After months of waiting and speculating about the picks, the 2017 NFL Draft has come and passed, so in this installment of “Talking Teal” John Shirey, William Frost, James Plumber, Cody Wirth, Mitchell Eltzholtz, and I will review and grade the Jacksonville Jaguars seven selections from this year’s draft. We also discuss which Jaguars’ veteran we believe will have the most pressure on themselves to perform well this season outside of the obvious choice, quarterback Blake Bortles.
Talking Teal: Jacksonville Jaguars 2017 NFL Draft Review
How Do You Feel about the Team’s First Two Picks?
John: The Jaguars front office really nailed the first two picks. They didn’t overthink the Leonard Fournette pick and went up to get the player they had rated as the top offensive lineman, Cam Robinson. They did exactly what they should have done considering the way the board fell. You could make an argument that Forrest Lamp would have been a better second round pick, but there is more versatility with Robinson.
William: They were exactly what was needed. The Jaguars have struggled to score points in a major way recently, with the majority of the games being decided by a touchdown or less. A healthy run game should answer a lot of the problems from 2016. Not only does it take the pressure off of the ever-misfiring Blake Bortles, it also means the defense won’t spend so much time on the field next season. Fournette and Robinson complement each other perfectly. They will become a force in the division for years to come.
Ben: As most know, I’ve been against the Jaguars picking Fournette at fourth overall, but coupled with a solid offensive linemen prospect in Cam Robinson, the pill is easier to swallow. However, I preferred Forrest Lamp over Robinson as he is the safer pick and was a better player on film. Jacksonville decided to choose Robinson’s potential over Lamp’s consistency. Fournette will need Robinson to tap into that potential early and often given how inept the Jaguars offensive line has been at creating holes for their running backs to run through.
Cody: Fournette has been a favorite for the Jaguars for most of the draft season. As far as position value, it isn’t ideal, but there’s no denying the talent he brings to this offense. He helps bring the physical and tough identity they want to bring. Cam Robinson in round two just adds to the Fournette selection and was probably the best pick of the draft class. First round value with big time upside in the second at a position of need.
James: I wasn’t too sure about Fournette initially due to the lack of strength on the offensive line. However, after selecting Robinson in the second round, the team might just have enough to create holes so Fournette can do his thing. Solid picks!
Mitchell: Jacksonville hit the nail right on the head with their first two. Leonard Fournette was the favorite to land at pick four for quite a while; he could be an absolute powerhouse for years to come. The team has bigger needs than running back, but Fournette has the talent to turn an entire franchise around with the right pieces to complement. I absolutely love the Robinson pick. While I think they could have used more help on the interior line and would havve preferred Forrest Lamp at the time, Cam Robinson has the highest ceiling of any lineman in this draft.
Thoughts on the Dawuane Smoot and Dede Westbrook Selections?
John: I think both players come with a lot of question marks, but for completely different reasons. First, you have Dawuane Smoot, who had a pretty underwhelming senior season. He was poised to be one of the elite prospects in this year’s class after an eight-sack junior campaign, but he lost a bit of weight and didn’t appear to be the same player in 2016. The potential is certainly there and he’s a high motor player, so maybe he can take that next leap with the Jaguars.
Then, there’s Dede Westbrook. The 2016 Biletnikoff Award winner has all the natural ability in the world to be a dynamic slot receiver at the pro level. However, he’s had his maturity questioned by those in and around NFL organizations, even allegedly being kicked out of an interview at the NFL Combine. If Westbrook can keep himself out of trouble and stay healthy, he should be a nice player for the Jaguars moving forward.
William: Difficult to categorize these two as one, although they were certainly both head scratchers in some sense. The more I hear about Smoot the more I like the pick. I do think that there were better players available in his position when he was taken. However, having watched tape from his junior year I will be excited if he plays at that weight in the NFL.
Westbrook I am less excited about. He’s obviously got character issues that I don’t think are right for the culture that Tom Coughlin is trying to build in Jacksonville. That being said, he was obviously the best talent on the board, and even though there were greater needs that could have been addressed, he should be able to make a difference at the ‘Bank.
Ben: I didn’t like either pick given what players were still available. There were far better EDGE prospects left on the board when Jacksonville selected Smoot. Jacksonville could have had Derek Rivers, Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis, amongst others, yet the team decided to take Smoot who had a down season compared to his junior year.
Westbrook makes sense since Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee are both entering contract years, but Westbrook brings a ton of baggage with him. The team could and should have drafted one of the starting caliber guards left on the board, but Westbrook is certainly a very talented receiver to snag so late.
