What the Jaguars' TNF win over Titans means for 2015 draft positioning
The Jacksonville defensive tackle capped off his team's 21-13 victory by taking down Charlie Whitehurst. The sack gave Marks' 8.5 on the year, a half-sack above the threshold he needed to take home a $600,000 bonus. Marks celebrated his game-ending play by borrowing Johnny Manziel's "money" celebration as his teammates swarmed him.
"It's been everywhere this whole week," Marks told the NFL Network. "I honestly feel like if it was going to happen, it would come from me doing my job and it happens. ... I'll probably send it back home to my mom and just have fun with it."
The game itself was little more than an appetizer for this weekend's critical slate. Jacksonville improved to 3-12 with the win, pulling one game ahead of the 2-13 Titans in the AFC South standings.
Tennessee led 10-0 early before Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville offense kicked into gear. Bortles got the Jaguars on the board with a TD pass to Marcedes Lewis, the 11th play of an impressive drive just before halftime. Bortles finished the game 13-of-26 for 115 yards and that TD, shaking off a brutal start to get there.
He sat back and watched his run game swing the score into Jacksonville's favor. Toby Gerhart scored from 1-yard out to give the Jaguars their first lead, then Jordan Todman added some insurance with a 65-yard scoring scamper.
Could the win come back to haunt them later? It all depends where one stands on the tanking debate with regards to the draft.
Jacksonville's win did change the current outlook up top for the 2015 draft. So, a little venture outside of our usual Three Thoughts format to check in on what the Jaguars' win over Tennessee might mean come April 30, 2015.
1. Tennessee moves closer to No. 1: The Titans entered Week 16 with a .503 strength of schedule, placing them behind the Buccaneers' .467 mark in draft-pick tiebreakers. (The format rewards teams for having easier schedules, under the theory that higher-quality wins equals a better team.)
Those numbers will tighten up this week, though, in large part because Tennessee played the now 3-12 Jaguars while Tampa Bay takes on 10-4 Green Bay. According to FiveThirtyEight, the Titans' chances of landing No. 1 overall improved from 25 percent to 40.8 percent with Thursday's loss; Tampa Bay's chances dropped from 54.8 to 53.8.
The main reason this all could be important: Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.
There is no doubt that the Buccaneers will evaluate their QB situation this offseason, after slopping through 2014 with Josh McCown and Mike Glennon. The Titans ought to do the same, even if they believe Zach Mettenberger (out Thursday with a shoulder injury) could develop into a solid NFL player.
Even if the Titans have no plans to take a quarterback, it obviously behooves any team to land that No. 1 pick. Tennessee then could flip it to a team that does want a QB or has its eyes on a specific prospect, or it could stay put and nab a potential Day One starter.
It's more or less a two-team race to the top -- or is it the bottom? -- between Tampa Bay and Tennessee.
2. A drop for the Jaguars: Jacksonville's pick in our Mock Draft 2.0, released a few hours before Thursday night's game, was defensive tackle Leonard Williams. Either he or versatile edge-rusher Randy Gregory could add an impact player to Gus Bradley's front four.
The Jaguars' win, however, takes them out of the running for the No. 1 overall pick and at least temporarily sends them into the No. 5-6 range. Tons can change between now and April, but that's a more reasonable spot for the Jaguars to consider one of this draft's offensive linemen. Brandon Scherff, Andrus Peat and Cedric Ogbuehi are among the names that could be first to go come draft day -- Scherff got the earliest nod in that Mock, at No. 5 overall to Washington.
Of course, Jacksonville could have focused on the same positional group at No. 2 or No. 3, but the OTs may fall short on paper when compared to the talent available elsewhere.
3. The Raiders might now be in the swing spot: Regardless of the winner Thursday night, the Raiders were going to bump up one spot in the current draft order. They now sit with the No. 3 spot for the time being, though they will lock in there if they, the Buccaneers and Titans lose out -- Oakland's strength of schedule far surpasses either of those other No. 1 pick contenders.
But the Titans hanging onto the No. 2 pick as the Jaguars fall was the better of Thursday's two possible scenarios for the Raiders. A few ways this could play out, should the top three stay as is:
• Both Tampa Bay and Tennessee take a quarterback: Oakland should be set, at least heading into 2015, with Derek Carr as its signal-caller. So if the Buccaneers and Titans open the draft by nabbing Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, in some order, that leaves the rest of the board wide open for the Raiders. Leonard Williams, Amari Cooper, Randy Gregory and others would be there for the taking.
• One of Tampa Bay and Tennessee takes a quarterback: Should the Raiders have any interest in trading back, their best hope is that either (or both) or the Mariota-Winston duo makes it to pick three. If the Raiders themselves definitely do not want to go QB, they could dangle this spot in front of the Jets, Redskins, Rams or any other team needing an upgrade there.
• Neither Tampa Bay nor Tennessee selects a QB: The odds are extremely low that Oakland doubles up at quarterback, but what if the new coach (and his new scheme) favors an athlete like Mariota? It's hard to imagine the Raiders going back to the well, but they would at least have to have the conversation. Otherwise, the trade possibility becomes more viable; Mariota at No. 3 might be too much for other franchises to ignore.
Of course, all of this could become moot if the Buccaneers, Titans or Raiders win within the next two weeks. Should those teams finish any way other than a combined 0-5, Round 1's top three picks almost certainly will take on a different shape.