Looking Back on the Jaguars’ Past Drafts: How Did the 2014 Class Turn Out?

John Shipley

With the 2020 NFL Draft looming ahead in the coming months, and with Dave Caldwell returning as the Jacksonville Jaguars' general manager, it is worth looking back at past Jaguars' draft classes to determine the team's recent track record in April.

Caldwell has been general manager since 2013 but it was from 2013-2016 when Caldwell was truly dictating the team's draft process. Former executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin entered the picture in 2017 and had a large say in the team's draft-day decisions.

Of course, context is needed for each draft class. Sometimes picks simply don't work out, whether it is because of injuries, circumstance, or anything else.

2014 was Caldwell's second draft with the Jaguars and a strong argument could be made that it was his best. The bulk of the class played a large part in the team's 2017 playoff run and even one of the players who didn't was one of Caldwell's better draft picks.

Not many players from the class remain on the team today, though each of the first six picks went on to earn sizeable NFL contracts.

So after six seasons, how can we reflect on Jacksonville's 2014 draft class today?

QB Blake Bortles (Round 1, 3rd overall)

Seasons with Jacksonville: 5.

Stats with Jaguars: 73 career starts. 1,561/2,632 (59.3%) for 17,649 passing yards and 103 touchdowns with 75 interceptions. Fumbled 47 times, losing 19. Rushed 281 times for 1,775 yards and eight touchdowns. 24-49 record as a regular season starter. 2-1 playoff record.

Summary: Dave Caldwell's first-ever crack at selecting a quarterback at the top of a draft culminated in Blake Bortles starting for the majority of the next five seasons. Bortles' time in Jacksonville was a mixed bag, struggling badly in his first and third seasons in the NFL but throwing 35 touchdown passes in his second year. His role was reduced to that of a game manager for much of 2017 as the Jaguars went 10-6 and advanced to the AFC Championship. Bortles played one of his best games as a Jaguar in a Divisional Round win vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers that season, helping Bortles land a three-year, $54 million contract extension.

Bortles had a disastrous fifth year in Jacksonville, being benched for Cody Kessler as the Jaguars endured a 5-11 season. This ended his time as the team's starting quarterback and led directly to the additions of Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew II. Bortles would be cut by the Jaguars in the 2019 offseason and he signed with the Los Angeles Rams to serve as Jared Goff's backup.

WR Marqise Lee (Round 2, 39th overall)

Seasons with Jacksonville: 6 and counting.

Stats with the Jaguars: 174 catches, 2,184 yards, and eight touchdowns.

Summary: Marqise Lee is one of the veteran leaders inside the Jaguars locker room but he has struggled with injuries and inconsistent production since being selected in the second round. After catching only 52 passes for 613 yards and two touchdowns in 23 games in the first two seasons of his career, Lee had a career-year in 2016. He caught 63 passes for 851 yards and three touchdowns and flashed the ability to improve. He contributed 56 catches for 702 yards and three touchdowns to the 2017 playoff team.

Following 2017, Lee received a new four-year, $34 million contract with $16.5 million in guaranteed money. Since then though, injuries have derailed Lee's ability to contribute to the offense. He suffered a season-ending ACL injury during the 2018 postseason, and then only played in six games in 2019 before a shoulder injury ended his season. Since signing his new deal, he has caught three passes for 18 yards.

WR Allen Robinson (Round 2, 61st overall)

Seasons with Jacksonville: 4.

Stats with Jaguars: 202 catches, 2,848 yards, and 22 touchdowns.

Summary: Drafted after Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson was able to establish himself as a focal point of Jacksonville's offense early in his career. Seemingly able to catch every jump ball thrown in his direction, Robinson had 80 catches for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns in his sophomore season in 2015. The offense struggled mightily in 2016, forcing his numbers down some, and then his 2017 season ended as it just began. Only a few plays into Week 1 in 2017, Robinson sustained a season-ending ACL injury, the final image of him in a Jaguars' uniform. He would sign with the Chicago Bears as a free agent in 2018, leaving him as one of the biggest "what if's?" in recent Jaguars' history.

OL Brandon Linder (Round 3, 93rd overall)

Seasons with Jacksonville: 6 and counting.

