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'15 NFL Draft: Handicapping No. 3


JACKSONVILLE – We're hours away now.

We're posting this on Thursday morning. Maybe you're reading it late morning, early afternoon or mid-afternoon. Whenever, the 2015 NFL Draft is a scant few hours from being upon us.

That means months of speculation/Pro Days/NFL Scouting Combine/Mock Drafts/analysis/Mike Mayock conference calls/pseudoanalysis/copycatting and just, flat-out guessing?

It's behind us at last, and sometime around 8:20 or 8:30 p.m., we'll know at last the Jaguars' direction with the No. 3 overall selection of the '15 draft – if, in fact, they use the selection.

But first, the set up:

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers go on the clock at the historic Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois, Thursday around 8 p.m. Presumably, the Bucs will take Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston sometime soon after that with the No. 1 overall selection.

After that, the draft is expected to get interesting.

The Tennessee Titans hold the No. 2 selection. Pre-draft speculation has centered over whether the Titans will trade the selection to a team coveting quarterback Marcus Mariota of Oregon, take Mariota themselves or use the selection on a position other than quarterback. If Mariota does not go to the Titans at No. 2, most analysts believe the Titans will take Southern California defensive end/tackle Leonard Williams with the selection.

So, then, here are the expected scenarios for the Jaguars Thursday night:

*They pick at No. 3 with Winston off the board to Tampa Bay and Mariota off the board to the Titans.

*They pick at No. 3 with Winston off the board to Tampa Bay and Mariota off the board to another team.

*They pick at No. 3 with Winston off the board to Tampa Bay and Williams off the board to the Titans.

*With Winston and Mariota gone at one and two, the Jaguars trade down to a team trading up for more selections.

If they opt to trade down, the Atlanta Falcons have been mentioned as a possibility. The Falcons reportedly covet Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who isn't expected to be available when the Falcons are scheduled to pick at No. 8.

Of course, any number of teams could be looking to trade. To try to outline every trade-based scenario is a fool's task. And actually, trying to handicap what the Jaguars might do in this draft at all is a fool's task, too. Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell's pre-draft poker face is good in a normal year; in a year with so many possibilities facing the franchise, it's even more so.

Still, what is the NFL's pre-draft period without foolishness and silliness? As Thursday 8:20 p.m. – or 8:30, give or take – approaches, here's a look at the players most often mentioned with the Jaguars, and the chances they end up with the Jaguars:

*Williams, defensive end/tackle, Southern California.If Winston and Mariota are gone, this is a very real possibility. There's no consensus about the best available player in this year's draft, but more analysts consider Williams the BAP than any other player. He has been compared in terms of role to Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, and while he's not an edge rusher, his skill set may make him worth the selection. The drawbacks are that the Jaguars signed free-agent Jared Odrick to play strong-side end – and defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks has been the team's best defensive player the past two seasons. Still, Caldwell said Williams' fit into the Jaguars' scheme isn't a concern. If Williams is available, his talent could outweigh perceived needs at edge rusher and receiver. Odds:3-1.

*Fowler, edge rusher, Florida.If Winston and Williams are off the board, this is the guy you see mentioned with the Jaguars far more often than any other player. He's considered by most analysts the best edge rusher in the draft, though he may be a better fit at strong-side linebacker than the team's Leo pass-rusher position. He has few shortcomings physically and has a personality that would seem to mesh with Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley. For a team reportedly seeking an edge rusher, talent could meet need here. Odds: 4-1.

*Amari Cooper, wide receiver, Alabama.Caldwell's comment in early March that the offseason is all about helping second-year quarterback Blake Bortles has caused many to speculate the team could go receiver at No. 3. Certainly, receiver is an option – and it appears to be a better option than it seemed two or three months ago. But you can help a young quarterback by improving a defense, too, so it's not a guarantee the Jaguars are going receiver. If they do, Cooper is considered a safe bet and a player who can contribute immediately and be productive for a long, long time. Few expect him to bust and his route-running ability should translate quickly to the NFL level. Odds: 7-1.

*Kevin White, wide receiver, West Virginia.He doesn't get mentioned with the Jaguars as much as Cooper and he certainly doesn't get as much mention as Williams or Fowler. But that doesn't mean he's not a consideration. He has special athletic ability and there are more than a few analysts who rank him around Cooper at the receiver position. He is considered a bigger risk than Cooper but he also is considered to have a higher upside. When it comes to likelihood for the Jaguars, it's hard to differentiate between Cooper and White. Odds: 8-1.

Trade:We'll give "trade back" its own category, and the possibility of the Jaguars trading back has been a constant pre-draft topic. The sense here is that a trade is less of a possibility than was speculated early in the draft process. Caldwell said last week he hadn't received any calls about a trade as of Friday, and that seems logical. If a team wants Mariota, they likely would be talking to the Titans about a trade. If a team really, really wants Mariota, they probably offer the Titans enough to make the deal. If Mariota's not involved, conventional pre-draft wisdom is that the top players at other positions are even enough to make a trade unlikely. Now, if the Titans take Williams and Mariota is still on the board, could the Jaguars get some calls? Stay tuned.Odds: 10-1.

*Vic Beasley, edge rusher, Clemson:He is a fan favorite and would be a logical fit as a Leo/edge rusher. He was exceptional at the NFL Scouting Combine and his athleticism and ability to pressure the passer are strengths. His size has been a constant concern in the pre-draft process and could keep teams from ranking him ahead of Fowler. Odds: 15-1.

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