Jacksonville Jaguars: Stephon Tuitt

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are bringing in a slew of prospects for visits over the next several days. That includes six quarterbacks, the best offensive tackle, and the most explosive offensive player in the draft.

But it doesn’t mean the Jaguars have decided not to take a pass rusher with the No. 3 overall pick.

Fans understandably get excited when news of the players visiting leaks, especially when it’s players like Johnny Manziel and Sammy Watkins, but a team using one of its allotted 30 visits on a player doesn’t always signify genuine interest.

Often there is, but teams also can bring in players for visits because they got a bad vibe during an earlier meeting at the combine or a pro day and they want to see if that was an anomaly. Teams also may want to give a player another physical examination or administer another psychological test. They may have questions about a player’s past they want answered, especially if it’s something that was uncovered after a previous meeting.

Sometimes the visit is to see if the staff can get a feel for whether the player will be a fit in the locker room.

The Jaguars, for example, played host to Dion Jordan, Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel, among others, last April. They took Joeckel with the No. 2 pick after Kansas City took Fisher. The Jaguars certainly needed pass rush help but passed for a left tackle around which the offensive line could be built.

According to various reports, including those by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, quarterbacks Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo and Zach Mettenberger either have visited or will visit the Jaguars within days.

Others scheduled to visit are offensive tackle Greg Robinson, Watkins, linebacker Anthony Barr, linebacker Khalil Mack, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, and defensive end Stephon Tuitt.

Some of those players are obviously in play for the Jaguars with the No. 3 pick. But others -- like Carr, Garoppolo, Mettenberger, Barr, and Van Noy -- are late first-rounders or second-day picks.

It’s the quarterbacks that are the most intriguing, because the Jaguars obviously need to find their future. Manziel, Bridgewater and Bortles are regarded as the top three quarterbacks in the draft but Carr, Mettenberger, and Garoppolo are among the players in the second tier group.

Whether the Jaguars choose from the first or second group depends on whether they feel adding Watkins or a pass rusher -- like Mack or Jadeveon Clowney -- is a better approach than going quarterback with their first pick. It’s a decision that won’t be made until later this month.

Kiper mock 1.0 reaction: Jaguars

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
There are two prevailing thoughts about the Jacksonville Jaguars when it comes to the No. 3 overall selection in the upcoming draft: take a quarterback and grab a pass-rusher in the second round or take a pass-rusher and then draft a quarterback in the second round.

Mel Kiper Jr. believes the Jaguars will take the second approach, which is why he predicted in his first mock draft Insider they will select South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in the first round.

That's a prediction that would have had Jaguars fan euphoric in July, but it doesn't evoke the same degree of reaction now. Pass-rusher is certainly one of the team's top two needs, and Clowney is undoubtedly the most gifted defensive player in the draft, but the Jaguars desperately need to find a franchise quarterback.

Yet in Kiper's mock, they pass on the most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft to take Clowney. Kiper predicts that Houston will take Johnny Manziel with the first pick and St. Louis will take offensive tackle Jake Matthews with the No. 2 pick. That means Teddy Bridgewater is available, but instead the Jaguars opt for defense.

It's hard to imagine the Jaguars not taking Bridgewater, or any quarterback, with their top pick, but it's starting to become more and more of a reasonable approach for two reasons: The depth of this quarterback class and the shortage of truly elite pass-rushers.

This quarterback class doesn't have the surefire star like Andrew Luck, so any of the first-round quarterbacks -- Kiper has Manziel, Bridgewater and Blake Bortles being selected -- is a bit of a gamble. But there are plenty of other options that will be available in the second round or later, like AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger, Tajh Boyd, Derek Carr and Stephen Morris.

Are they as highly rated as Bridgewater, Bortles or Manziel? No, but that doesn't mean they won't be better players. Just look at the quarterbacks playing in Sunday's conference championship games. Colin Kaepernick was a second-round pick. Russell Wilson was a third-round pick. Tom Brady didn't go until the sixth round. Peyton Manning is the lone exception.

Elite pass-rushers, however, won't last until the second round. In addition to Clowney, Kiper predicts that Anthony Barr, Khalil Mack, Stephon Tuitt and Scott Crichton also will be first-round picks. That means the Jaguars wouldn't be able to land one of those elite rushers if they take a quarterback in the first round -- unless they were to somehow trade up into the latter part of the first round.

GM David Caldwell, however, has said he's committed to building through the draft and you don't do that by giving away picks.

Taking Clowney, whom many believed would have been the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft as a sophomore, instead of a quarterback in the first round may not be the correct decision, but it is the safer pick.