The Jaguars have not reached the playoffs in 10 years, yet there is still optimism around the team due to an influx of young talent. That said, the fans and executives’ patience is wearing thin, as is evident by their decision to fire coach Gus Bradley during the season. In his place they’ve hired Tom Coughlin as the executive vice president of football operations and have given him the power to make major decisions.
With their young team and abundance of talent, their general manager and other top personnel echo the notion that they are in “win now” mode. My rankings agree that they are moving in the right direction with the 5th best overall draft; as I’ll look in depth at each of the five teams that “won” the draft over the next few weeks.
Round 1 pick 4 (No.4 overall) Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Fournette is used to being the best; he has been his entire football career. He was ESPN’s #1 recruit out of high school and he singlehandedly put LSU’s program on his back for the past 3 years.
Before entering this draft, the Jaguars already had a stout defense. Their offense was not playing at the same level, so Jacksonville is hoping that Fournette can carry the load on offense much like he did at LSU. There is no doubt that Fournette’s combination of speed and power is lethal. He can put DBs in a bind when he breaks through the second level and makes them choose between tackling him head up or risk taking an angle that will get them out ran to the pylon.
It is a sad truth that defenders do make “business decisions” before tackling runners like Fournette in the open field.
Ironically, Fournette was just a freshman when the Jaguars selected QB Blake Bortles with the 3rd overall pick to be the savior of the franchise. Now it’s Fournette turn to become the savior because Bortles has underwhelmed.
Bortles should be excited because their selection of a talented RB will shorten the amount of times they ask him to throw. Also, the pick excites the fan base because they now have an explosive play maker on the offensive side of the ball that they can root for. Most importantly, Fournette has shown that he has the leadership qualities that can lead an offense and franchise.
Despite Fournettes’ incredible strength and speed, it is noteworthy that he averaged a mere 48 yards against Alabama’s defense the past 3 seasons. Alabama’s defense was, much like NFL defenses will be, focused extensively on Fournette. NFL defenses play together in a gap controlled scheme to take away running lanes and they will have enough pride to limit Fournette’ s opportunities to run them over.
Fournette is most effective when he bursts through a slim running lane and uses his momentum to blast into the 2nd level. He is not, however, as effective when he is forced to stop his feet and redirect behind the LOS to find an open running lane. His catching ability is underrated but he relies on play scheme to get him open in the passing game rather than creating separation himself.
The Jaguars’ understanding of Fournette’s strengths and weaknesses will help him be successful. A good reason why they rose to the 5th best draft is because they showed that they understand Fournette when they selected their 2nd round player.
Round 2 pick 2 (No. 34 overall) Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
The 2017 offensive line class was weak in comparison to past drafts. However, my evaluation of Cam Robinson had me rank him as the top offensive lineman in this class and he would have competed for that title in past classes as well.
I appreciated Robinson’s equal dominance in the run and pass game. In the run game, he struck hard at first contact and showed the leg drive and choppy steps necessary to move defenders out of the hole. In the passing game, he has the lower body power to withstand a bull rush and the hip fluidity to change direction with the rusher.
Robinson dropped to the 2nd round because last season he would lean too far forward after contact; sometimes even falling forward flat on his stomach. Also, he had too many mental errors which caused NFL personnel to question his ability to mentally process the game.
All in all, I trust the process of practicing against the best. Over his college career he has practiced against what was possibly the most dominant defensive line in college football history with Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson and Dalvin Tomlinson. He was also one of the few that had shown the ability to handle Myles Garrett consistently for a full game.
Robinson’s power after contact made him the perfect pick to open running lanes for Fournette and his experience going against elite pass rushers will have him prepared to immediately protect Blake Bortles.
Round 4 pick 3 (No. 110) Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
Before the draft, Dede was one of the players I spoke of when I mentioned key players that may slip down the board and become a steal. Film evaluation shows that he runs routes with smooth and effortless speed.
Safeties had to pay attention to him each play that he was on the field because he can simply glide past coverage or create wide separation after forcing a DB to open his hips in the wrong direction.
The Biletnikoff winner has the rare ability to catch a screen and take it for a touchdown. This will force his DB to play closer to him at the line of scrimmage. At that point the DB is in chase and stalk mode; allowing Westbrook to easily transition to his most dangerous skill of naturally feeling when to change direction. I liked that he consistently caught deep passes over his shoulder, he worked extensively to move with the QB when he broke the pocket, and he is dangerous after the catch.
Westbrook most likely slipped in the draft because of his off-field issues. However, the Jaguars have been stockpiling WRs for years and may have finally found their play maker with this selection.
Why the Jaguars “won” the draft
The Jacksonville Jaguars had a solid draft throughout the board. They selected two dominant, marquee players in Leonard Fournette and Cam Robinson at the top of the draft. Then they provided more reinforcements to their explosive defensive line with Dawuane Smoot.
Later in the draft, they stole WR Dede Westbrook who fell because of off field concerns but can become a dangerous weapon. With some of their undrafted free agents, they took chances on players at key positions they knew they had to improve, such as Smoot’s teammate Carroll Phillips.