Why Cecil Shorts, Not Justin Blackmon, Is Jacksonville's Next Stud Wide Receiver

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistNovember 26, 2012

Nov 25, 2012; Jacksonville FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts III (84) runs after a catch in the first quarter of their game against the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field. The Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Tennessee Titans 24-19. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE

The Jacksonville Jaguars may have made Justin Blackmon the fifth overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, but he won't be the next star receiver for the Jaguars—that honor will go to Cecil Shorts. 

Blackmon has failed to live up to expectations as the Jaguars' No. 1 receiver. He got off to a slow start to his rookie campaign and has had issues creating separation.

While Blackmon has floundered, Shorts has emerged as the Jaguars' No. 1 receiver. 

Shorts, a fourth-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft out of Mount Union, has outplayed Blackmon in every sense of the word so far this season. 

So far this season, Blackmon has only caught 38 passes for 548 yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers are a result of acting as the main target in the passing game for the Jaguars. 

Conversely, Shorts hasn't been as fortunate, as he's had to scratch and claw his way into more playing time as the season has progressed. Despite this working against him, Shorts has already caught 36 passes for 747 yards and six touchdowns. 

To make matters worse for Blackmon, he's only averaging 14.4 yards per catch. He clearly isn't the big-play threat the Jags thought he could be just yet, and he had struggled to create yards after the catch. 

The same cannot be said of Shorts, who has emerged as a consistent big-play threat for the Jaguars. He's averaging 20.8 yards per catch and does an excellent job of getting open while remaining a deep threat on every play. 

Both Blackmon and Shorts are of comparable size. Blackmon is 6'1" and 210 pounds, while Shorts is 6'0" and 202 pounds. Despite the comparable size, Shorts has been able to do more physically and create more separation to get open. 

Further hurting the case for Blackmon is the fact he has been the starter for all 12 games so far in 2012. Shorts hasn't been as fortunate, as he's only played starter snaps in six of the contests. He has gone over 100 yards receiving three times, while Blackmon has only done it once. 

Perhaps the only thing both Blackmon and Shorts are neck-and-neck on is having to deal with erratic quarterback play. Blaine Gabbert was horrendous all season and it hurt Blackmon, however, Shorts has managed to be consistently productive during all his starts. 

Blackmon clearly benefited from Chad Henne taking things over, as he exploded for 236 yards and a score in Week 11, but Shorts has been more consistent with Henne under center. 

None of this is to say that Blackmon cannot surpass Shorts and someday be a franchise player for Jacksonville, but things aren't looking great so far for the Oklahoma State product. He's being outplayed by a fourth-round pick who, while he has more experience in the league, shouldn't have this much of an advantage over a top-five selection. 

Blackmon was selected by the Jaguars to be a franchise player, but the front office may have found a diamond in the rough that will end up better.

Shorts is the next star receiver in Jacksonville, and Blackmon appears to be destined to sit behind him in the offense. Shorts may not be a nationally recognizable name just yet, but it appears he will be sooner rather than later as Blackmon fades.