JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars' first move in the 2015 NFL Draft is a virtual certainty.
That's not the Jaguars' front office's view, but it's apparently the view of ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. – not to mention the view of most observers who mock, project or analyze the draft.
Kiper, like many analysts, long has projected University of Florida defensive end/pass rusher Dante Fowler, Jr., as the No. 3 overall selection in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft for the Jaguars if they opt against trading down for additional selections.
"I think Fowler gives them the pass rusher they've been looking for for a long, long time," Kiper said in a lengthy conference call with reporters Thursday.
As for what happens for the Jaguars after No. 3, on that front there is far less consensus. Kiper on Thursday also said there were several options.
Many observers figure the Jaguars will focus on running back with their second-round selection. That's the fourth selection of Round 2 and the No. 36 selection overall. Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin and Todd Gurley of Georgia are widely considered the top two running backs in this year's draft.
"There are going to be some good ones still on the board," Kiper said of the running back position early in the second round.
Kiper, who also mentioned Indiana running back Telvin Coleman as a second-round option for the Jaguars, said the Jaguars' recent forays into free agency – and the addition of running back Bernard Pierce off waivers – will help the Jaguars not have to draft for specific needs next month.
The Jaguars signed seven unrestricted free agents in early March: tight end Julius Thomas, defensive end Jared Odrick, safety Sergio Brown, right tackle Jermey Parnell, cornerback Davon House, linebacker Dan Skuta and wide receiver/returner Bryan Walters.
"They've done some things already obviously in free agency to not force them into something," Kiper said, adding, "If you get Fowler, then because of free agency, you aren't forced to be locked into a player unless you are getting good value."
Also on Thursday:
*Kiper addressed the status of Nebraska pass rusher/defensive end Randy Gregory, who said this week he tested positive for marijuana at the February NFL Scouting Combine. Gregory had been a consensus Top 10 selection and although Kiper said the positive test wouldn't necessarily drop his stock it could if a team considers him otherwise equal with a pass rusher such as Shane Ray of Missouri or Vic Beasley of Clemson. "You separate a tie based on maybe this," Kiper said, adding, "I think he goes anywhere from eight and thirteen in my opinion." …
*Kiper said he continues to project Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston as the No. 1 overall selection to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, adding that in terms of on-field ability he is the clear choice over Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. "If it wasn't for the off-the-field issues he had at Florida State, we wouldn't even be having the discussion," Kiper said. "He would be locked in like Andrew Luck was to be the No. 1 pick overall. The only reason it's a debate between Mariota and Winston is because of the off-the-field issues. It's not the long delivery. That's not a factor. At the end of the day, he's going to be the No. 1 pick. … From size, arm strength, athletic ability, toughness, the 'it' factor on the field? He has all of that." …