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Here’s a heavy dosage of reality: the Jacksonville Jaguars continue their search for a starting quarterback since the team trotted out David Garrard. Yes, it’s that bad.
The project that was Blaine Gabbert is just about over in Jacksonville, and while Chad Henne is likely going to be one of the team’s targets in free agency, he isn’t going to be viewed as the franchise quarterback it desires. Picking third overall in the draft positions the Jaguars to pick one of the top two signal callers in this year’s class, which all signs point to being either Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater.
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, Manziel — better known as Johnny Football to some — is a smaller quarterback with the ability to improvise on the run. If that sounds sort of familiar, then you’re right. Because of his size and skill-set, he’s been likened to Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, who was drafted when Gus Bradley was a member of the ‘Hawks coaching staff. Though Manziel is considered a hometown favorite of the Houston Texans picking No. 1, he does not possess the size or arm that usually goes hand-in-hand with Bill O’Brien’s offense. Bridgewater or Blake Bortles better fits that mold.
Bridgewater, who’s widely considered the top prospect at the position in this year’s draft, is considered the most NFL-ready of the quarterback class and could start under center for Jacksonville Week 1 if need be. Bridewater did not post the eye-opening statistics this past season at Louisville as some predicted he would, but he still had a strong junior campaign and thrived in the pro-style offense. With the Jags, he has weapons in Cecil Short II and maybe even Justin Blackmon, and could have the offense making a bit of a leap in 2014.
Jacksonville also has a need at defensive line, which begs the question of whether the team will consider drafting Jadeveon Clowney with its first-round pick. Obviously Clowney is a rare talent and Bradley, a defensive-minded coach, will have a difficult time passing him up. The Jaguars ranked dead-last in the NFL in sacks in 2013 (31), and Clowney might be a one-step fix to that problem.
If the Jaguars elect to go after Clowney in the first round, they can address quarterback in Round 2 or later. Derek Carr is considered a second-round prospect while college standouts like Zach Mettenberger and A.J. McCarron could fall into the third. Carr, the younger brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr, passed for an FBS-high 5,082 yards at Fresno State last season. Mettenberger is coming off an ACL tear but, at one point in the college season, the LSU quarterback was considered a potential first-round selection. Of course McCarron won a pair of national championships with Alabama and, like Mettenberger and Carr, has the prototypical NFL quarterback size.
The Jags might also have to address running back at some point in the draft. Maurice Jones-Drew will be a free agent and has not been incredibly productive over the past few years, and it’s unlikely he’ll return to Jacksonville. Athletic weapon Denard Robinson and Jordan Todman remain on the team’s depth chart at running back but neither can be an every-down back. LSU’s Jeremy Hill and Heisman Trophy candidate Andre Williams of Boston College are bigger, more powerful backs to help replace Jones-Drew and could fall to the middle rounds.
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