The Jaguars have had seven fourth-round draft picks in the Jack Del Rio/James "Shack" Harris era, and those seven picks have netted them exactly zero non-special teams starters who are still with the team. In fact, just two of the seven players are still members of the club, tight end George Wrighster and punter Adam Podlesh. Front office jobs aren't won or lost over failed fourth-round experiments, but the lack of production from these Jacksonville selections isn't on par with the rest of the top-tiered franchises in the league.
The Jaguars recent move to release last season's fourth-round selection, defensive end Brian Smith was a confirmation of yet another early second-day investment that the team received absolutely no return on. Smith's departure now puts him in a category with LaBrandon Toefield, Anthony Maddox, and Alvin Pearman, all players that the Jaguars selected and didn't receive much production or compensation for, if any.
I wish to reiterate that the fourth-round is usually not a spot in which teams find stars, but if a franchise can find a player that can contribute and eventually start, it is usually very cap-friendly, and it can be extremely beneficial to the particular franchise. A few of the fourth-round selections that have panned out in recent years are Tampa Bay safety Tanard Jackson (2007), Houston tight end Owen Daniels (2006), Denver wide receiver Brandon Marshall (2006), defensive end Elvis Dumervil (2006), Dallas running back Marion Barber (2005), New York (Jets) safety Kerry Rhodes (2005), New York (Giants) running back Brandon Jacobs (2005), Atlanta linebacker Demorrio Williams (2004), San Diego linebacker Shaun Phillips (2004), New York (Jets) wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (2004), current Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen (2004), Buffalo cornerback Terrance McGee (2003), current Philadelphia cornerback Asante Samel (2003), and current Atlanta fullback Ovie Mughelli (2003).
For every Asante Samuel, Jared Allen, and Marion Barber that is discovered in round four, there are five Lance Nimmo's Dennis Weathersley's, and Bruce Thornton's that didn't pan out. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, they've had many more players that resemble the latter comparison rather than the former.
When late-round picks work out, it allows teams to not have to partake in the risky, expensive world of free agency, which teams normally miss way more often than they hit. The Indianapolis Colts are the perfect example of this as they rarely participate in the opening free agency weekend madness, opting to just re-sign their own players. They can do this because of second-day picks such as Freddy Keiaho, Antoine Bethea, Matt Giordano, Robert Mathis, and Cato June, who are not all star caliber players, but have been solid contributors for the team. You can't argue with their success, as they are the only team in NFL history to win 12 games for five consecutive seasons.
Some of the Jaguars round four struggles have been due to outwardly poor drafting, and some have been just bad luck with injuries. That said, they are one of the few winning franchises in the NFL to not have a fourth-round pick turn into a starter in some time. Still, if the team would've had the foresight to select a Jared Allen instead of an Anthony Maddox, they likely wouldn't have had to spend the entire first-day of the 2008 draft on defensive ends.
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