Sitting at pick No. 17 in the draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars were faced with the unthinkable. A franchise quarterback was staring them in the face, as well as the safety they targeted, and also a cornerback that many experts had rated as a top ten talent. This would seem like a dream come true for a team that has issues at the quarterback position, as well as a certain need in the secondary. So what do the Jaguars do? They trade down. The Jaguars swapped picks with the Denver Broncos to move down to pick #21. At first, I'm sure this left a lot of people curious why they would pass on the opportunity to fix the quarterback problem, as well as their needs in the secondary, but when you look at the final result, it makes what they did look even better. None of the teams between where the Jaguars were and where they wound up would pick a quarterback, and it would be likely that at least one of the other players they were targeting would still be available. At the end of the day, it seemed Jacksonville did the smart thing and acquired extra picks while still being in position to select a future franchise quarterback, or fill their need in the secondary.
While this team was in need for a safety, the player in which the Jaguars passed up to get it makes it almost dumb. The Jaguars have issues at the quarterback position. Starter Byron Leftwich, while he hasn't been terrible, he hasn't been great and has a lot of injury issues. Not to mention he is in the final year of his contract. Backup David Garrard clearly showed last season he is not a starting caliber quarterback, and third stringer Quinn Gray is a wildcard at best. You certainly can't rest your laurels on Gray in 2008 and expect success. Drafting Brady Quinn insures the position in the long run. You could hope to run into the situation the San Diego Chargers were in a year ago with Drew Brees and Philip Rivers. Not to mention the rampant rumors that Byron Leftwich doesn't want to come back to Jacksonville. Sure, you can franchise the guy, but are you going to pay Byron Leftwich the average of the highest 5 paid quarterbacks in the NFL? No way. With drafting Quinn, the Jaguars at least put themselves in a safer situation should Byron Leftwich leave or go down with an injury again.
Brady Quinn has the top intangibles a team looks for in a franchise quarterback. He has the size (6-4, 230lbs), the look, the leadership, the experience, and the arm. Quinn has also played in a pro-style offense under Charlie Weiss the past two seasons, so his transition to the NFL should come with relative ease compared to other rookie quarterbacks. Not only does Quinn have all of that, but he's also got experience. Brady Quinn has started 48 games in his career, and has never been injured, which is key. Not to mention the situation he would be in would also ease he development. He's coming to a team with an elite defense, dominant running game, and a very good offensive line.
While drafting Reggie Nelson helps this team win right now, drafting Brady Quinn helps this team win in the long run. Couple this with the fact that Jack Del Rio is on the hot seat, and a lot of that stems from the instability at the quarterback position, how can you pass up opportunity falling in your proverbial lap?
The Jaguars made the right move by selecting Reggie Nelson with the 21st pick in the 2007 draft. Reggie Nelson is a great mix of need and value at the Jaguars pick. Nelson is a better safety right now than the departed Deon Grant, and the defense now has play-makers all over the field. The Jaguars became a better team immediately with the selection of Nelson, and with the Jaguars defense beginning to age, but still playing at a high level, their window of opportunity is open now, and may not be for much longer.
Although it was likely a surprise that Brady Quinn was available, I'm not so sure it was a great opportunity. Drafting a new starting quarterback is usually a minimum of a three year project. It will take at least that long for Quinn to be able to match the level of play of what Byron Leftwich gives the team now, assuming Quinn will ever reach that level of play. From 2002-2005, 14 quarterbacks were drafted in the first round. Out of those 14 quarterbacks, just two have made the Pro Bowl, and just six of them are starters. In the same period of time, four safeties were selected in round one, and all four have made at least one Pro Bowl. Selecting a safety is not only much less risk for any franchise, but in the situation that the Jaguars are in, the safety serves an immediate need and helps the team win now.
If the team drafted Quinn, a good percentage of the fans that already dislike Byron Leftwich will be even more vocal about wanting to play the good-looking, rookie quarterback. If Leftwich throws one interception, the fans and media will jump all over him, even worse than they do now. If you draft Quinn, you are effectively forcing Leftwich out, and that may turn out to be an action the front office regrets. The front office has groomed Leftwich for four years, and he's played at a fairly high level when he's been able to stay healthy. The team made a commitment to him when they signed right tackle Tony Pashos, and they should at least give him the '07 season to see how it plays out. There is great risk in drafting a quarterback in the first round, especially a quarterback who didn't play very well in big games when he was in college. Brady Quinn could turn out to be a great NFL quarterback, but he's not going to be able to play against the service academies each week. There's likely a pretty good reason why nearly every team that had a worse quarterback situation than the Jaguars passed on the guy.
Counterpoint: Jaguars First Pick
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