The rule of thumb is that you can first judge a draft three years after it has occurred and the time has come to judge Gene Smith's first draft as GM of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The draft included 9 draft picks, 6 of which were from Division I FBS Schools and 8 of which are currently still on the team. I'm going to grade each pick based on two main things: the player's contributions to the team and their value based on where they were drafted. With all of the technical stuff out of the way, it's time to get started.
1. OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia (Round 1, Pick 8)
Eugene Monroe was a bit of a disappointment going into this season. Sure, he was playing decently, but for someone who was drafted at 8th overall, he was struggling way too much. This often caused people to unfairly label him as a bust. However, amidst an offensive line full of moving parts, he was a constant and consistent force on the left side of the line He effectively erased the efforts of pass rushers such as Dwight Freeney and Terrell Suggs on the left side of the line.
Eugene Monroe was the third of four offensive tackles selected in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Of those four, Monroe is the only one still playing at left tackle and he could easily be considered as the best offensive tackle in the class.
2. OT Eben Britton, Arizona (Round 2, Pick 39)
Eben Britton was initially regarded as being better than Monroe during their rookie season, but it seems that perceptions can change drastically. Britton has been known to play with a bit of a mean streak on the right side of the line, but injuries have sidelined him for most of the 2010 and 2011 season.
While his impact has been diminished by his absence from the field, he adds value, by being able to play at the guard spots as well, which could be valuable during rough spots in the middle of the season. Also, while the rating might seem a bit high, his absence has also made it quite apparent that he is missed on the right side of the line. If you have any question about that, just look at most of the games during the 2011 season. Guy Whimper was getting abused to the point where he gave up a sack in every week from Week 5 to Week 13. While Britton wasn't spectacular in pass blocking, he is certainly better than the alternative.
3. DT Terrance Knighton, Temple (Round 3, Pick 72)
Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton is easily the biggest mass of human being on this side of the Mississippi. Initially seen as a smaller school pick that would've been a high risk and low reward due to his weight problems, Knighton has emerged as a surprisingly athletic nose tackle in the middle.. He is already an effective wall in the middle, but he can also occasionally rush the passer, which would probably make the opposing quarterback feel like he is about to get flattened by The Juggernaut.. The biggest issue with Knighton is that he has struggled to keep his weight under control during the offseason and you can see the effects on the football field. He usually makes most of his plays during the earlier parts of the season and then he disappears after Thanksgiving. If Knighton could keep his weight under control, he could end up being a perennial Pro Bowler, easily.
He is also a major value of a pick, being one of the best defensive tackles of the 2009 Draft along with the likes of B.J. Raji and Ziggy Hood. When Knigthon went down with an ankle injury in the latter part of the year, the Jaguars' run defense suffered, being torn up buy the likes of Chris Ogobannaya and Ryan Matthews.
4. CB Derek Cox, William & Mary (Round 3, Pick 73)
Derek Cox has become a rising star in a solid Jaguar secondary corps. He can play well in man and zoe coverage and he has the speed and height to compete against some of the most talented receivers in the league. He also isn't afraid to come up and make a form tackle, either. His only issue is being able to actually stay healthy, after missing most of the 2011 season due to injury.
Derek turned out to be a nice pickup in what turned out to be a deep draft for cornerbacks. His numbers are in line with fellow third round cornerbacks, Ledarius Webb and Jerraud Powers, as well as more celebrated corners like Alphonso Smith and Vontae Davis, so he has pretty good value. The only regret that one might have is Mike Wallace being picked 10 spots later. Then again, having a guy who can actually defend against Wallace's speed doesn't sting so much.
5. WR Mike Thomas, Arizona (Round 4, Pick 107)
Mike Thomas is a bit of a wildcard. He had a very good first two years and then all of a sudden, his play just stunk in 2011. The normally sure-handed Thomas was dropping passes, his routes were sloppy and after he signed his extension after Week 4, he dropped from the face of the Earth. In the 12 games afterwards, he only racked up 24 catches for 203 yards. Those are not good stats overall. However, in the big picture, Mike Thomas currently has 158 career catches in three years and has been a threat as a special teamer.
Only 6 receivers from that 2009 class have more catches than Thomas, and 4 of them are first rounders. That represents pretty good value for an undersized slot receiver, especially when he has been miscast for most of his career. If the Jaguars get some receivers that can attract some attention on the outside, he could work the middle of the field with his trademark 20 yard post routes down the seam. He could easily become an 80 catch, 900+ yard player on a consistent basis as Gabbert develops. But until that happens, I'll have to mark him down for the bad 2011 season.
6. WR Jarett Dillard, Rice (Round 5, Pick 144)
Jarett Dillard was a touchdown machine at Rice due to his spectacular leaping ability and great hands. However, his career has been marred by injury. He only has 35 career catches with one touchdown, which are not good by any means. His hands were mostly consistent, but he just couldn't make all of the tough catches, such as the one near the endzone against the Titans in Week 15.
As a 5th round pick we shouldn't have expected much, the only receivers of note selected after the 4th round are Julian Edelman and Tiquan Underwood. And neither are known as great players. Ah well, a mediocre player gets a mediocre score.
7. TE Zach Miller, University of Nebraska-Omaha (Round 6, Pick 180)
Zach Miller was a bit of a project pick, going from quarterback to tight end (insert Tebow joke here).He has freakish speed for a guy who is 6'4 and 240 pounds, making him a matchup nightmare if he could only find a way to stay on the field. Just once, I'd like to see him catch a pass down the seam and try to outrun the defenders to the endzone.
Despite the injuries, Miller has more career catches, yards and touchdowns than all but two tight ends in the 2009 draft, Brandon Pettigrew and Jared Cook. That represents a lot of value for a mere 6th round pick.
8. RB Rashad Jennings, Liberty (Round 7, Pick 250)
Rashad Jennings is more of a power back that can grind the ball up the middle as well as catching the ball out of the backfield. He has turned into a complimentary player for Maurice Jones-Drew. If you doubt that, then you obviously haven't seen Deji Karim try to pound the ball in the middle of the line for a minimal gain. Rashad Jennings has averaged 5 yards per carry for his career and it probably would've continued into this year as well if he wasn't injured. Imagine the Jaguars gaining 2 or 3 yards on a run when Mojo has to take a breather. It worked wonders for the team in 2010, creating 3rd and short situations for Maurice Jones-Drew and the offense.
Rashad Jennings represents ultimate value, being a 7th round compensatory selection. even though he's just a backup running back, his absence creates a large hole to fill and it's not just about backing up the main runner. It's the blocking, the catching, and the effect that all of those things have on an opposing defense.
9. WR Tiquan Underwood, Rutgers (Round 7, Pick 253)
Tiquan Underwood is on the other side of the spectrum. Underwood isn't very big and he didn't attack the ball in the air. He did have deep speed, but he couldn't catch. Doesn't sound like much, huh? However, the fact that he had two catches that helped to clinch one of the greatest games in Jaguar history, increases his value a bit
The only other receiver of note in the 7th round is Julian Edelman, so there isn't someone that could've been picked. Plus, to get any type of production out of a late 7th round pick is extraordinary enough. But his overall ineptness, keeps his grade low.
Overall, this was a very solid draft from top to bottom. Overall, the grade fr this draft is a B, which could easily be an A if many of the players didn't sustain injuries throughout 2011. Grading the 2010 draft is going to be a bit more rocky.
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