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On the clock: Jaguars will be a 'needs-based' drafting team

Pro Football Weekly
On the clock: Jaguars will be a 'needs-based' drafting team
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On the clock: Jaguars will be a 'needs-based' drafting team

The timing isn’t good for the Jaguars this year in the draft derby.

If they had the second pick last year, they could have taken Robert Griffin III because their biggest need is for a franchise quarterback.

But since there is not likely to be a quarterback worth taking with the second pick, they have to trade down or take the player that best fills a need with the second pick.

New general manager David Caldwell says he believes in need-drafting, although he said he wouldn’t take a third-round player in the first round to fill a need.

The problem is that there is no consensus first or second picks in this draft and a player could shoot up the board after the Senior Bowl, the NFL Scouting Combine and the individual workouts.

And it’s also impossible to predict what the new GM will do on Draft Day. This is the first time he has sat in the big chair and made the pick.

There will be a lot of pressure on him to get it right.

Caldwell, who was hired after Gene Smith was fired because he failed to upgrade the roster or the QB position in four years on the job, has 17 years of NFL experience, including 10 with the Colts and five with the Falcons.

When he was hired by the Colts in 1998, they had the first pick and taking Peyton Manning was a no-brainer, although there was some debate about whether Ryan Leaf had more long-term potential.

In 2008, he was hired by the Falcons and they had the third overall pick. Matt Ryan was another no-brainer.

Those two teams needed quarterbacks and they got them, although Caldwell wasn’t making the final decision.

Now he needs a quarterback and is making the final decision but there’s not an obvious QB ranked that high.

So he has to figure out the best player to take. He doesn’t have to worry about position because the Jaguars have needs everywhere. He needs to find a player who will make an impact.

Among the players Jacksonville could consider are pass rushers Jarvis Jones, Damontre Moore and Bjoern Werner and OT Luke Joeckel. But there are likely to be many other candidates who emerge.

Caldwell also won’t rule out taking a QB with the second pick.

“You never know. You’ve got to go through the process. We’ll see. Maybe one identifies himself for us. It’s too early. Sometimes it may not look like there’s a quarterback now and you go through the process and you find a guy,’’ Caldwell said.

When he was asked if he thinks a team should draft a quarterback every year until it hits on one, he said, “I don’t disagree with that. You look at where your team is and what your needs are. We are a needs-based (drafting) team. To take a quarterback and see if you can develop him is a good philosophy.’’

When he was asked how difficult it is to win without a franchise QB, he said, “It’s hard. It makes it a lot more difficult. Everything else has to be perfect. I don’t know if you need to have a franchise quarterback but you need one good enough to win games.’’

Caldwell said his plan is to bring two new quarterbacks to camp to join holdovers Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne and have an open competition among the four signalcallers.

He will add the two newcomers through free agency or the draft.

One quarterback who won’t be in the mix is Tim Tebow. Caldwell closed the door on bringing in the popular Jacksonville native.

“As far as Tim goes, he is a member of the New York Jets. I can’t imagine a scenario where he would be a Jacksonville Jaguar,’’ he said.

When he was asked to repeat that comment, he obliged.

“I can’t imagine a scenario where he would be a Jacksonville Jaguar,’’ he said.

He was then asked if that means even if Tebow is released by the Jets.

“Even if he is released,’’ Caldwell said.

“I have others in mind and I’m comfortable with what’s here,’’ he added.

Although owner Shahid Khan has pushed for Tebow in the past, he is letting Caldwell make the football decisions.

“It’s not my decision,’’ Khan said. “I want to do whatever to help this team win. Who the players are is really up to the general manager and coaches. It’s a football-side operation decision. It’s really not my decision.’’

He added, “I’m telling them to take a look at Tebow and they’re saying we’re going to go in a different direction.’’

Caldwell, though, isn’t ready to give up on Gabbert, who struggled his first two seasons and went on injured reserve for the last six games last season.

“Blaine is the second youngest quarterback in the NFL. I know we have Chad (Henne) here still for another year (Gabbert is under contract for two more years). So it’s going to be an open competition there. We’re going to let the best player win that position,’’ the new GM said.

He didn’t mention Jordan Palmer, who backed up Henne after Gabbert went on I.R.

He added more about Gabbert.

“He is still young. He’s had two different offensive coordinators in his first two years,” Caldwell said. “Get a coach in here and get some sustainability for him. I think it’s important to see what he can do. Look at some quarterbacks — it takes maybe more than two years, three or four years. (Gabbert) came out as a junior and he’s a very young quarterback and he still has a lot of upside.’’

He added, “I always thought Blaine was going to be a long-term project when he came out anyway (after his third year). I studied him when he came out and he came out from the spread offense. I felt like it was going to be a longer process for him because he was so young. Look at the quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning — they spent a full five years in college. Blaine should be a rookie coming out this year. Let’s work with him.’’

Despite Caldwell’s comments on Gabbert, don’t look for Gabbert to win the competition. He’s young, but he hasn’t shown many signs he’s the long-term answer.

This is only the third time the Jaguars have had the second pick in the draft and they have had mixed results.

In their first draft in 1995, they selected OLT Tony Boselli with the second pick, and he was headed on a Hall of Fame course when his career was cut short by injuries.

The following year, they took LB Kevin Hardy and, while he was a good player, they passed up OLT Jonathan Ogden, who went two picks later to the Ravens and is likely heading to the Hall of Fame.

Jaguars’ top 3 needs

1. Quarterback: If the Jaguars are going to become competitive again, they have to find a franchise-type QB.  Blaine Gabbert, drafted in the first round in 2011, has been inconsistent. He will get a chance to compete in camp, but he is not likely to be the long-term answer. In a quarterback-driven league, they need a top quarterback.

2. Pass rusher: They had only 20 sacks last season and their failure to put enough pressure on the quarterback was one reason their defense ranked 30th. DE Jason Babin was a good addition late in the year after being cut by Philadelphia, but they need to add a big-time pass rusher.

3. Offensive line: The offensive line was in a state of flux all season long because of injuries and shaky play so they never had a cohesive line. The result is that they gave up 50 sacks. Their top need is a right tackle to anchor the line along with Eugene Monroe at left tackle.

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