- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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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.
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.