Draftnik Tony Pauline says this will be a great draft to be the Jaguars.
"I'd feel very good because you can get quality prospects at all of those positions in the first three rounds without reaching," Pauline said of the Jaguars' perceived needs, considered to be receiver, defensive end, cornerback and linebacker.
Pauline is the editor and publisher of "TFY Draft Guide" and will serve as jaguars.com's draft analyst for the April 24-25 NFL Draft.
In his most recent rankings of draft prospects, Pauline puts Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning at the top, followed by Miami of Ohio quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Pitt wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Iowa offensive tackle Robert Gallery.
"It's deep. It's good, but it's not top-heavy," Pauline said of this year's draft class. "You don't have a Peyton Manning or that type of player everybody is going to be clamoring after at the top. But there's not a whole lot of difference from the fifth guy to the 12th guy, and the talent at the bottom of the first round isn't going to be very far removed from the top of the round."
The Jaguars clearly have need at the above-mentioned positions. The team wants to give quarterback Byron Leftwich a touchdown-making receiver who might develop with Leftwich into one of the game's top pass-catch combinations. Meanwhile, defensive end has seen the release of Tony Brackens, while cornerback and linebacker could lose starters Fernando Bryant and Danny Clark in free agency.
Here's the good news: Wide receiver, cornerback and linebacker are three of the deepest positions in this draft, and though defensive end only offers a couple of every-downs candidates, its ranks are loaded with speed-rushers.
"I want to say (wide receiver) Roy Williams," Pauline said when asked who he has the Jaguars taking with the ninth pick of the draft. "I know they're also very interested in (tight end) Kellen Winslow.
"It could be a great pick," Pauline added of Williams, a big, fast target. "The downside on him is a lack of intensity. The other downside is he had a penchant in college for disappearing in the big games."
The Jaguars will have the ninth, 39th, 70th and 72nd picks of the draft, which means four picks on the first day. Though the Jaguars profess to pick according to "best player available," the talent pool in this draft class would seem to be weighted toward the team's needs.
"There are a lot of very good, speedy but udersized pass-rushing defensive ends. Seven defensive ends at the combine were timed under 4.7 (in the 40) and the top two prospects did not even run," Pauline said.
"(Kenechi) Udeze would be the first defensive end taken. Will Smith was an excellent all-around defensive end in college, but he's not big. Then you go to Marquise Hill, who some people consider a defensive tackle and some people think he's going to eat himself out of the league. There are few complete defensive ends, but there are a lot of speed-rushers, so this draft is going to produce a lot of pass-rush specialists," Pauline said.
Of course, that's what the Jaguars need most at defensive end; someone who can sack the quarterback. The Jaguars were second in the league against the run last season, but a lowly 29th in sacks per play.
They might also find that pass-rush from a bevy of talented outside linebackers. "It has the potential to be very good, but a lot of top guys did not take the next step up," Pauline said, citing Miami's D.J. Williams and Auburn's Karlos Dansby.
"Dansby looked like he had a case of senioritis. He may need a coach to lean on him," Pauline said. "In round two, a very good linebacker could fall to the Jaguars; a guy like Michael Boulware. A guy like Demorrio Williams."
The cornerback crop may be just as deep as the wide receiver ranks, but it's lacking a "Charles Woodson at the top of the draft, which is a good thing for the Jaguars. It's very deep from the middle of round one through the end of the first day, so, if they want to get a top receiver in the first round, they could have a good cornerback staring them in the face in the second round or even in the third round," Pauline added.
Pauline's top three cornerback prospects are Derrick Strait of Oklahoma, Dunta Robinson of South Carolina and DeAngelo Hall of Virginia Tech. A lot of draftniks have Ohio State's Chris Gamble in the top 15, but not Pauline. "Gamble is just that; a gamble. He's not going to go as high as people think," Pauline said.
Pauline will provide jaguars.com with updates up to the draft. His draft guide may be purchased by visiting its web site at tfydraft.com.