Jaguars have little to show for run near top of NFL Draft
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars have been a mainstay near the top of the NFL Draft for nearly a decade. And they have little to show for it.
The perpetually rebuilding Jags are poised to pick in the top 10 for the ninth consecutive year next month and in the top five for the fifth straight year.
It's the kind of draft run that should - at the very least - have the small-market franchise vying for postseason berths. Instead, Jacksonville has won just 19 of 80 games (23.7 percent) over the last five seasons, finishing no higher than third in the mediocre AFC South.
So what happened? It's been a combination of poor picks and bad luck spanning two owners, three general managers and three head coaches. Injury, suspension and performance have all been factors.
From one Florida defensive standout to another, here's a look at what went wrong with Jacksonville's top selections:
-Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., the third choice in 2015: After quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota went first and second, respectively, the Jaguars had their pick of position players. They took Fowler, a 260-pound pass-rusher who was one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the Southeastern Conference in 2014.
But Fowler tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on the first day of a minicamp and missed his entire rookie season.
He made headlines again in February after a video surfaced that showed him refereeing a fight between his girlfriend and the mother of his child. The NFL said the video included "disturbing images" and vowed to review the matter.
Nonetheless, the Jaguars expect big things from Fowler in 2016. After parting ways with Chris Clemons and Andre Branch and failing to land Olivier Vernon and Robert Ayers in free agency, Fowler is one of the few pass-rushing ends remaining on the roster.
-Quarterback Blake Bortles, the third pick in 2014: By far, the best of Jacksonville's recent draft choices. Bortles set franchise records for yards (4,428) and touchdowns (35) in 2015, joining Dan Marino (1984) as the only first- or second-year quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 4,400 yards and 35 touchdowns in a season.
-Left tackle Luke Joeckel, the second selection in 2013: The first pick in general manager Dave Caldwell's tenure, Joeckel has fallen well short of expectations. He gave up five sacks in the 2015 season finale, clearly causing some concern inside the facility. The Jaguars responded by signing former Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum to a five-year contract worth up to $45 million in free agency to compete with Joeckel.
-Receiver Justin Blackmon, the fifth choice in 2012: The former Oklahoma State star has been suspended twice as many games (44) as he's played (20) since entering the NFL. Blackmon remains suspended indefinitely for violating the league's substance-abuse policy and has shown no signs of getting clean and making a comeback. The Jaguars still have him on the roster, partly because it's the only chance the team has of recouping some of his $12 million signing bonus.
-Quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the 10th pick in 2011: General manager Gene Smith traded up six spots with Washington to select the former Missouri starter, hoping he would be a franchise passer. Gabbert was not even close to average, going 5-22 as a starter, and eventually was traded to San Francisco for a sixth-round draft pick.
-Defensive lineman Tyson Alualu, the 10th selection in 2010: Hasn't missed a game in six years, proving to be durable and dependable, but his 149 tackles and 15 sacks hardly make him worthy of a top-10 pick. He was Smith's first eyebrow-raising pick, topped two years later when the GM took a punter in the third round.
-Left tackle Eugene Monroe, the eighth choice in 2009: Started 62 games in four-plus years in Jacksonville before Caldwell traded him to Baltimore for fourth- and fifth-round draft picks. Monroe has struggled to stay healthy with the Ravens, missing 15 games the last two seasons. The Jaguars ended up getting cornerback Aaron Colvin and reserve defensive end Chris Smith with those picks.
-Defensive end Derrick Harvey, the eighth pick in 2008: The worst draft decision in franchise history, one that essentially cost personnel chief James "Shack" Harris his job. The Jaguars gave up two third-rounders and a fourth to move up 18 spots and select the former Florida standout. But Harvey never panned out, managing eight sacks in 47 games after signing a five-year, $33 million contract that included a little more than $17 million guaranteed. He played five games in Denver and spent an offseason in Cincinnati before leaving the league for good.
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