Jacksonville Jaguars Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State – Round 2
The Jaguars drafted two wide receivers in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, because they need to stockpile talent for rookie quarterback Blake Bortles. Justin Blackmon has played well, but his NFL future is in question as he deals with repeated off-the-field issues. Jacksonville was able to take advantage of a strong wide receiver draft by landing two receivers who could develop into impact starters.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Robinson is quicker than fast, but he displayed nice run-after-the-catch ability to go along with his size. The junior recorded 97 receptions for 1,432 yards and six touchdowns in 2013. The reason Robinson fell to the second round was questions about whether he had the speed to separate from NFL defensive backs. His 4.60 time at the Combine added to those concerns, but Robinson was very consistent in Bill O’Brien’s offense the past two seasons.

Robinson may not have the speed to become an elite No. 1 receiver in the NFL, but he could be a good Z (flanker) receiver. Those players work the short to intermediate part of the field and serve as possession receivers. Robinson is good at running those routes of slants, crosses and digs. As a No. 2 receiver, he could easily become a solid starter for Jacksonville.

Most Likely To Bust

Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida – Round 1
The bust rate for first-round quarterbacks is high regardless of the situation they’re walking into. I think head coach Gus Bradley is making the smart decision by starting Chad Henne and not forcing Bortles into the starting lineup immediately. Even Bortles’ college coaches said publicly that he wasn’t ready to play and needed development.

WalterFootball.com knows one NFC North team was hoping that the Vikings would draft Bortles because they liked the idea of playing against him. They felt that Bortles’ arm was average at best and he need to improve his anticipation. Bortles didn’t dominate the competition in college, plus his offense didn’t require him to throw every route. He also holds onto the ball long and takes a lot of hits.

The Jaguars have some young talent at wide receiver around Bortles, but the team also have a shaky offensive line and running game. Henne is just an average quarterback who doesn’t lead his team to a lot of wins, thus Bortles will probably become the starter at some point during his rookie season. Bortles (6-5, 232) has great size and intangibles, so he could prove this prediction wrong. The Jaguars may not have the organization to develop him into a franchise quarterback, and he has his own improvements to make. There definitely is the potential that Borltes will be a bust.

Potential Boom Pick

Marqise Lee, WR, USC – Round 2
There were a lot of teams considering taking Lee late in the first round, and other teams that were considering him early in the second round. If Lee could have entered the draft after the 2012 season, he would have been a top-20 pick, but injuries held him back in 2013 and led to a big drop in production.

Lee was one of the best players in college football in 2012. He was a Heisman finalist who carried USC’s offense while other players had a down season. Lee was a consistent source of big plays with the speed to score on any reception. He put up astounding totals with 118 receptions for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns. Lee also returned kicks and averaged 28.5 yards per return. In 2013, he dealt with injuries throughout the offseason and a knee injury during the year. Lee recorded just 57 receptions for 791 yards and four scores.

Lee could step in and become the Jaguars No. 1 receiver. Justin Blackmon’s future is in doubt as he deals with substance-abuse issues. Lee could form a nice trio with Cecil Shorts and Allen Robinson. If Lee can return to his 2012 form, he could be a boom pick for Jacksonville.

Future Depth Player

Chris Smith, DE/OLB, Arkansas – Round 5
Jaguars general manager David Caldwell seems to struggle with early-round picks, but does a better job of finding value on Day 3. He did that throughout the third day of the 2014 NFL Draft as he made a lot of picks who should be good depth players at a minimum. Running back Storm Johnson (Central Florida), outside linebacker Telvin Smith (Florida State) and cornerback Aaron Colvin (Oklahoma) were all quality selections. I chose Smith because the Jaguars were desperate to land some long-term edge rushers, and Smith could be a nice situational player quickly for Jacksonville.

Smith had 8.5 sacks as a senior and 9.5 sacks as a junior. The 6-foot-1, 266-pounder may not be big or fast enough to be an every-down player, but he could be a good pass-rusher to rotate into the game. Smith has quickness, some strength, pass-rushing moves and natural pad level. Chris Clemons (32) and Jason Babin (34) could teach him a lot. In a year or two, Smith could replace them in the lineup and be a valuable role player for the Jaguars.

Walt’s 2014 NFL Draft Grades:

3. Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida: B- Grade
Wow! No one saw this coming. No one. ESPN’s Britt McHenry said that the Jaguars were considering a quarterback, but everyone assumed it was going to be Johnny Manziel. This is nuts.

I can’t hate this pick because the Jaguars absolutely had to find a franchise quarterback. But this choice is questionable. There were much better prospects available, including Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins. Some could even argue that Johnny Manziel is the superior talent.

39. Marqise Lee, WR, USC: A Grade
Marqise Lee fell into the second round because of a minor injury concern, but there’s no question that this is a steal for the Jaguars – and they needed one after reaching on Blake Bortles in the first round. With Justin Blackmon out indefinitely, Jacksonville needed a No. 1 wideout, and it may have found one with Lee, who was projected to be a top-10 selection prior to the 2013 collegiate season.

61. Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State: C+ Grade
It’s a little weird that the Jaguars are spending another pick on a receiver when they already have Marqise Lee and Cecil Shorts, and potentially Justin Blackmon returning in the future. I like the value for Allen Robinson, who could have gone 15 picks earlier, but another wideout wasn’t needed, and even if Jacksonville was set on drafting him, it shouldn’t have moved up.

93, Brandon Linder, G, Miami: D Grade
The Jaguars just had to trade up to this spot… for Brandon Linder? There’s no reason they should have been that desperate for a mediocre mid-round guard prospect. I don’t have a huge problem with Linder – and he does fill a need – but it’s pretty ridiculous that David Caldwell felt like he needed to trade up for him. Caldwell seems in way over his head as a general manager.

114. Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma: B- Grade
Aaron Colvin tore his ACL during the Senior Bowl practices, so it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be able to play until 2015. He would have been a second-round prospect had he stayed healthy, so the Jaguars are getting some value here and doing their best 49ers impersonation. They still need corner help though because Colvin won’t be able to play right away.

144. Telvin Smith, OLB, Florida State: A Grade
Wow, Telvin Smith fell far. He was projected as a third-rounder prior to testing positive at the Combine. We know of two teams that removed him off their board, so it’s not a huge surprise that he dropped into Round 5. But the Jaguars are getting great value while filling a need at linebacker. Their fans have to be happy about this.

159. Chris Smith, DE/OLB, Arkansas: B+ Grade
Most mocks had the Jaguars picking Khalil Mack, but it made more sense for the team to wait to obtain their LEO because they have Gus Bradley to coach that player up. Bradley will get the most out of Smith, who could have been chosen a bit earlier than this.

205. Luke Bowanko, C, Virginia: B Grade
The Jaguars had a huge need at center – which was confirmed when they tried to pay Alex Mack a ridiculous amount of money – so it’s surprising that they waited this long for a center. This is a decent choice for a Round 6-7 prospect.

222. Storm Johnson, RB, Central Florida: A+ Grade
It would not surprise me at all if Storm Johnson started at some point either this or the 2015 season. Toby Gerhart is a marginal talent, and Storm Johnson could have easily been chosen in the third round. Great value for Jacksonville, and I like the idea of pairing Blake Bortles with his former back.

2014 NFL Draft Team Grade: B- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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