The giddiness around the Jaguars involves the recent hirings of General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Gus Bradley, and make no mistake:
These moves are respected in NFL circles.
We'll bring you more along those lines on jaguars.com in the coming days at the Senior Bowl – with Bradley, Caldwell and other key members of the Jaguars expected to arrive Tuesday – but early talk as the NFL gathers in Mobile this week is that the Jaguars' immediate future is* *in good hands in terms of personnel and coaching.
The reality includes the Senior Bowl, too.
That's because the Senior Bowl involves the college draft, in which the Jaguars hold their earliest pick – No. 2 overall – since holding the No. 2 overall selections in the franchise's first drafts, 1995 and 1996. There has been talk in NFL circles for months that this is not a good draft, and that this is not the year to have an early selection. Hence, the reality:
The reports at the Senior Bowl are that that very much is true, too.
"It's one of the worst drafts at the top in probably a decade," NFL Draft Analyst Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net said shortly after arriving in Mobile for the Senior Bowl Sunday night. "This is like the 2008 draft with (Miami Dolphins defensive tackle) Jake Long. There's no single, dominant player in this draft, which creates a lot of questions and problems."
That in no way means all is lost for the Jaguars this offseason.
In every draft, even ones that are perceived by analysts as weak, there are Pro Bowl-calibre players. They just may not be as obvious, or as easy to find.
Pauline said the other positive for the Jaguars is that while there is no quarterback who seems worthy of a Top 10 selection, the draft is strongest at another perceived area of need for the Jaguars: defensive end. ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., said last week half of the first round could be defensive ends or tackles, and Pauline said end easily could be an option for the Jaguars at No. 2.
Pauline has FSU defensive end Bjoern Werner at the top of his defensive end list, followed by Texas A&M defensive end Damontri Moore.
"You're probably looking at a defensive line player," Pauline said. "They're going to have the ability to get a good defensive lineman."
Pauline said the offensive line class is deep, with the receiver class generally considered very poor. He said it's also a good class at safety and tight end, with the latter position helped by several quality underclassmen preparing for the draft.
As we prepare for jaguars.com's coverage of the Senior Bowl this week, here's an early look at four possible positions of need and what might be available in the offseason:
1.Geno Smith, West Virginia, Sr.
2.Matt Barkley, Southern California, Sr.
3.Tyler Wilson, Arkansas, Sr.
4.Ryan Nassib, Syracuse, Sr.
5.Mike Glennon, North Carolina State, Sr.
6.Tyler Bray, Tennessee, Jr.
7.Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio), Sr.
8.Landry Jones, Oklahoma, Sr.
9.EJ Manuel, Florida State, Sr.
10.Matt Scott, Arizona, Sr.
Top free agents: Joe Flacco, Ravens; Matt Moore, Dolphins; Jason Campbell, Bears.
Comment: Wilson, Nassib, Glennon, Dysert, Jones and Manuel all will attend the Senior Bowl, so while Smith and Barkley – the consensus top two players at the position – won't be there, it will be an intriguing game for teams looking for the position outside the first round. This seems to be an area the Jaguars could address in the draft and by pursuing a veteran. Flacco is likely to be franchised or re-signed by the Ravens, so the veteran market is thin, but there is speculation that Alex Smith – a starter with the 49ers until the emergence this season of Colin Kaepernick – could be a trade possibility.
1.Bjoern Werner, Florida State, Jr.
2.*Damontre Moore, Texas A&M, Jr.
3.*Sam Montgomery, Louisiana State, Jr.
4.Alex Okafor, Texas, Sr.
5.Ezekiel Ansah, Brigham Young, Sr.
6.Dion Jordan, Oregon, Sr.
7.Margus Hunt, Southern Methodist, Sr.
8.Datone Jones, UCLA, Sr.
9.Cornellius Carradine, Florida State, Sr.
10.Malliciah Goodman, Clemson, Sr.
Potential 3-4 outside linebackers: Jarvis Jones, Georgia; Barkevious Mingo, Louisiana State.
Top free agents: Cliff Avril, Lions; Michael Bennett, Buccaneers; Michael Johnson, Bengals; Osi Umenyiora, Giants; Israel Idonije, Bears; Dwight Freeney, Colts; Mike DeVito, Jets; Connor Barwin (OLB), Texans; Anthony Spencer (OLB), Cowboys; Paul Kruger (OLB), Ravens; Andre Carter, Oakland.
Comments: A lot here for the Jaguars will depend on their choice of defensive scheme. They had been a 4-3 team under coordinator Mel Tucker, but with a new head coach and new defensive coordinator, it remains to be seen if they will remain a 4-3 or mix in a 3-4. Considering the needs around the roster, and considering the 2-14 record, the team could move in either direction. Either way, this area seems likely to be a predraft topic. With the Jaguars holding the No. 2 overall selection, players such as Werner and Moore are considered likely to be worthy of the pick, with Jones a possibility if the team is utilizing the 3-4. Werner, Moore, Montgomery, Okafor and Ansah are all considered early favorites for the first round, with Okafor, Ansah, Hunt and Jones expected to participate in the Senior Bowl.
1.Star Lotulelei, Utah, Sr.
2.Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State, Jr.
3.Sheldon Richardson, Missouri, Jr.
4.Jesse Williams, Alabama, Sr.
5.John Jenkins, Georgia, Sr.
6.Sharrif Floyd, Florida, Jr.
7.Kawann Short, Purdue, Sr.
8.Sylvester Williams, North Carolina, Sr.
9.Akeem Spence, Illinois, Jr.
10.Bennie Logan, Louisiana State, Jr.
Top free agents: Harry Melton, Bears; Randy Starks, Dolphins; Jason Jones, Seahawks; Richard Seymour, Raiders; Desmond Bryant, Raiders; Terrance Knighton, Jaguars; Glenn Dorsey, Chiefs; Alan Branch, Seahawks.
Comments: This may or not be a high-priority area in the draft or free agency. Tyson Alualu is entering the fourth year of his contract, and he started 16 games for the third straight year in 2012, with veteran C.J. Mosley playing better alongside him than many expected. The area could be upgraded, but perhaps not early in the first round or in the first rush of veteran free agency. The elite players at this spot won't be in Mobile, but Jenkins, Short and Williams are scheduled to play.
1.Dee Milliner, Alabama, Jr.
2.Xavier Rhodes, Florida State, Jr.
3.Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State, Sr.
4.Jordan Poyer, Oregon State, Sr.
5.Logan Ryan, Rutgers, Jr.
6.Desmond Trufant, Washington, Sr.
7.Will Davis, Utah State, Sr.
8.David Amerson, North Carolina State, Jr.
9.Jamar Taylor, Boise State, Sr.
10.Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma, Jr.
Top free agents: Brent Grimes, Atlanta; Aqib Talib, Patriots; Chris Houston, Lions; Leodis McKelvin, Bills; Sean Smith, Dolphins; Derek Cox, Jaguars; Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, Eagles; Sam Shields, Packers; Adam Jones, Bengals; Cary Williams, Ravens; Mike Jenkins, Cowboys; E.J. Biggers, Buccaneers.
Comments: As is the case at defensive tackle, it remains to be seen where corner is in terms of offseason priorities. Much could depend on how Caldwell and the new coaching staff view Cox, who is capable of playing at an elite level, but who has missed significant time with injuries in recent seasons. The area could use an upgrade, but do you go for corner at No. 2 or deeper in the draft? As usual, the elite corners in the draft are underclassmen, but the Senior Bowl will feature Banks, Poyer, Trufant, Davis and Taylor, so the position will be well-represented.