Nov 21, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis (40), defensive lineman Justus Reed (97) and teammates hold a flag as they run out of the tunnel before the game against the Florida Atlantic Owls at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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With the Jacksonville Jaguars seemingly heading for another dismal season, who should they be targeting in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft
If the first two weeks are any indication of the remainder of the 2016 season, the Jacksonville Jaguars will be selecting in the top-10 of the 2017 NFL Draft for the 10th straight season. Just two weeks ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars were the trendy pick to win the AFC South. Now with an 0-2 record, the Jaguars look destined for another losing season.
The Jaguars bye week is in Week 5. Until then, they play the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts. To salvage their season, the Jaguars will need to win both. If not, the team will be getting ready for the draft once again in early October. For the Jaguars, and their fans, the NFL Draft has been the team’s Super Bowl.
Sep 17, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) receives congratulations from offensive lineman Mason Cole (52) after he scores a touchdown in the second half against the Colorado Buffaloes at Michigan Stadium. Michigan won 45-28. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
5. Jabrill Peppers, S/LB — Michigan
Jabrill Peppers is arguably the best player in college football and certainly the most versatile. Peppers has played linebacker, safety, running back and even has been a return specialist for Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines.
Peppers versatility is similar to that of Myles Jack, who the Jaguars drafted in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Barring injury, there is no way Peppers will slip beyond the first-half of the first round. It may be unlikely he makes it to where the Jaguars are picking in the first round. But then again, Jalen Ramsey somehow made it to pick No. 5.
Peppers would likely play the safety position for the Jaguars and replace 2013 second round pick, Jonathan Cyprien. Cyrpien has been a major disappointment in his four year Jaguars career and not the Kam Chancellor that Gus Bradley envisioned. Where Cyprien struggles, Peppers excels.
Peppers can blitz, cover tight ends and chase plays from the backside. He is very effective in press coverage. He patiently sits and catches wide receivers, effectively rerouting and disrupting the timing of the play.
Just check out the best player in college football’s highlights below. He can do it all!
Suffice it to say that he has all of the skills to make it at the next level—and maybe a few more left over after that.
Sep 19, 2015; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) reacts after a play during the second quarter against the Nevada Wolf Pack at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
4. Myles Garrett, DE — Texas A&M
Like every offseason, the Jaguars are in need of help in regards to their pass-rush. The Jaguars haven’t had player generate pressure consistently since Tony Brackens. And he last played for the Jaguars in 2003.
The team does have 2015 first-round pick Dante Fowler and 2016 third-round pick Yannick Ngakoue coming off the edge. Both have shown promise in their young careers. Ngakoue recorded a sack agains the Chargers and Fowler got to the quarterback twice himself. However, you can never have enough pass rushers.
Myles Garrett is the best pure pass rush specialist in the 2017 class.
He has ideal size, length and motor for the position. As a pass rusher, he can win with speed, wrap around the edge and flatten to the quarterback. He can convert speed to power and he also possesses a nifty inside spin move. When he slides down to rush against guards, he almost always wins the battle. They are no match for his quickness and he generates a lot of pressure.
The Jaguars have been looking for pass rushers like the Cleveland Browns have been looking for quarterbacks. Perhaps Garrett could put an end to the team’s defensive end woes.
Sep 3, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Cam Robinson (74) in action during the game against the USC Trojans at AT&T Stadium. Alabama defeats USC 52-6. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
3. Cam Robinson, OT — Alabama
Though Cam Robinson has had some off the field concerns, he is the top offensive tackle in the 2017 NFL Draft. Luke Joeckel hasn’t turned out like he was projected to be after the team selected him number two overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. Joeckel was kicked inside to guard where he has performed adequately. The Jaguars signed Kelvin Beachum this offseason from the Pittsburgh Steelers and has been solid after coming off a torn ACL in 2015.
However, the team needs a young bookend tackle to protect Blake Bortles for the next decade. Bortles has been sacked the most of any NFL quarterback in their first two seasons in NFL history. With what Robinson has shown in college, he could do that and more on the edge of the offensive line.
Robinson is a dominant run blocker. He has the power to create a lot of movement at the point of attack and he’s athletic enough to reach and cut off on the back side. He takes good angles when he works up to the second level and he is athletic enough to pick off second-level defenders on outside pulls. He has a good feel for combo blocks and he looks to finish every rep.
The Jaguars have struggled this season running the football and Robinson would be much needed help and a welcome addition for T.J. Yeldon.
Sep 5, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball in the second quarter against the Mississippi Rebels at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
2. Running Backs, Running Backs, Running Backs
If a team is looking for a running back next offseason, the 2017 NFL Draft will be the year to do it. The Jaguars rank dead last in rush yards so far this season. However, those numbers are skewed as Chris Ivory has been out and T.J. Yeldon has been doing it all by himself. Yeldon does only have a 2.4 yards per carry average so far this season, though.
T.J. Yeldon hasn’t been a bad running back for the Jaguars. He does his job, doesn’t fumble, and has performed well in pass protection. However, the Jaguars have been lucky at the running back position through their history with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. Why not continue the trend?
Though Yeldon hasn’t had much room to run this season, he doesn’t look to have the skill set that either Taylor or Jones-Drew possessed. In Week 2 against the San Diego Chargers, Yeldon had eight catches for a mere 10 yards. The Jaguars need to help Blake Bortles out and get a home run hitter at the running back position.
Nov 7, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) high five fans as they beat the Vanderbilt Commodores at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 9-7. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
1. Jarrad Davis, LB — Florida
Paul Posluszny’s time in Jacksonville should be up after this season. Sure, he’s been the play caller on defense and one of the mainstays for the last few seasons. However, he is a liability in both the pass and run game.
Myles Jack looks to be the heir apparent at the middle linebacker position and will likely start there come Week 1 of 2017. At outside linebacker, the Jaguars have the speedy Telvin Smith, who just seems to get better every week. Dan Skuta is the other linebacker and isn’t anything special and should be replaced.
The Jaguars can continue the trend of selecting Florida based players in the first round by taking Jarrad Davis. Davis is the leader of the Florida defense and has the capabilities to play all three linebacker positions, although he would be better suited outside.
He is alert in coverage, anticipating routes and slapping at the ball as it arrives to break up passes, including five last year. That said, Davis’ compact frame and spatial awareness, however, could be better suited inside. He shows terrific football intelligence, quickly locating the ball and anticipating where it is going. Davis anticipates the snap well as a blitzer, timing his rush to split gaps in the line of scrimmage to rack up tackles for loss.
Davis, Jack, and Telvin Smith would give the Jacksonville Jaguars one of the best young linebacker trios in the NFL moving forward. The question, of course, is which way will the front office lean when looking at Davis amidst this surplus of quality first-round options.