The Jaguars have made some questionable draft picks over the last five years, headlined by first-round picks Byron Leftwich and Matt Jones, neither or whom appear to be headed for long, productive NFL careers. Although the Jaguars appear to have done better in the draft recently,
One of the biggest surprises of last season's mini-camp and training camp was former UCF wide receiver Mike Walker, who was selected in the third-round by the Jaguars (# 79 overall). With his fantastic hands and route-running skills, Walker routinely made Jaguars defensive backs look silly in camp, and expectations from fans grew greatly. Unfortunately for Walker, camp was the highlight of his 2007 campaign, as he seemed to regress in the preseason, and was placed on the injured reserve to rehab his knee, which he had surgery on in 2005.
Despite a full season going by, Walker is still not on a regular practice schedule, as the Jaguars have been keeping him out of some practices for precautionary measures. "He's still working through his rehab," said Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio. "He's begun running and they're just bringing him back slowly. He should be up to speed when we get into camp."
Will Mike Walker ever become the player the Jaguars envisioned when they made him their third-round pick a year ago? Nobody can answer for sure. When JagNation checks in with Walker's agent, we get the answer that "everything is on schedule." Well, what else would they say? If Walker can get completely healthy, he was unlimited potential, and can be the number one receiver that the Jaguars have been missing for the last several years. Unfortunately, there's no reason to believe at this point that he can be that player, being that he still can't maintain a full practice regimen.
Another player with high hopes from last year's draft is former University of Missouri defensive end Brian Smith. Smith was selected by the Jaguars in the fourth-round of the 2007 draft (# 113 overall) in hopes that he could add a pass rush to the Jaguars mediocre defensive end group, after registering 32 sacks in 44 games at Missouri. Smith is an explosive, undersized player at 6'4", 240 lbs., who entered the NFL with a hip injury that cut his collegiate career short.
Brian Smith didn't take part in many activities with the Jaguars last season, and he was placed on the PUP list (physically unable to perform), and eventually the injured reserve before he played a single game with the team. Smith showed outstanding ability while in college, and some of that ability could certainly translate to the pro game, but a year later, Smith is still not ready to practice. At this point in his career, the Jaguars haven't said much about Smith's condition, and if they were high on his possible return, they likely wouldn't have spent the entire first day of the 2008 draft on his defensive end position.
The Jaguars could have two diamonds in the rough in Mike Walker and Brian Smith, but the longer that neither can take part in full practices, the less likely that seems. Some other options that the team could've opted for a year ago was former Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards, who is currently Buffalo's starting quarterback and could've been a solid backup for the Jaguars. Another option would've been former Iowa tackle Marshall Yanda, who is a starter for the Baltimore Ravens. A few other options were safety Tanard Jackson (Buccaneers), linebacker Clint Session (Colts), and tight end/wide receiver Legedu Naanee (Chargers).
To be fair, although many of the players mentioned would've made a greater impact for Jacksonville, there were certainly a lot of players selected after Mike Walker and Brian Smith that didn't even make their rosters, or made no impact whatsoever. Walker and Smith have the potential to be very good players at the NFL level, but their health issues may not make that possible. With third and fourth-round picks invested, the Jaguars didn't take enormous gambles, and the team's minor wagers could still strike paydirt.
Jags Hindsight is 20/20
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