The Jacksonville Jaguars are one of thirteen teams to never win the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy. Even worse, the Jaguars join the Browns, Texans, and Lions as the only teams to never compete in the Super Bowl. Although the Jaguar franchise is relatively new to the NFL, It is hard to imagine being a fan of that city and experiencing such little success.
The Jacksonville Jaguars joined the National Football League along with the Carolina Panthers as an expansion franchise in 1995. Unlike most expansion teams, The Jaguars reached the playoffs in their second season of existence and even made it to the Conference Championship game. They went on to make the playoffs from 1996-1999 under head coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Mark Brunell.
Unfortunately, that was the end of the Jaguars’ extended success as a franchise. Tom Coughlin was fired in 2002 with a record of 68-60 and missing the playoffs three consecutive seasons. The team hired Jack Del Rio who coached the team from 2003-2011 and made the playoffs twice during his tenure. Even though they had standouts at running back, like Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, they never had enough talent on offense and defense to get over the hump.
Without a playoff appearance since 2007, the Jaguars have been on downward spiral as a franchise. Many of their mistakes have come through offseason acquisitions, especially the NFL Draft. In hindsight, Jacksonville could’ve been a football powerhouse in the 2000’s had they drafted correctly in the 1st round.
Here is a look at what the Jaguars could have done differently in the first round of their last 15 drafts.
2002 – Ed Reed
Like most seasons in the 2000’s, the Jaguars struggled heavily even with their franchise quarterback and running back Mark Brunell and Fred Taylor. The Jaguars finished with a disappointing 6-10 record and the 9th overall pick in the draft. With that pick, they selected defensive tackle John Henderson out of the University of Tennessee. Henderson started every game in his first five seasons with Jacksonville and played a total of eight seasons with the team. Although he was a consistent anchor on the defensive side of the ball, there were more explosive players left on the board.
Safety Ed Reed was taken 24th overall by the Baltimore Ravens and was the anchor of their secondary for eleven years. He finished his career with 64 career interceptions which ranked 7th all time. He could have made an ordinary defense look explosive and take the edge off the team’s run heavy offense.
2003 – Terrell Suggs
For the second consecutive season, the Jaguars finished with a record of 6-10 marking the last time Mark Brunell would finish the season as Jacksonville’s starting quarterback. With the 7th pick in the 2003 draft, the Jaguars attempted to bring in the quarterback of the future with Byron Leftwich out of Marshall University. He never started all sixteen games during his four-year stint with the Jaguars and eventually lost the job to backup David Garrard.
Instead of reaching to solve the quarterback position, the Jaguars could have continued to build a stellar defense with one of the few players still in the league from this draft class. Terrell Suggs was selected 10th overall by the Baltimore Ravens out of Arizona State. Suggs has been a Baltimore Raven for his entire career and enters his 15th season with the team. Suggs even won the AP Defensive Player of the Year award in 2011. With Suggs holding down the outside linebacker position for more than a decade, the Jaguars would’ve been able to focus on other holes in their team.
2004 – Ben Roethlisberger
The Jaguars were now picking inside the top ten for the third year in a row. After witnessing Leftwich struggle as a rookie, the front office decided to give him some help on the outside by drafting wide receiver Reggie Williams out of the University of Washington. Williams could be labeled a flat-out bust by many at the receiver position, lasting only five years in the league all with the Jaguars. During his tenure with the team, he averaged 37 catches a season and only caught 18 career touchdown receptions.
Although there weren’t any standout receivers after Larry Fitzgerald in this draft, there was a future Hall of Fame quarterback still on the board when the Jaguars picked Williams. With the 11th pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out of Miami (Ohio) University. Roethlisberger went on to lead the Steelers to three Super Bowls, winning two of them. He will eventually go down as the second greatest quarterback in the history of the franchise behind only Terry Bradshaw, a four-time Super Bowl champion.
2005 – Roddy White
With their first winning season since 1999, the Jaguars found themselves picking 21st in the draft after finishing the season 9-7. After realizing Reggie Williams might not be the standout receiver they once thought, they attempted to once again upgrade the position by drafting receiver Matt Jones from the University of Arkansas. Jones had an even shorter career than Williams lasting only four seasons with the tea, totaling a mere 2,153 yards and 15 touchdowns. While Jones was another bust receiver taken by the Jaguars, one of the best receivers in Atlanta Falcons history was still on the board.
With the 27th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons filled their need for a receiver taking Roddy White out of Alabama Birmingham. White owns eight receiving records for the Atlanta Falcons, including most career receiving yards of 10,863, as well as most receiving touchdowns in a career with 63. He was the type of receiver who a young quarterback could rely on in the most crucial moments of a game. He would’ve been able to make life much easier for any quarterback the Jaguars had.
