It's almost a foregone conclusion that Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III will be the second overall pick in this year's NFL draft. The St. Louis Rams hold the pick, but they already have their franchise quarterback, Sam Bradford, in the fold. The Rams have apparently already opened the bidding for Griffin and are looking to get a huge haul in return, as well they should.
Griffin is an electric playmaker with speed, a big arm and accuracy, and he's the type of quarterback prospect that excites fan bases and sells tickets. If not for Andrew Luck, he'd probably be the clear-cut number one overall pick.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated indicated this week that a surprising "mystery team" had made the Rams an offer for the second pick; he said the Rams "already had several feelers—including one from a team 'you would never expect.'"
Pro Football Talk also indicated that the Rams were already looking to move the pick. In their analysis of the potential bidders for Griffin, they suggested their own "mystery team": the Jacksonville Jaguars.
To put it bluntly: That's absurd.
Gabbert is the draft pick that will define Gene Smith's tenure as the Jaguars' general manager. If Gabbert turns out to be a franchise quarterback, Smith will have done a great job, regardless of how well the rest of his picks turn out.
If Gabbert ends up being a bust, Smith will probably join him in the unemployment line.
Blaine Gabbert is Smith's centerpiece. While I'm sure many Jaguars fans—even the most ardent Gabbert supporters—would probably love to see Griffin in black and teal, the fact remains: Gabbert isn't going anywhere.
Though Gabbert struggled plenty during his roller-coaster rookie season, his performance took a dramatic step forward following offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter taking over the quarterback coach position. It seemed the lack of effective coaching may have helped lead to Gabbert's struggles, as he seemed much more confident in the pocket and willing to take a hit shortly after Koetter took over as quarterback coach.
New quarterback coach Greg Olson was brought on board specifically to work with Gabbert. The potential in the Jaguars' young signal-caller was evident even during a tumultuous rookie campaign, and the Jaguars would be foolish to simply give up on that upside.
Gabbert showed the arm strength to make any throw on the route tree and the intelligence to avoid interceptions, throwing only 11 in 14 starts. Over the course of the season he began to learn to stand tall in the pocket and throw "downhill" as opposed to bailing out and falling away from his target. The talent is there, and the awareness improved as the season progressed.
The price to move up to the second pick in the draft would reportedly be first- and second-round picks in 2012, a first-round pick in 2013 and another pick or two (or three). To make a move like that, the Jaguars would absolutely have to be sure Gabbert is NOT their franchise quarterback, and at this point, that's impossible to say.
While Griffin is a great prospect, Gabbert is still "the guy" for the Jaguars. Rather than trying to fill holes that don't yet exist by mortgaging this year's (and potentially next year's) draft, Jacksonville will use their draft picks to build talent around their young quarterback as opposed to replacing him.
Is Robert Griffin III in a Jaguars uniform fun to think about? Sure. Is it realistic? Absolutely not. Daydreaming is fun, but don't mistake dreams for reality.
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