Cody: Smoot was a surprise and there were a couple players (Derek Rivers, Jordan Willis) who I preferred to Smoot. Going into this season he was viewed as a first rounder though and played at a much lighter weight and in a different scheme than in 2015 this past season. If the Jaguars get him back to his 2015 form and get him bulked up, then hopefully he gets back on track.
Dede was probably my second favorite value pick in this draft. Based on what Dave Caldwell said in his post pick interview, we may not have the correct or full story from his off-field antics in 2013. If he can stay on a straight path now that he’s in Duval, then he has shown all the qualities to be a big time deep threat at the NFL level.
James: Love, love, love Dede Westbrook! Despite some character concerns, Westbrook will shine under the guidance of Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone; a real steal in my opinion. Smoot is a decent addition to the defensive line, lots of competition for game time.
Mitchell: I was decently surprised when Jacksonville selected Smoot. After having a fantastic 2015 season, he fell off a bit this year. I love the talent he brings. His drop off in performance this past year shows it might’ve had something to do with Illinois’ defensive scheme, but a decline in performance is never good regardless of the situation.
I loved the pick of Dede Westbrook. You can’t deny his talent. Caldwell seems to be confident that his off-field issues aren’t too big of a concern, and if Westbrook can prove that he’s ready to handle all the responsibilities of being in the NFL, he has the potential to be a very good receiver.
Did the Team Miss Out on Getting Better in the Later Rounds (5-7)?
John: Day three was certainly the most surprising day of the Jaguars draft. Instead of addressing needs like tight end and offensive line, the team opted for a linebacker when they were already pretty set at the position. There are good things to say about just grabbing the highest rated player left on your board, it increases the overall talent level and competitiveness of the roster. None of the picks were egregious reaches, so I’ll give the front office the benefit of the doubt and say that they did a good job. I do really like Marquez Williams, also. I’m not afraid to admit that I had never heard of him prior to the draft, but he seems like a big, bruising fullback who can really pave the way for Fournette.
William: Not necessarily. The Blair Brown pick confused me, but he could become a reliable option at the SAM position. I don’t want to write him off before we’ve seen him play. In my opinion, the Jaguars had one of the better seventh rounds in this year’s draft. Jalen Myrick should develop into a reliable slot corner, and has the speed to cover just about anyone in the league. I have been saying that the team needs a fullback for years, the Williams selection makes so much sense when you think about how the team wants to run the ball. This is a Tom Coughlin team now.
Ben: Jacksonville decided to really strengthen their special teams unit instead of adding prospects that could potentially be groomed into starters years down the road. Blair Brown could potentially end up starting, but outside of him the rest of the group is filled with long shots. Williams with have to compete with veteran Tommy Bohanon with the loser likely being cut late in training camp. Myrick has the speed to play in the NFL, but he will need to polish his technique if the team is to ever trust him on the field.
Cody: I really don’t think so. This team said they wanted to go best available player over need while getting players who can be key contributors on special teams. Brown and Myrick in particular should be exactly that. If something happens to Telvin Smith or Myles Jack, Brown has the tools to be able to step in and play well. Myrick figures to be a key player on special teams including returning kicks and/or punts, but he also will push Aaron Colvin for defensive snaps. Finally, with their last pick the Jags acquired a fullback in Marquez Williams. As seen with the Fournette and Robinson picks, Jacksonville wants to play bully ball on offense. Williams is a large, wide man who Fournette should enjoy running behind.
James: Myrick, Brown and Williams are clearly picks that help the Jaguars on special teams. Williams will also be terrific in clearing out holes in the power run game. Would have liked to draft another offensive lineman or a backup quarterback, but it could have been worse.
Mitchell: I don’t think I would say that. Blair Brown is an outstanding linebacker. I don’t doubt that he could replace Paul Posluszny in a couple of years. I liked the Jalen Myrick pick which provides the team more depth at corner back. I also would love to see him return a kick or two with that 4.28 speed. Lastly, the Marquez Williams pick was a head scratcher at first as well, considering the Jags already signed a full back. Competition is never a bad thing, and Williams is a mammoth and just proves how committed to the power run game Jacksonville has become.
It’s Early, but What’s your Grade for the Jaguars’ 2017 Draft Class?
John: I’ll give it a solid “A”, not quite the “A+” that I gave out last season, but securing the top offensive talent in the draft is huge for a team who struggled to score points a season ago. The front office was also able improve the offensive line and fullback positions to help build around Fournette and added even more young talent to a defense that certainly looks like one of the best in the NFL on paper.
