For the seventh year in a row, the Jacksonville Jaguars will have one of the first 10 picks in the NFL draft. No other team can come close to making a similar claim.
While two of those selections were the result of trades rather than poor records the year before, the inability to get much out of the players they selected is why the Jaguars find themselves stuck in this rut.
Pretty much every team has made choices which they later came to regret to some extent. And considering the Jaguars endured a six-year stretch in the 2000s where they whiffed on wide receivers R. Jay Soward, Reggie Williams and Matt Jones in the first round, their recent history could qualify as less than horrific.
But the past five years haven’t seen them choose wisely in general. There were glimpses of promise from the first draft class over which general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley presided, although finishing tied for the third-worst record last season showed that those contributions were limited in impact.
Here is a look at what the Jaguars have done since 2009, a time during which they have never finished a season with a record better than 8-8:
2013: T Luke Joeckel, second overall (Incomplete) — The fifth game of his rookie year saw him suffer a season-ending injury to his left ankle at St. Louis. He had been moved from right tackle to left tackle the week before, so there isn’t much of a body of work to judge him on beyond his time in college at Texas A&M where he helped protect Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Joeckel remains limited in what he can do during the offseason programs but has said the ankle is stable and has healed.
2012: WR Justin Blackmon, fifth overall (D) — After the Jaguars moved up two spots in a trade with Tampa Bay to get the top player available at his position, Blackmon set franchise rookie records for receptions (64), receiving yards (865) and yardage per reception (13.5). But he took a step backward last year which could be career-threatening. He played in only four games because of two violations of the league’s substance abuse policy, and his future with the Jaguars is cloudy at best.
2011: QB Blaine Gabbert, 10th overall (F) — The Jaguars were slotted to pick 16th before trading places with the Washington Redskins in a draft where four of the first 12 choices were quarterbacks. With the exception of top pick Cam Newton, all of them have turned out to be flops. Gabbert was the worst of the bunch, going 5-22 as a starter with more interceptions (24) than touchdowns (22) before being traded to San Francisco in March for a sixth-rounder. Two of the league’s top current defensive ends, J.J. Watt and Robert Quinn, were taken in the first round after him.
2010: DT Tyson Alualu, 10th overall (C) — Alualu became known at first as the player chosen by the Jaguars, who scuffled to a 7-9 finish the year before with David Garrard at quarterback, when local hero Tim Tebow was available. He has started every game the past four years and made the transition last season from tackle to the end position largely responsible for stopping the run. But the Jaguars finished 29th in rushing defense in 2013, and the signings of Red Bryant and Ziggy Hood have raised questions about how much Alualu figures in their plans.
2009: T Eugene Monroe, eighth overall (B-) — While he made 58 starts in his first four seasons, Monroe was thought to be on borrowed time with the Jaguars entering his contract year as soon as they drafted Joeckel. They wound up trading him Oct. 2 to the Baltimore Ravens for a fourth-round pick next week. Monroe and center Brad Meester were the two constants on an offensive line in which seven different guards held down the starting spot between the two of them.
2011: QB Blaine Gabbert, first round, 10th overall — In his three starts during the first five weeks of last season, the Jaguars were held without a touchdown in two of them and he got injured in the third. His rating of 36.0 was last among all quarterbacks with more than 16 passing attempts — yes, even worse than that of Josh Freeman and Jeff Tuel.
2010: DT D’Anthony Smith, third round, 74th overall — Smith spent his first two seasons on injured reserve. The Jaguars traded him to Seattle at the end of last preseason for an undisclosed draft pick, but because the Seahawks released him less than a month later, that pick will not be coming to them.
2009: T Eben Britton, second round, 39th overall — Britton joined Eugene Monroe to become the first pair of rookie tackles to start in the NFL for the same team since 1982. He lost that starting job by the following season and didn’t pan out as a guard either before signing a one-year contract with Chicago.
LATE-ROUND SUCCESS STORIES
2011: WR Cecil Shorts III, fourth round, 114th overall — Chosen out of Ohio’s Mount Union, making him the first player from a Division III school ever drafted by the Jaguars, Shorts has 121 receptions for 1.756 yards and 10 touchdowns over the past two seasons. Not too shabby for the 15th wide receiver taken that year.
By the second half of last season, the Jaguars were starting three rookies — Johnathan Cyprien, Dwayne Gratz and Josh Evans — in their secondary and had begun to get production from 2012 second-round pick Andre Branch along their defensive line. But the rate of return from the last of Gene Smith’s years as general managers is frightening. And Bryan Anger, one of those few picks to stick, remains a sore subject with fans because of the decision by the Jaguars to use a third-round selection on a punter.