JACKSONVILLE -- Here’s What We Learned from the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind…
1. The Jaguars won’t make it easy on mockers. That’s OK, of course. It’s not Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell’s job to make mocking the 2014 NFL Draft simple. Still, there is a big disconnect between what most analysts assume the Jaguars will do with the No. 3 overall selection on May 8 and what Caldwell says he’s thinking right now because …
2. Most mockers are thinking quarterback for the Jaguars … Speaking to people around the combine, quarterback remains the consensus choice for the Jaguars at No. 3. Now, it’s only February 24 – and even if it were later the opinions of mock drafters are just that, opinions – but there’s just a general belief among people following the draft that the Jaguars will use the third selection on a quarterback.
3…. and Caldwell said that just may not be the case. Caldwell has been consistent in pretty much every public statement recently that he won’t force a quarterback at No. 3. He knows the value of the position but knows just as certainly that taking a quarterback who’s not a difference-maker would be a mistake.
4. But even if the Jaguars are thinking quarterback … there’s little consensus about who they might be thinking. Many analysts mock Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel to the Jaguars, but that’s largely based on the perception that Manziel would bring excitement to the franchise and that he would fit in Jedd Fisch’s offense. The “excitement” part won’t be an issue come Draft Day, and any of the three quarterbacks mentioned most often – Manziel, Blake Bortles of Central Florida and Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville – could play in Fisch’s scheme. You hear as many good reasons that Bortles could be a fit for the Jaguars as you hear for Manziel and for Bridgewater. And speaking of quarterbacks …
5. Bortles helped himself. Of the top four-projected quarterbacks – with Derek Carr of Fresno State being the other – only Bortles threw in Indianapolis. He performed well in throwing drills, and his prototypical size and arm strength impressed scouts.
6. The Jaguars would love to trade down. Caldwell said during the combine trading out of the No. 3 selection for more selections would benefit the Jaguars. That’s because this is not only a very good draft at the top, but deep throughout. Would the Jaguars benefit from moving down a few spots and getting an extra second-round selection? No doubt, particularly without a true ‘can’t-miss, change-the-franchise-immediately quarterback in this year’s draft.
7. The positive feeling around the Jaguars remains. A year ago at the combine, there was excitement around the Jaguars, and a feeling that Head Coach Gus Bradley and Caldwell might be very good fits in their positions and with one another. That feeling grew stronger this season, and grew more at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., last month. Peter King of Sports Illustrated told jaguars.com at the combine he’s “bullish on the Jaguars,” a comment reflective of what many were saying about the Jaguars’ leadership this week.
8. The wide receiver class is strong. And fast. This is widely considered the deepest wide receiver draft in recent memory – perhaps the best ever. The combine did nothing to change that. Sammy Watkins of Clemson solidified himself as likely the first receiver selected with a 4.43-second 40-yard dash at the combine, and Mike Evans of Texas A&M also solidified himself as a potential Top 15 player with a 4.53-second 40. NFL Network Analyst Mike Mayock on Sunday also called Watkins a franchise receiver.
9. Dee Ford is confident. The Auburn defensive end was asked about Jadeveon Clowney while speaking with Sirius/XM Radio over the weekend. Ford’s reply: “I’m better.” Clowney is projected as a Top 3-to-5 selection, while Ford has emerged as a potential first-round selection. We’ll see how this one plays out.
10. Mack’s the rising star for now… Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack’s stock has risen since the beginning of the season. It hardly could rise any further. Why? Mayock, who is respected enough that his opinions tend to “seep” into the opinions of many analysts, said Sunday he would take Mack with the No. 1 overall selection.
11. We’re a very reactionary people. While the combine hardly took this concept to new heights, it certainly showed the ability of NFL fans/observers to sway in the wind. The weekend started with questions around Clowney’s work ethic, and then there was breathless reaction to his relatively-low 21 reps on the bench press Sunday. On Monday, he was the Flavor of the Day again when he ran an unofficial 4.47-second 40. Deep breaths, everyone: Clowney is a very, fast athletic defensive end with long arms. It’s not surprising his bench wasn’t off the charts, and if you watched him in college you had a feeling he’d perform well in the 40, too.
12. Offensive linemen have gotten really, really fast. Remember? Last year? When offensive tackles such as Terron Armstead and Lane Johnson wowed scouts and general managers with 40-yard dash tomes in the low 4.7-second-range. Well, one year is eye-catching and maybe two years mark a trend. Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan on Saturday clocked in with an unofficial 4.87 and Auburn tackle Greg Robinson clocked in at 4.92. Both helped their stock, and Robinson may have been the star of the combine at the position.
13. The draft is deep. Really, really deep. There were plenty around the combine who consider this one of the best drafts in memory – significantly better than last year’s. A big reason is the addition of a record 98 underclassmen. The combine through the first three days did nothing to change that perception. Positions such as wide receiver and offensive line are deep enough where it should be possible to get good players deep into the final day of the draft.
14. The Jaguars are in good position. The Jaguars may or may not be able to trade back. It’s usually tougher than it sounds, and remember: Caldwell wanted to trade out of the No. 2 position in last year’s draft and received no interest in the selection. Still, even if the Jaguars do nothing more they’ll enter the draft with 10 selections – all of their allotted selections, an extra fourth and two extra fifths. Considering the reported depth of the draft – and considering Caldwell and Bradley have a much more specific idea of needs than last year – they’re in a good situation as the draft approaches.
15. It’s going to be a fun March. Pro Day season begins in early March and extends well into April. Teddy Bridgewater. Johnny Manziel. Blake Bortles. Only Bortles threw at the combine, but all three will throw at their Pro Days in March. Bridgewater’s Pro Day is March 17; Bortles’ is March 19 and Manziel’s is March 27. Jaguars.com will attend all three, and Clowney’s (April 2), too. Plenty to watch all month.
16. It’s going to be a lo-o-o-ng April. With combine news pretty much 24/7 the last four or five days, it may feel like the draft is upon us. Not even close. The draft has been pushed back from the last weekend in April to May 8-10, and those final weeks of April – and the first week of May – feel like a long, long loooooooong way off.