2006 – Marcedes Lewis
The 2005 season brought the Jaguars a promising 12-4 season, but still finishing second in the division behind Peyton Manning’s Colts. This seemed to be a recurring theme for any team in the AFC South during the 2000’s. The Colts finished with an NFL best 14-2 record that year but were bounced out of the playoffs in their first game against the sixth seeded Steelers. During wild card weekend, the Jaguars never stood a chance after the opening kickoff and were embarrassed by a score of 28-3.
In the 2006 draft, the team established their longest tenured Jaguar still on the team today. With the 28th pick in the draft, the team selected tight end Marcedes Lewis out of UCLA. This 1st round class did not leave a memorable mark on the league with only a handful of guys still playing in the NFL. Lewis has spent eleven years with the team and even had a Pro Bowl season in 2010 with 700 receiving yards and ten touchdowns.
2007 – Joe Staley
The 2006 season saw a huge decline for the Jacksonville Jaguars falling to an 8-8 record and missing the playoffs. Finally, attempting to fix up the back end of their defense, the Jaguars selected Reggie Nelson 21st overall out of the University of Florida. Nelson was their first defensive player taken in the draft in five years. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, Nelson only spent three seasons with the team and eventually made a career for himself with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Jaguars had not drafted an offensive linemen since their first year of existence in 1995. Every team needs to have a strong offensive line to have any type of extended success in the league and to not make that a priority speaks measures about their disappointing seasons over recent years. The San Francisco 49ers drafted offensive tackle Joe Staley from Central Michigan with the 28th pick of the 1st round. Staley has played every game in 135 games in ten seasons with the team and is a five time Pro Bowler. He has been one of the few bright spots for San Francisco in recent years.
2008 – Aqib Talib
If it had not been for the first undefeated regular season in almost forty years, the Jaguars might have found themselves back in the AFC title game. Gerrard has his highest QB rating as a pro in 2007, throwing for 18 touchdowns with only 3 interceptions. Unfortunately for the city of Jacksonville, the 2007 season was the last time they had made a playoff appearance. During the draft that year, the Jaguars traded with the Baltimore Ravens to trade up to the 8th pick in the draft. They selected Derrick Harvey with the pick, a defensive end out of Florida University. Harvey only spent three years with the team accumulating an astonishing 8 career sacks.
If the Jaguars were going to make a blockbuster trade during the draft, it didn’t have to be such a huge jump for a bust who lasted only four years in the league. They could have instead moved up six spots and taken Aqib Talib out of Kansas University. Talib has been a top corner in the league for the decade and has totaled 33 career interceptions and 9 touchdowns with three different teams. It just goes to show, making huge jumps in the draft can be detrimental to an organization, if not executed properly.
2009 – Brian Orakpo
2008 brought on a massive decline for the Jaguar franchise in which they have yet to recover from. After major injuries to the offensive line, Garrard and the offense struggled to put up points. They finished the season 5-11 which was the team’s worst record since the 2003 season. To solidify their offensive line issues, they drafted offensive tackle Eugene Monroe with the 8th pick out of Virginia. Monroe played only five years with the team before moving onto Baltimore to finish his career.
Instead of worrying about previous injuries to the offensive line, the front office should have looked into creating more turnovers on defense. The Jaguars lacked any type of defensive playmaker on their team in recent years and that always put more pressure on the offense. The Redskins selected Brian Orakpo 13th overall in the draft and he has proven to be a force on the defensive end since. Although he has had a few injury-ridden seasons, he still forces offensive coordinators to provide extra protection schemes when he’s rushing on the outside.
2010 – Demaryius Thomas
For the second consecutive season, the Jaguars finished last in the AFC South. 2009 also brought on a new General Manager, Gene Smith, who admitted the team was in a rebuilding stage. Admitting that to a dedicated fan base will only disconnect them from the team and keep them uninterested. This even led to seven of the team’s eight home games being blacked out on local television. With a 7-9 record, the team went conservative and picked defensive tackle Tyson Alualu. Alualu has been an okay rotating linemen for the team to this day, but surely not worthy of the tenth pick in the draft.
If the team is going into a rebuilding mode, one of the best selections to make is a standout receiver to help a struggling offense. Demaryius Thomas was selected 22nd overall by the Denver Broncos and has been their number one receiver since. He has reached 1,000 receiving yards in each of his last five seasons with the team and has 52 career touchdowns.
2011 – Colin Kaepernick
With their first year of rebuilding under their belt, the Jaguars improved upon their record with eight wins and even sold out all of their home games. However, the team struggled mightily once Garrard went down with an injury. The front office knew it was time to draft a young quarterback and keep him ready for whenever Garrard calls it a career. With the tenth pick in the 2011 draft, the Jaguars selected quarterback Blaine Gabbert out of Missouri. Gabbert spent only three years with the team and never started a full season for them.
