JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — With so many needs elsewhere, particularly along both of their lines and at wide receiver, should the Jacksonville Jaguars really use the third pick next week in the NFL draft on a quarterback?
General manager Dave Caldwell made it sound Friday as if that would not be the case.
"The majority of this class has a ways to go," he said when asked about, among others, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and Blake Bortles of UCF.
With veteran Chad Henne already penciled in as the starter at quarterback for the 2014 season, both Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley gave indications they would be content with choosing from a group of players at other positions barring a trade down. But defensive end Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina and wide receiver Sammy Watkins of Clemson could go 1-2 to the Houston Texans and the St. Louis Rams, while taking an offensive tackle high in the first round for a second year in a row could be a bit of a stretch.
Caldwell worked for the Indianapolis Colts and most recently the Atlanta Falcons before the Jaguars hired him in January 2013. The Colts got back on the winning track after drafting Andrew Luck with the first pick in 2012, and the Falcons have no regrets about choosing Matt Ryan third overall in 2008.
But Caldwell said both Luck and Ryan had more experience in college running pro-style offenses than either Bortles or Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, who some draft experts are predicting might fall completely out of the first round. The Jaguars held a private workout recently for Bridgewater that Caldwell described as being more tailored toward the offense they run than what the Miami native showed during his scripted NFL pro day in March.
The Jaguars have 11 picks in all, including eight in the first five rounds. They had only eight total picks in Caldwell’s and Bradley’s first draft and did not take a quarterback because they were still clinging to the hope that 2011 first-round pick Blaine Gabbert could prove he belonged.
"We have a lot more flexibility than we did last year," Caldwell said. "If a player gets close and it’s somebody we really want, we’ll go after him."
"We already have a pretty good idea that we’re going to get good players," said Bradley, who started six rookies for at least one game in 2013 but saw offensive tackle and No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel go down with a season-ending ankle injury in Week 5.
Jake Matthews, who played on the same line with Joeckel at Texas A&M, and Greg Robinson of Auburn are players who excite Bradley but might not have the same effect on a fan base that could be desiring a more high-profile name such as Clowney or Manziel.
"We do know that we need offensive linemen," he said. "We’re going to draft some offense linemen. The tackles are intriguing to us because you can lose depth really fast."
Joeckel’s injury came a week after the Jaguars traded 2009 first-rounder Eugene Monroe, the starting left tackle for the first four games last season, to the Baltimore Ravens. The second selection owned by the Jaguars in the fourth round is the pick they acquired from the Ravens for Monroe.
"Usually in your first three rounds, you’d like to get starters out of those rounds," Caldwell said. "When you start to get to the late third and fourth, those are more role-type of players."
Caldwell said two teams he would not name have contacted him about the No. 3 pick. Ryan and Vince Young are the only quarterbacks since 2003 to go third overall. Five of the past seven No. 3 picks have been offensive or defensive linemen, including defensive end Dion Jordan a year ago by the Miami Dolphins.
Caldwell added he "would probably be surprised" if Clowney, whose work ethic had been called into question during his final year at South Carolina, remained available when the Jaguars’ turn rolled around.
While an 11th-hour transaction hasn’t been entirely ruled out, the Jaguars are relieved to know a draft being held three weeks later than usual is within sight.
"The last two weeks have been pretty long," Caldwell said. "Most of our work is done."