It's difficult to imagine a better draft class than what the Jaguars assembled last year. Already, Byron Leftwich has assumed his role as the team's franchise quarterback, Rashean Mathis and Vince Manuwai have established themselves as long-term starters, and LaBrandon Toefield and George Wrighster would seem to be perfect second-day-of-the-draft role players.
At this past weekend's mini-camp, none of those players did anything that might suggest last year was a fluke. Jack Del Rio gushed at Leftwich's performance, Mathis and Manuwai have the true look of veterans, Wrighster was solid and Toefield's pass-catching was scintillating.
We're talking about a draft class that is probably destined to be the best in Jaguars history, yet, there's something about this year's class that is even more intriguing. What is it? It's the upside. This year's draft class, though it has been criticized for having "reached" on two, maybe three, players, has an upside potential to it that is downright exciting.
It was difficult not to feel that way as you noticed the speed and quickness the Jaguars added with players such as Daryl Smith, Jorge Cordova and Anthony Maddox. Let's focus on Cordova and Maddox.
There's your upside. Cordova and Maddox raised eyebrows around the league when the Jaguars selected them in the third and fourth rounds. Cordova is smallish and somewhat positionless, while Maddox might qualify as a bayou "Waterboy."
Talk about intrigue?
But there's no disputing Cordova's and Maddox's physical skills, especially those skills that pertain to speed and quickness. Cordova was the next thing to a blur in pass-rush drills, and Maddox's hands are so fast that he often had them on his blocker's chest before the blocker got his hand much off the ground.
"He has shown the ability to bend the corner and definitely has the ability to be a designated pass-rusher, off what he's shown in mini-camp," Jaguars college scouting director Gene Smith said of Cordova.
Then, of Maddox, Smith added: "He'll be more of a pads guy. You're seeing quickness. He's developing as a pass-rusher. He's a change up to what we have. He's the quick, explosive pass-rusher."
Every draft rests on its first-round pick. Reggie Williams is that guy for the Jaguars. He must be a home-run hitter to justify his selection in the top 10. Williams can make or break this draft class.
But Cordova and Maddox are the two players who could put it over the top. They are departures from convention. They are players who were not as highly ranked on other teams' boards. Cordova and Maddox represent home-run swings. They are bold attempts by the Jaguars to catch lightning in a bottle, and that's where the intrigue and upside enter. They give this draft class a distinct element of excitement.
They could be busts. It happens that way sometimes when you take the big swing. Or they could be home runs, which require such lusty cuts in the middle and late rounds.
This much we know for sure: Cordova and Maddox have rare speed and quickness. They offer distinct pass-rush and penetration potential this team dreadfully lacks. And that's where Del Rio and defensive coordinator Mike Smith enter. If they can find a way to fit Cordova's and Maddox's skills into the Jaguars' defensive scheme, this draft class could put this team over the top.
It's all very, very intriguing.