Team-by-Team Draft Recap: Jacksonville Jaguars

Jeff Miller

As fantasy owners, could we have received anything more from a team in the draft than we did the Jags? Remarkably, they ended up with three players who have immediate-term fantasy relevance and a fourth, Storm Johnson, who may in the future. Heck, it isn’t entirely inconceivable that Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson and Blake Bortles could all go in the first round of a rookie draft. The dynasty prospects are bright in Northeast Florida, so put on your Oakleys while we talk some shop.

Blake Bortles, QB (Round One, #3 Overall)

Bortles has been compared favorably to Ben Roethlisberger; an appraisal I buy in many regards. They have similar skills (good arm, mobile in the pocket, fearless under pressure), came from non-elite college programs and share near identical size. After that, there is some divergence, and it isn’t all that kind to the Jags rookie.

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Bortles has a good arm, but Ben’s was a rocket. There are also significant footwork/throwing mechanics issues that Roethlisberger didn’t share as he came out of Miami of Ohio. Perhaps just as important, the Steelers are one of the most well run, stable organizations in professional sports. The Jaguars are, um, uh….not. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say they weren’t?

As I said in the open, things dun changed down south. Following an active, aggressive free agency period, Jacksonville had an excellent draft on both sides of the ball. This is a team on the rise and Bortles figures to be a significant piece of their pie.

One thing I’m confident of is Bortles will need a few seasons to get up to speed. In addition to the footwork issues, he spent a lot of time throwing high percentage passes and wasn’t always successful in leading his receivers. All that is fixable and, with time, I think it will be taken care of. If it is, we are looking at a potential QB1.

Marqise Lee, WR (Round Two, #39 Overall)

Let’s get one thing out of the way – Lee is an amazing match for the things Bortles does well. He is a great route runner (which is always a boon to a young quarterback) and shows dynamic after the catch ability. With Bortles so proficient in the short passing game, a player like Lee will have all kinds of opportunities to run wild after the catch.

I know there are a lot of naysayers after Lee’s massive let-down in 2013 at USC, but I believe most of that can be traced to injuries, poor quarterback play and a general malaise surrounding the program itself. To be fair, one of the big knocks on Lee is that he tends to be nicked up all the time. Ideally he’d put on ten pounds of beef, which could alleviate some of the physicality deficit issues he currently faces.

One of the big droppers not only through the draft process, but from 2013 to 2014 overall, Lee may prove to be a steal in round two. Despite regression this past season, his elite upside still exists. I am a buyer and have Lee firmly entrenched as my fifth ranked wide receiver.

Allen Robinson, WR (Round Two, #61 Overall)

I really liked this pick, especially considering Lee was already on board. Robinson is a big, physical outside receiver with very good hands and supreme route running skills. Essentially, he is a perfect match for the smaller, much more dynamic Lee. They could make music for years with Bortles under center.

If there is one knock on Robinson, it is his perceived lack of burst. He plays to his 40 time (4.60), which limits big-play potential. He has also shown less of a willingness to be aggressive over the middle than he does on the outside. You hope he will get past that in the NFL, as he is going to asked to use his size to dominate more than the area outside the hash marks.

As with Bortles and Lee, Robinson represents a new era in Jacksonville. The wide receiver group has a lot of upside and a fairly high floor by my estimation. Couple them with what could be a decent run game and improved defense and you suddenly have a treasure trove of fantasy fun.

Brandon Linder, Guard (Round Three, #93 Overall)

While Linder played some tackle at Miami, he was primarily used at right guard, a position he should slide right into in Jacksonville. Linder fits best on the inside, as his limited athleticism and short arms are much less of a liability than they would be at right tackle. One thing the rookie doesn’t lack is nastiness. He also possesses a high football IQ and willingness to lead, something honed over 42 career starts in college.

Linder is an immediate and significant upgrade for the Jacksonville offensive line. As with Lee and Robinson, the Jags have done a brilliant job of putting their young QB in the best possible position to succeed.

Storm Johnson, Running Back (Round Seven, #222 Overall)

Johnson slid all the way to the seventh round, which was a fairly surprising development. That said, the reasons for the fall are myriad, especially as it pertains to ball security. In 243 touches last season, Johnson put the ball on the carpet a staggering six times. In 2012, he fumbled on two occasions over the course of only 123 touches. Basically, he makes Stevan Ridley look like the Fort Knox of ball protection.

When he wasn’t fumbling, Johnson showed himself to be very nimble for a tall running back. He runs well inside, showing good power, leg drive, and vision. Unfortunately, he has a tendency to bounce runs to the outside with maddening frequency. That would be more acceptable if he ran a sub 4.45 40, but instead he is a 4.60 player.

If you were speculating Johnson could unseat Toby Gerhart, you need to take a deep breath. It may happen in a couple years, but Johnson isn’t yet ready for prime time. At this point in his career, he is nothing more than a complementary piece with limited upside. If you are drafting him, the hope is Johnson can be a low-end RB2, but I wouldn’t count on it.


jeff miller