William: I’d give it a solid “B”. I do think that the Jags could have addressed higher needs from rounds 3-5. The tight end position is still up for grabs, and I’m concerned that they have not upgraded the guard position at all this off-season. However, the Jags have added play makers in areas of need and are better than they were before last Thursday. Although, I think they had the worst draft of any AFC South team.
Ben: My grade for the class is a “B-”. I came away disappointed. The first two rounds were solid, but the remaining picks left a lot to be desired. The team missed out on acquiring a handful of players that could start for Jacksonville from the third round to the fifth round. As always, time will tell on how this draft class ends up playing out. If Fournette and Robinson both ended performing up to expectations, then the class was a success regardless of how the other selections pan out.
Cody: I would give it a solid “B”, maybe “B+”. They didn’t fill some needs most expected the Jaguars to target (such as a weakside defensive end, tight end, left guard, etc.), but again, they went with value picks and got players who could play large roles in the future if called upon and succeed. They took some risks, especially with Dede Westbrook, but to get a talent like that in round four is rare. He’s going to really push the Allen duo and Marqise Lee. Plus, if one of them were to go down, the names behind them on the depth chart didn’t exactly inspire confidence.
James: I’m going to go with a “B+” at this stage. The team filled the obvious gap at running back and went someway to strengthening the offensive line. Jacksonville could have taken a tight end, but I don’t feel that’s a major issue, there are plenty of options available to fix that.
Mitchell: I give this draft a “B-“. I’m not upset with the picks at all. The Jags added a ton of great talent and addressed some very important needs. However, I went into this draft expecting the Jaguars to highlight three needs: Offensive line, edge rush, and tight end. The Jags drafted one offensive lineman. That’s not enough, nor was tackle the biggest need on the line. They didn’t draft a tight end, and while Jacksonville touched on edge rush, I thought they could’ve done more with that pick. I liked the draft, but thought they should’ve placed more of a focus on needs.
Outside of Bortles, Which Veteran on the Team has the Most Pressure to Perform Well in 2017?
John: That’s a tough question. I think I would go with A.J. Cann, he had a nice rookie season, but took a step back in his sophomore campaign. He needs to prove that he’s going to be a reliable part of the team moving forward. I’d go with Cann over players like Jermey Parnell and Branden Albert because both of those players are already in their thirties and likely aren’t in the long-term plans for the team. If Cann steps up, along with the always dependable Brandon Linder as well as rookie Cam Robinson, the Jaguars could have a solid core for the offensive line to build around for the future.
William: Going into camp, I think Brandon Albert has the most pressure on him. With management making it known that Robinson is in competition for the left tackle spot, Albert must make sure he performs to a level that justifies why the team swapped him for Beachum. I think Posluszny has an element of pressure on him. Blair Brown is a younger, more athletic linebacker freshly drafted to potentially play the position that Posluszny is now only just beginning to learn. If he doesn’t play well enough this season, he could be a casualty as the team tries to get younger moving forward.
Ben: It has to be Dante Fowler. He no longer has the excuse of coming off a torn ACL to deflect criticism of his play. The NFL is a results orientated business, and the 2015 third overall pick has to produce in 2017 or the team will have no choice but to start looking for his replacement immediately in the 2018 off-season. The Jaguars passed over 2016 NFL sack leader, Vic Beasley to select Fowler, so he must find a way to successfully and consistently get to the quarterback this year.
Cody: I would say Allen Hurns. He just got an extension, but with Dede Westbrook coming in, the emergence of Marqise Lee a year ago, and Allen Robinson in the fold he’s going to need to get back on track this year and stay healthy. The Jaguars could pay all three, but I doubt they end up keeping the entire trio going into the 2018 season. If Marqise Lee plays like he did a year ago and Allen Robinson gets back on track, I have a hard time seeing them let go of either.
James: Without a doubt it is Allen Hurns. The team gave him a huge contract extension last off-season after an impressive campaign. However, after struggling this season through injuries and regression, Hurns is under pressure to get back to his very best.
Mitchell: I think it’s tie between Branden Albert and Jeremy Parnell. Cam Robinson is coming to town now, and that means one of the former two is going to wind up on the bench if they don’t play well in camp. They’re both over 30, and Albert is becoming quite expensive. Parnell struggled mightily last year compared to 2015, and there are high hopes for Robinson.
Main Photo: BATON ROUGE, LA – OCTOBER 22: Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers runs with the ball during a game against the Mississippi Rebels at Tiger Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)