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Three selections, three contributors


Two days in, and nearly halfway home, Mike Mularkey sees his first Jaguars draft this way:

The Jaguars have used three selections, and not only have they addressed all three areas of the team in so doing – offense, defense and special teams – they have acquired three potentially meaningful, contributing players.

As Mularkey sees it, that's not a bad start.

"I think we've addressed some areas," Mularkey said late Friday night, shortly after the Jaguars made the second of their two selections on Day 2 of the 2012 NFL Draft.

"We've addressed all three phases of our football team with guys we hope can potentially be difference-makers when it's all said and done. That's something they've got to earn. It's something we hope happens but we do feel like we've hit three phases in the first three rounds."

The Jaguars, after selecting wide receiver Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State with the No. 5 overall selection Thursday, selected Clemson defensive end Andre Branch with the No. 6 selection of Round 2 Friday. They then closed Day 2 by selecting punter Bryan Anger No. 7 in Round 3.

Branch was the 38th overall selection; Anger was No. 70.

"We feel good – with the needs we had going in, acquiring guys who we feel could start, upgrade this football team," Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith said.

Jaguars Director of Player Personnel Terry McDonough said early Friday evening that Blackmon and Branch addressed the team's pre-draft needs, and that the Jaguars felt fortunate that the Branch selection had fallen that way. Mularkey, too, said the first two selections addressed serious needs.

"We were fortunate that it unfolded like it did with our first couple picks," Mularkey said.

While the selection of Anger drew surprise for using a third-round selection on a special teams position, when Mularkey spoke of Anger, he talked of a player with rare ability to force touchbacks and alter momentum.

"There aren't a lot of guys like that that come along every year," Mularkey said. "You take an extra hard look at it and if he can be a difference-maker, based on where you are in the draft and what's been taken in certain spots, then yeah we felt like this was a good pick for us."

Mularkey said the team didn't necessarily target punter entering the draft, but said the opportunity to acquire Anger was too good to pass. Smith said the decision to take Anger was based purely on him being the best available player at the time of the selection, and that the Jaguars had a third-round grade on him.

"There wasn't any hesitation there," Smith said. "He's the player in that round at your pick that you feel can upgrade your football team."

Smith called the decision "easy," because he considers Anger a player of starter ability.

"I'd rather take a starter over a backup, especially at a position where you can gain tremendous field position if you've got a guy with a leg like Bryan's," he said, adding, "Clearly, this was the best player for the Jaguars. . . . I think what you have to do is trust your grades. We felt like this guy had starter ability. This guy's got tremendous leg strength."

Mularkey, asked about potential backlash over the selection, said, "Sometimes people can look at it that way. I think when he performs and does what we just drafted him to do I think people may have a different opinion.

"I'm a big special teams guy," he added. "I'm going to sit in every one of these special teams meetings. It's very important to me; that's how I made a living for six years (as a player). I know you win games week in and week out by special teams. It comes down to one play and if that one play is a punt that backs up a team inside the twenty to win the game then maybe people don't know that and they can backlash about that, but it could be the difference in the game."

Smith, for his part, said potential criticism over a selection never has been a factor in a selection, and he said he didn't worry about that when selecting Anger.

"I care about winning games and helping us upgrade the roster," he said. "That's my defined role here."

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