Stats with Jaguars: 70 games played and started in, along with three playoff starts.

Summary: Brandon Linder was originally an impressive left guard for the Jaguars, starting in 15 games as a rookie and looking like a foundation piece. He would only play in three games in 2015 due to a torn labrum and was then moved to center for the 2016 season, where he has remained since. Linder has been a steady player for the Jaguars and is the longest-tenured Jaguar on the unit as it stands today. He has dealt with injuries, missing 26 games in six seasons, but played the first 16-game season of his career in 2019, earning high praise from head coach Doug Marrone.

CB Aaron Colvin (Round 4, 114th overall)

Seasons with Jacksonville: 4.

Stats with Jaguars:

Summary: Falling in the draft due to suffering a knee injury leading up to April, Colvin played in six games as a rookie for the Jaguars before becoming a starter in 2015. He recorded 17 pass deflections, six tackles for loss and four sacks in 2014, starting in 15 games. He was suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season after violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substances policy but played in 10 games. In 2017, he was the team's nickel cornerback and recorded five pass breakups, one forced fumble, and four tackles for loss. The team opted not to resign him despite the secondary's strong performance in 2017 and replaced him with D.J. Hayden. Colvin went on to sign a sizeable contract with the Houston Texans but would be released during his second season as a Texan.

LB Telvin Smith (Round 5, 144th overall)

Seasons with Jacksonville: 5.

Stats with Jaguars: 587 tackles (52 for loss), 7.5 sacks, 26 pass deflections, five forced fumbles, six fumbles recovered, nine interceptions, four defensive touchdowns.

Summary: A centerpiece for the Jaguars' defense for several seasons, the last two seasons have gone the opposite direction in terms of how successful a pick Telvin Smith was. The fiery and athletic weakside linebacker started 39 games in his first three seasons, establishing himself as a playmaker. He was a huge part of the 2017 team, being named a Pro Bowler and Second-Team All-Pro thanks to a year in which he recorded 102 tackles (12 for loss), two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, three interceptions, and one defensive touchdown.

Smith struggled in 2018, totaling only four tackles for loss in 16 games and having an up and down year with the rest of the defense. During the 2019 offseason, Smith announced he would be stepping away from football for undisclosed reasons and an underdetermined period. He has not played for the Jaguars since and is currently on the team's reserve/retired list.

DE Chris Smith (Round 5, 159th overall)

Seasons with Jacksonville: 3.

Stats with Jaguars:

Summary: An athletic pass-rusher out of Arkansas, Chris Smith recorded three sacks and a forced fumble in a rotational role during his rookie season, though he only appeared in seven games. Smith would only record 1.5 sacks and play in 12 games over the next two seasons as the Jaguars invested picks in Dante Fowler Jr. and Yannick Ngakoue. The Jaguars traded Smith to the Cincinnati Bengals in April 2017 for a 2018 conditional draft pick.

OL Luke Bowanko (Round 6, 205th overall)

Seasons with Jacksonville: 3.

Stats with Jaguars: Played in 23 games, starting 14.

Summary: A late-round pick out of the University of Virginia, Luke Bowank started 14 games at center as a rookie, looking like a potential starting duo with Brandon Linder. He would only appear in seven games over the next two seasons as Jacksonville upgraded its offensive line, and was eventually traded to the Baltimore Ravens in 2017.

RB Storm Johnson (Round 7, 222nd overall)

Seasons with Jacksonville: 1.

Stats with Jaguars: 29 carries for 86 yards and two touchdowns. One catch for negative-four yards.

Summary: Storm Johnson was Bortles' backfield mate at UCF but only sparingly appeared in games for the Jaguars in his lone season. He played in six games, starting one, and carried the ball less than 30 times and for less than 100 yards, though he did score twice. Johnson was cut after the 2015 training camp and has not taken an NFL snap since.

Overall

The first two picks of this class were hit or miss, even though Bortles did play a role in Jacksonville's memorable postseason run in 2017. Injuries have derailed Lee more than anything else, and not resigning Robinson, who has went on to produce in Chicago, has been fair to crticizie. 

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