Thursday, April 3, 2014
Analyzing Kiper Grade A draft: Jaguars
By Michael DiRocco
The Jacksonville Jaguars have the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft after finishing 4-12 in 2013. The roster needs so much help that the Jaguars could go in various directions with their selection, although the team’s biggest needs are quarterback and pass-rusher.
Mel Kiper Jr.’s fourth 2014 NFL mock draft is out on ESPN Insider today, and it’d be tough to argue against his choice.
Kiper has the Jaguars taking Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, who excelled as a pass-rusher and in coverage during his four-year career.
The Jaguars certainly are interested in the top three quarterbacks -- Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater -- and all three are still available when the Jaguars pick in Kiper’s mock. They’ve also got interest in several other quarterbacks, including Aaron Murray, Derek Carr, Zach Mettenberger and AJ McCarron, among others. However, general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley don’t believe any of the quarterbacks in the draft are ready to play right away, which is a big reason the team signed Chad Henne to a two-year extension and named him the starter for 2014.
It makes more sense for the Jaguars to address pass-rusher with their pick. They’d obviously be happy with South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but Kiper has him going No. 1 overall to Houston. The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Mack is a heck of a consolation prize, though. He’s a perfect fit for the Jaguars’ hybrid end/linebacker spot, which the team calls a "leo." He was fantastic in that role at Buffalo, recording 28.5 sacks and forcing an NCAA-record 16 fumbles in his career. The Jaguars did add to the pass rush in free agency by signing end Chris Clemons and outside linebacker Dekoda Watson and re-signing leo Jason Babin, but teams can never have enough pass-rushers. That’s especially true for the Jaguars, who have finished last in the league in sacks each of the past two seasons (20 in 2012 and 31 last season).