic Bowl against Miami. The Gators had the nation's No. 2 pass efficiency defense, the No. 5 total defense, and No. 5 scoring defense but Bridgewater shredded them for 266 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-23 upset. He was even better against Miami, throwing for 447 yards and three touchdowns and running for another in the Cardinals' 36-9 romp.

Bridgewater played some of his best football in the two biggest games in which he played in college. In front of national television audiences with NFL personnel watching closely, Bridgewater put his team on his shoulders and won big.

Sounds like the kind of guy NFL teams should want.

And yet, the poor pro day showing has hurt him with some draft analysts. Probably even a few general managers, too. It is concerning that he didn't flourish in a situation that was crafted for him to do so, but it's only one day. Everybody has bad days.

But put on the tape and there should be no reservations about Bridgewater. There are some bad throws and bad decisions, but the tape shows a quarterback who has good feel and mobility in the pocket, goes through progressions, and has a strong enough arm to succeed at the NFL level.

"Put on the game tape," Bridgewater said in an ESPN interview. "The game tape speaks volumes because I'm in live action, I'm out there making reads, going through progressions, redirection protection, signaling hot routes, getting the offense in and out of the right play. Looking at those things, I think those things outweigh the pro day."

There's one other thing to see on tape that should mollify Bridgewater's detractors, namely the ones who feel he's not tough enough or physically capable of handling the pounding he's sure to receive in the NFL.

Go back to the Sugar Bowl game against Florida with about 12:30 remaining in the first quarter. Bridgewater rolls to his right and releases the ball a split second before linebacker Jon Bostic absolutely lays him out with a hit under the chin. The 246-pound Bostic -- a 2013 second-round pick by Chicago -- knocks Bridgewater's helmet off and drives him backward several yards.

Bridgewater gets right back up and never missed a play.

The Jaguars can't miss by taking him.

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