Did the Jaguars Reach?

When Jacksonville selected Derek Cox in the third round of the NFL Draft, Jaguars fans scurried to their computers in hopes of learning more about the William and Mary product.

A Google search left many Jacksonville fans dumbfounded, as it was unfathomable that the team could spend such a high draft pick on the relatively unknown cornerback. Although the pick was considered to be somewhat of a reach, this wasn't the first time the Jaguars reached into FCS land early on in the draft to take a talented defender, as the team has had success in recent memory with small-school products such as Rashean Mathis (Bethune-Cookman, 39th overall selection) and Justin Durant (Hampton, 48th overall selection.)

The Jaguars' brass knows that taking Cox so high might be scrutinized by some, but that comes with the territory of drafting a guy who isn't on the national radar screen.

"Much like when you take a guy like Rashean (Mathis) who comes from a smaller school and people say ‘Who? How can you take him there?' Well, we feel good about having selected him," said Jacksonville head coach, Jack Del Rio.

The Jaguars are certainly hoping that Cox can have a Mathis-like impact, as the team is desperately looking for second corner. Del Rio and company are high on the third-round selection and they believe that they have acquired a steal.

Derek Cox as a Jaguar (Kosovac/JagNation)
"Derek Cox, we're very excited about," added Del Rio. "We think he's got a special skill set. We think that if it weren't for coming out of a small school, he would go much higher in the draft and everybody would know who he is."

At 6'1", 186 lbs., Cox has all the measurables that one could ask for. Aside from prototypical size, Cox has 4.4 speed (and has even broke into the 4.3s) and quickness (he ran 6.8 second three-cone drill). He also had the best broad jump of any player entering the draft this past year, with 11'8".

With excellent combine numbers, some might see Cox as a workout-warrior, but his on-field production warrants a second look. A four-year starter, Cox totaled just nine interceptions in his career, but those numbers are deceiving. Opposing teams routinely looked away from his side of the field and when they did, he made them pay, as he averaged .82 passes defensed per game as a senior. In 2008, he also returned two picks for touchdowns. Although he isn't particularly strong, Cox has demonstrated the willingness to make contact with runners and he rarely shies away from the ball carrier.

A wiry player, Cox gains a lot of ground quickly, as he is a long strider who can get going once he picks up speed and gets into the open field. This nimbleness has not only enabled Cox to become a big-play specialist once he picks off a pass, but also an elite punt returner as well. He averaged over 16 yards per punt return and took two back for touchdowns.

The biggest knock on Cox was and still is that he didn't routinely go against big-time competition in college, but in his time as a starter, Cox has lined up against the likes of N.C. State, Maryland and Virginia Tech. The Tribe also narrowly lost this past season to a Richmond team that won the FCS championship.

Cox, who was a two-time captain for William and Mary, comes from a school that has produced little NFL talent, but other Tribe alumnus includes former All-Pro Darren Sharper and Texas Tech head coach, Mike Leach.

A career like Sharper's would make the Jaguars' ecstatic. Likening Cox to Pro Bowler defensive backs like Sharper or Mathis might be a little premature, but those are the expectations that you face when you're taken that high. Cox has hype around him and his production will be closely scrutinized, but he has been making plays his entire career, so there's no reason to believe that he will stop now.

For more, go to: JagNation.com

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