Since duties at The Players Championship precluded me from being at EverBank Field for the last day of the NFL draft, here’s my grades of how the Jaguars fared with all their picks.
Each grade is based on quality of the player at the time of the pick, along with how well the Jaguars filled a need.
1st round (No. 3 overall pick) -- QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida.
The surprise here was that the Jaguars rejected a trade down to the No. 6 spot with the Atlanta Falcons, which might have netted an extra second-round pick. But it goes to show how much they coveted Bortles, fearing the Cleveland Browns would take him at No. 4 or another team might trade up to snatch him. The Jaguars identified Bortles as the quarterback of the future they wanted over Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater, and didn’t want to lose him by getting greedy. It’s hard to argue with that logic. Grade: A-minus.
2nd round (No. 39 pick) – WR Marqise Lee, Southern Cal.
No question, a No. 1 receiver is a gaping hole because they had nobody to stretch the field. With the supremely talented Justin Blackmon likely done in Jacksonville, the Jaguars caught a break that Lee even fell to them. GM Dave Caldwell took a chance by resisting the urge to trade up once a few second-round picks went off the board, and his patience paid off. Lee was the best receiver in the country two years ago, then was limited by a knee issue last season. It’s rare when the best available player meets a team’s biggest need. Grade: A.
2nd round (No. 61 pick) – WR Allen Robinson, Penn State.
Some will argue Bortles, but this was probably the closest thing to a reach of the Jaguars’ nine picks. Robinson is not a bad choice, it’s just that the offensive line still had several holes. Among the linemen on the board were Mississippi State G Gabe Jackson, along with centers Marcus Martin and Travis Swanson. Caldwell gambled a bit here by waiting to address an area that clearly needs reinforcements. Grade: B.
3rd round (No. 93 pick) – G Brandon Linder, Miami
Reaching for Robinson made trading up for this selection a bit of an act of desperation. Linder probably went a little higher than expected, but Caldwell acknowledged there were few guards left that intrigued him. The Jaguars had slim pickings outside of Drew Nowak to compete for Uche Nwaneri’s right guard spot, so Linder became a priority. Grade: B-minus.
4th round (No. 114 pick) – CB Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
Though Colvin will certainly start the year on physically unable to perform list, due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament at the Senior Bowl, I like that the Jaguars saw a best available player scenario and pounced on it. Colvin appears to have the cover skills to eventually challenge for a starting job, and it’s not like the Jaguars are totally set at the position. Grade: B-plus.
5th round (No. 144 pick) – LB Telvin Smith, Florida State
This might raise some eyebrows due to Smith’s failed drug test at the combine, but it’s hard to question taking the leading tackler on a national championship team this late in draft. The Jaguars have trouble covering tight ends and could always use speed on special teams, so Smith makes sense. Grade: B.
5th round (No. 159 pick) – DE Chris Smith, Arkansas
Once they passed on Khalil Mack in first round, there weren’t many opportunities to grab a pass-rusher that had a lot of value. Taking Smith, another player Gus Bradley’s staff coached in the Senior Bowl, was a logical choice. You can never have enough players to get after the quarterback. Grade: B-minus.
6th round (No. 205 pick) – C Luke Bowanko, Virginia
You have to wonder about a player that didn’t get invited to the NFL combine, but there’s no question the Jaguars needed some competition at center. If Mike Brewster is the answer, then why did they try to break the bank for the Cleveland Browns’ Alex Mack. Grade: C.
7th round (No. 222 pick) – RB Storm Johnson, Central Florida
The last time the Jaguars took a RB in 7th round, Rashad Jennings (2009) turned out to be a smart pick. Bortles’ teammate was a sturdy, dependable beast for UCF. It’d be no surprise to see Johnson win a backup job behind free agent acquisition Toby Gerhart. Grade: B-plus.
Overall: The Jaguars already have four starters from Caldwell’s first draft in 2013, and should land at least five from this draft, though some like Bortles might have to wait until 2015. Caldwell took some risk by not addressing offensive line sooner, but there’s no denying the Jaguars needed playmakers and they wasted no time grabbing them. Grade: A-minus.