JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A day after drafting a quarterback they aren’t planning on starting next season, the Jacksonville Jaguars took two wide receivers in the second round who could very well contribute right away.
Marqise Lee of USC, who was widely regarded as a first-round prospect, and Allen Robinson of Penn State were chosen Friday by the Jaguars on the heels of their selection of UCF’s Blake Bortles with the third overall draft pick. Robinson was taken after the Jaguars acquired another second-round choice by trading their pick in the third round and one of their three turns in the fifth round to the San Francisco 49ers.
The Jaguars also drafted guard Brandon Linder from Miami toward the end of the third round with a choice acquired from the New England Patriots for picks in the fourth and sixth rounds.
"We never imagined that we’d go back-to-back with receivers because we never thought we’d have an opportunity to do it," general manager Dave Caldwell said. "As it started to go, we started to make calls for trades and had a couple lined up behind San Francisco. But San Francisco was the best deal."
Lee and Robinson come to a team which is thin at wide receiver, especially with the uncertain status of 2012 first-round pick Justin Blackmon. Cecil Shorts III led the Jaguars with 64 receptions while rookie Ace Sanders caught 51 passes, but neither one averaged more than 11.8 yards per catch.
Without going into detail, Caldwell said "I think we’ve kind of moved on" from Blackmon, who played in only four of 16 games in 2013 because of two suspensions by the NFL for violating its substance abuse policy.
"Between Allen, Marqise and Cecil, we feel really good about that," he said. "Ace is kind of our specialty guy."
"We’ll see what happens with these guys," coach Gus Bradley said. "You hear the hearsay about Marqise, that he should have been a first-round pick. But I just feel like it’s better."
The 6-foot, 192-pound Lee was chosen with the 39th overall selection. He was the Biletnikoff Award winner in 2012 as the nation’s best receiver after he caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns, but those numbers dropped last season to 57 receptions for 791 yards and four scores in a year where he missed three games because of knee and shin injuries.
Five wide receivers were chosen in the first round Thursday, headed by Sammy Watkins of Clemson, who went to Buffalo with the No. 4 pick.
"This is a deep draft, and sometimes players fall through," Caldwell said. "We had some opportunity there to nab him."
Lee did not require surgery on his knee and said he was back to full strength by the time of the Las Vegas Bowl, when he had seven catches for 118 yards and two TDs against Fresno State.
"One thing the doctor told me is you need time," he said. "And during the season, you don’t really have time."
As an added bonus, Lee struck up a friendship with Bortles at the league’s combine in late February.
"We get along very well," he said. "I got the opportunity to meet him in Indianapolis, and we’ve been cool ever since."
At 6-2 and 220 pounds, Robinson is larger than Lee. And with a vertical leap which has been measured at 42 inches, he should give Chad Henne another option besides tight end Marcedes Lewis to throw to when the Jaguars are in the red zone.
"But that doesn’t measure what kind of kid this kid is," Caldwell said. "He is extremely hard-working, extremely grounded."
Robinson had 97 receptions for 1,432 yards and six touchdowns last season in Penn State’s pro-style passing attack under Bill O’Brien, now the head coach of the Houston Texans. Bradley credited Jaguars wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan for providing much of the input on taking Robinson.
"The traits that Jerry looks for in wide receivers, he has," he said. "The ability to drop his hips and come out of breaks, all those things, plus his size — I think that’s one thing we were targeting, the ability to find size at the wideout spot."
The Jaguars are scheduled to have a pick in the fourth round, two in the fifth and one in both the sixth seventh rounds. They could take a center to try making up for the retirement of Brad Meester. They have also yet to draft any players on defense.