It might be up for question with where his career is now, but Colin Kaepernick could have been a great fit in Jacksonville. After being selected in the 2nd round by the 49ers, Kaepernick led the team to a Super Bowl appearance in his first year of starting. He is an electrifying playmaker with the ability to run just as often as he throws. Even in 2016 when he was highly criticized for off-the-field issues, Kaepernick threw for 16 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in 11 starts.
2012 – Dontari Poe
2011 saw the Jaguars finish with a losing record for the third time in four seasons. Even if the team finished sixth in total defense, they still were not good enough to save head coach Jack Del Rio from being fired after 9 seasons with the team. The team had their first pick in the top of the draft since taking Kevin Hardy 2nd overall in 1996. The Jaguars finally addressed their wide receiver issue, taking Justin Blackmon 5th overall. Blackmon proved to be a great selection on the field with over 800 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns his rookie year. However, off-the-field issues have kept him out of the league since the 5th game of the 2013 season.
After analyzing this pick, 2012 would have been the year to make a safe selection along the defensive line. The Kansas City Chiefs selected Dontari Poe with the 11th pick in the draft. Poe has been a force in the teeth of their defense making it difficult for any team to run against them. Although he doesn’t have huge sack numbers, Poe has made his mark as a top defensive tackle in this league.
2013 – Ezekiel Ansah
It is without question that 2012 was the worst season in Jaguars franchise history. They finished with a 2-14 record and a franchise worst 1-7 record at home. The team showed how young and inexperienced they were under rookie head coach Mike Mularkey, leading to the 2nd overall pick in the draft. The top of the 2013 draft class did not produce any sexy picks, so the Jaguars selected offensive tackle Luke Joeckel from Texas A&M. Even though he hasn’t screwed up enough yet to call him a bust, he only played in 4 games in 2016.
In hindsight, a much more attractive pick is 5th overall pick Ezekiel Ansah, taken by the Detroit Lions. Ansah has been labeled a playmaker since entering the league and has totaled 32 sacks in four seasons. With him rushing on the edge, offenses must game plan to add extra protection on his side of the line.
2014 – Odell Beckham Jr.
The disappointing seasons continued for the Jaguars finishing the 2013 campaign with a record of 4-12 and third in the AFC South. After only three years, they decided that Blaine Gabbert was not the answer at quarterback and took Blake Bortles 3rd overall in the draft. After struggling as a rookie, Bortles took a huge step forward in his second season and threw for over 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns. Although he still shows promise at his young age, a few receivers stand out as superstars in this draft class.
Odell Beckham Jr. stands among the best of his receiving peers. Beckham Jr. was drafted by the New York Giants 12th overall out of LSU. In just three seasons with the Giants, Beckham Jr. has caught 288 passes for 4,122 yards and 35 touchdowns. Even with his wacky personality, he could make any franchise better once he steps on the field. The Jaguars have been lacking a clear cut number one receiver for almost a decade now and Beckham sure would have helped out a young Bortles.
2015 – Todd Gurley
Under the second season of head coach Gus Bradley, the Jaguars failed to improve after last season’s abysmal record of 4-12 by finishing at 3-13. Although the team finished third in the division again, they believed they had found their quarterback for the future. The team even had their biggest come-from-behind win in franchise history against the Giants in Week 13. During the 2015 draft, the Jaguars selected linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. out of Florida University. Unfortunately for the team, Fowler Jr. tore his ACL before the season ever started and was gone for his entire rookie season.
Only seven picks later, the St. Louis Rams selected running back Todd Gurley from Georgia. It would have made much more sense for the Jaguars to select a running back since their last successful one retired in 2014. As a rookie, Gurley put up over 1,100 yards in only 13 games played. In his second season, he still managed to rush for over 800 yards with the mess that was the Los Angeles Rams’ offense. The Jaguars will continue to struggle until they approach their running game through the draft.
2016 – Jalen Ramsey
Although the Jaguars won their most games in a season since 2011, they still finished with a 5-11 record. Bortles did not have a sophomore slump by any means and led the passing game to new heights. On the defensive side of the ball, however, they struggled mightily to stop the opposing offenses. To ensure this would not be a problem in future years, they drafted cornerback Jalen Ramsey out of Florida State.
Ramsey showed promise as a rookie and it doesn’t look like the Jaguars should regret this selection any time soon. Ramsey started all 16 games for the Jaguars and intercepted two passes. He very well may turn out to be the 1st acceptable draft pick for the Jacksonville in almost ten years. Hopefully, Jacksonville has learned from prior draft mistakes and is ready to turn a new leaf come the 2017 NFL draft.