Now that we are just inside of the 30 day mark until the draft, and the free agency cash grab has slowed down a bit, we will turn our attention toward some of the Jaguars draft needs. The Jaguars are in a pretty unique position for a team coming off of a .500 season. They seem to have starting caliber talent at every single position, and very good depth at most. That depth is necessary as the Jaguars found out in ‘06 when they lost 15 players to the injured reserve, including their starting quarterback, best pass rusher, best linebacker, and best safety. Picture the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts playing one game without Peyton Manning, Dwight Freeney, Cato June, and Bob Sanders. Now picture them playing most of the season without those guys. I would venture to say that last years' 8-8 Jaguars team was one of the best in history, and I believe they were easily better than the 2005, 12-4 team. The only good thing about having that rash of injuries is that the team was able to audition backups in real game situations, and they should be better off because of that in 2007.
If the Jaguars are able to enter the 2007 season without adding any other pieces, or losing anyone else, this will be a very competitive team. That being said, more competition is never a bad thing, and I think that the team could use another play-maker on defense. These are my top three positions of need for the Jaguars in the upcoming draft, which are likely to be addressed early on:
1. Safety- Although Deon Grant wasn't the great ball-hawking play-maker that many fans would have liked him to be, he was solid and always in the right position. The team is fortunate to have Gerald Sensabaugh who can play either safety position at a high level. Fortunately for the Jaguars, this draft is loaded with very good safeties early on. Reggie Nelson (Florida), LaRon Landry (LSU), and Michael Griffin (Texas) are all first round prospects, and Aaron Rouse (Virginia Tech), Brandon Meriweather (Miami), and Eric Weddle (Utah) could last until the second or third rounds. The team is good enough to go with what they have on opening day right now, but strong safety Donovin Darius will be 32 years old when preseason begins, and he's had two season-ending leg injuries in the last two years.
2. Defensive End- Pass rushers are always at a premium in this league, and this years' draft is deep with solid defensive ends. Right now, the Jaguars have a nice rotation at the DE spots with Reggie Hayward, Paul Spicer, Bobby McCray, Rob Meier (DT, DE) and Brent Hawkins (DPR). Hayward is coming off of a ruptured Achilles injury, Spicer will be 32 years old when the preseason begins, McCray will be a free agent next season, and will be expensive to re-sign, Meier is best suited in the defensive tackle rotation, and Brent Hawkins is still pretty raw, yet talented. Drafting a defensive end now could maybe allow for Hayward to not be himself before the injury, Spicer to move on, or insurance in case the team can't re-sign McCray. Some of the ends that may be available when the Jaguars start drafting are: Adam Carriker (Nebraska), Jarvis Moss (Florida), Anthony Spencer (Purdue), Victor Abiarimi (Notre Dame), Quentin Moses (Georgia), and Tim Crowder (Texas), among others.
3. Wide Receiver- The Jaguars wide receivers appear to be more like a basketball team than a football team, as Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, and Ernest Wilford are all over 6'4", and strong. The team needed a change-up deep threat, so they added Dennis Northcutt in free agency. Reggie Williams' contract in 2008 is voidable, so the Jaguars may lose him next year, willingly or unwillingly. Ernest Wilford is also a free agent next season, and it is unlikely that the team will retain him as well. Regarding the draft, the Jaguars front office went on record saying that they won't be drafting a wide receiver in the first round, being that they've drafted receivers in the first round in '04 (Williams), '05 (Jones), and a tight end in '06 (Marcedes Lewis). Taking the front office at their word, this should be a good year to get a guy later in the draft being that the receiver position is pretty deep. Some of the prospects the Jaguars may be looking at are Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio State), Jason Hill (Washington State), Johnnie Lee Higgins (UTEP), and David Clowney (Virginia Tech), among others.
Although these are the Jaguars three biggest draft needs, the front office continues to claim to be a BAP (best available player) type of drafting team. That fact can easily be debated, at least in the first round. A case can be made for drafting a quarterback, although with a roster as talented as the Jaguars, they wouldn't want to potentially waste a season or two grooming a young QB who may or may not be the answer. A case can also be made at linebacker, being that Mike Peterson will be 32, coming off a season-ending pectoral injury. Running back may also be a position of future concern, as Fred Taylor is on the wrong side of 30, and his production could fall off at any time, although last season showed no evidence of that. The Jaguars are in a pretty good position this year to actually draft the best player available at each and every pick.
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