With the 110th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Oklahoma wide receiver, Dede Westbrook. A move that may have come as a surprise to many, the Jaguars were not exactly in need of another receiver. The Jags receiving corps is a young group that already contains developing stars such as Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. There was no pre-draft indication that the Jaguars would select Westbrook. However, as is the case in any NFL team, a quarterback can never have too many weapons. The addition of Westbrook gives the Jaguars a potentially elite receiving unit.
Dede Westbrook Can Provide a Spark to the Jacksonville Jaguars Offense
During the draft, the Jaguars front office clearly emphasized their intention to stick with struggling quarterback Blake Bortles next season. Adding Westbrook to Bortles’ plethora of weapons on offense is a surefire way to give the young quarterback no excuses going forward. Westbrook shone during his two years in Oklahoma and perfectly compliments the current Jags receiving corps.
What do the Jaguars get in Westbrook?
Westbrook possesses exceptional speed and the ability to use quick, sharp movement to uncover himself. This allows Westbrook to explode downfield for big time plays, stretching opposition defenses in the process. His ability to read opposing cornerbacks is also something to be marveled at, allowing Westbrook to perform well in man coverage. At his best when lining up in the slot, Westbrook will certainly give defenses something to think about, which could help create more room for other Jags receivers. Westbrook also has the capability to be explosive out of the backfield. Rushing for 101 yards on just ten carries this past season.
Heisman Trophy Finalist
After an impressive first season in college football, Westbrook exploded onto the scene this past year. He hauled in an impressive 80 receptions for 1,524 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2016. Named as a 2016 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, his accomplishments didn’t end there. Westbrook received the 2016 Fred Biletnikoff Award for his impressive season, an honor previously held by Jaguars receiver Marqise Lee. Capping off the season as a Heisman Trophy Finalist, Westbrook eventually finished fourth in the voting. Solidifying himself as a top receiver, Westbrook ended the season first in receptions and touchdowns amongst Big 12 receivers, as well as third in yards from scrimmage and yards per reception.
Despite a formidable season, Westbrook was drafted in the fourth round and there is one clear reason for this. Many teams expressed character concerns with Westbrook, which saw him fall off many teams draft boards. Westbrook was accused twice, though never found guilty, of domestic violence. This alone was enough to put teams off Westbrook. Further concerns about his attitude saw his draft stock fall. However, as general manager Dave Caldwell put it there is “no margin for error” with Westbrook, and the receiver is aware of his tight leash. Under the influence of no nonsense coaching from Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin, Westbrook is in the perfect place to put his past transgressions behind him.
The ‘Allen Brothers’ (and Marqise Lee)
For many Jaguars fans it would be nice to pretend that the 2016 season didn’t happen for the coveted receiving duo. Hurns and Robinson struggled throughout and seemingly regressed along with their quarterback. Coming off a memorable 2015 season, Hurns was plagued with injuries this past year, featuring in just 11 games this season, carrying small problems in the games in which he did feature. Hurns recorded just 35 receptions for 477 yards and three touchdowns. For Robinson, it was a huge step back. The former Pro-Bowl receiver recorded just seven fewer receptions than the previous year, but for 517 yards less. However, in an otherwise disappointing season for Jaguars receivers, the emergence of Lee proved to be a spark.
Suffering from injuries, Lee featured in just 23 games during his first two seasons in Jacksonville. With his first fully fit season came results. Lee recorded 63 receptions for 851 yards for five touchdowns, including a 100 yard kickoff return touchdown against Houston. Though it may be cruel to say Lee benefited from the struggles of his fellow receivers, he did. While Lee will be looking to continue his impressive play next season, the ‘Allen Brothers’ will be looking to bounce back.
Provided that both scenarios play out, the addition of Westbrook creates another dimension to the passing offense. Westbrook and Lee both posses the ability to stretch defenses downfield, whilst Hurns excels better in catch and run plays. If Robinson can once again display his Pro-Bowl form, the Jaguars could have a receiving group to be feared around the league.
Emphasis on Blake Bortles
Now on a serious note. It’s all well and good saying the Jaguars receivers could be in for a fantastic season. But the emphasis on Bortles performing cannot be underestimated. A large reason for the decline in the play of Robinson and Hurns was due to the declining play of their quarterback. Bortles had without a doubt his worst season in 2016. He struggled mightily with his mechanics and found even the most basic of passes difficult to complete. Bortles threw 16 interceptions this past year and had a pass completion percentage of just 58.9 percent. If the Jaguars receiving group is to make any form of progress this season, Bortles will have to substantially improve his own game.
Lighting a Spark
The addition of Westbrook to the Jaguars offense provides an additional weapon for Bortles as well as opening up opportunities for his fellow receivers. There are a lot of additional factors that can influence the performance of the Jaguars this season, but should they fall into place, Jacksonville will be glad they drafted Westbrook.