Jacksonville Jaguars: Top 5 Players to Target in 2014 NFL Draft
There aren't many fans of NFL teams that would be optimistic after a 4-12 season.
But Jacksonville Jaguars fans shouldn't be included in that group. Four wins doubled their number of victories in the 2012-2013 season, and Jaguars fans have reason to believe the franchise is a few years away from contending despite three straight losing seasons.
The front office and head coach Gus Bradley have the team headed in the right direction. And the Jaguars can improve on a four-win season with a strong 2014 NFL draft. But who do they take?
The Jaguars have 10 picks in April's draft, including five picks in the fourth and fifth rounds.
Here are the top five players the Jaguars should focus on in the upcoming draft.
No. 1: Blake Bortles, Quarterback
Blake Bortles put the UCF football program on the map, sending the Knights to their first BCS bowl win in school history.
One thing is obvious: The Jaguars need a franchise quarterback. Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne both said after the season that they want to return, but the new regime wants its own guy. Henne and Gabbert aren't the answers.
There will be debate over whether Jacksonville should draft Johnny Manziel or even trade down. But the Jaguars have plenty of picks to improve their team.
Some mock drafts have the Jaguars taking Manziel. Others have the Jaguars taking Jadeveon Clowney.
Manziel will be a hot commodity. He'll probably go in the first round—maybe just before or just after the Jaguars' selection. But with this pick, the Jaguars should go with more of a sure thing.
At 6'4", 230 pounds, Bortles is the size many NFL evaluators like. He doesn't have the best arm in the draft, but he's also very mobile for his size. He's 22 years old, and he has plenty of room to grow.
If the Jaguars can get Justin Blackmon to stay on the field, Bortles has weapons: Blackmon, Cecil Shorts, Ace Sanders and Marcedes Lewis.
No matter how many strides the Jaguars take in trying to make the franchise a winning one again, nothing will matter until a franchise quarterback is found.
Bortles can be that quarterback.
No. 2: Tre Mason, Running Back
Maurice Jones-Drew is going to test free agency. He deserves it. The Jaguars know that.
And even if MJD returns to Jacksonville, the Jaguars need to make plans for the running back of the future.
Tre Mason is a stud. He ran for 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns this season. He was a Heisman finalist. He almost ran his Auburn team to a BCS National Championship.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Mason's game is that he has the ability to run between the tackles. He's not just a speedster on the edge.
There will be many quarterbacks and other skill position players taken in the first round. Mason should be available early in the second, the round many skill players are taken.
The stats say it all. Mason should be the guy if he's still available when the Jaguars draft in the second round.
No. 3: Jackson Jeffcoat, Defensive End
A championship-caliber defense starts up front. The Jaguars consistently have had one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL.
Jackson Jeffcoat could change that. He is rated as one of the top defensive ends in the draft by NFLDraftScout.com, and he could play opposite third-year player Andre Branch.
With pressure from Branch and Jeffcoat on the edges, Sen'Derrick Marks—who just signed a four-year, $22 million deal to stay in Jacksonville—could be even more of an issue for an opposing team's offensive line.
No. 4: Chris Borland, Linebacker
Paul Posluszny is the anchor of the Jaguars' defense, but the linebacker position as a whole is a weakness of the team.
Chris Borland, who isn't the prototypical linebacker size, has football instincts—exactly what linebackers need to have.
The Jaguars have two picks in the fifth round. One of those should be on Borland.
No. 5: Chris Burnette, Offensive Line
The offensive line is an area the Jaguars need to improve. The team ranked next-to-last in total offense and rushing. Of course, a healthy Maurice Jones-Drew would probably help that.
By adding Chris Burnette to the interior of the offensive line, the Jaguars would be building anchors for both the running and passing games.
Burnette would help create holes for Tre Mason.
Coach Gus Bradley is known for wanting big-bodied defensive backs. That's what he did to build Seattle's vicious defense, and that's what he's already started to do in his first year in Jacksonville.
The 2014 NFL draft will be no different. Bradley and the front office will use the later rounds, where they have compiled many picks, to get pure size and speed. Ball skills can be developed.
Some players the Jaguars should target in these later rounds include defensive backs Stanley Jean-Baptiste (6'2") and Keith McGill (6'2").
Jacksonville could also look to add more interior offensive linemen. Morgan Moses (Virginia) or Gabe Ikard (Oklahoma) are possibilities.
Another option is to try to move up in the draft and get another wide receiver, especially with Justin Blackmon's future very much unclear.
Brandon Coleman, who played at Rutgers, is a large target at 6'5". He could be a player the Jaguars draft in an earlier round. He also can make some pretty sick catches.
Questions still remain. Should the Jaguars take a quarterback with the No. 3 pick? Should it be Blake Bortles? Is selecting a running back in the second round silly? Leave your top five targets in the comments section.