It doesn't take a lot to figure out why the Jacksonville Jaguars had one of the worst winning percentages of any franchise during the NFL's 16-game: poor drafting.
The Jaguars have long been one of the shining examples of what not to do during the NFL's annual seven-round draft. Even if they have had classes where they figured things out and years in which they picked legitimate stars, the list of the Jaguars' recent draft missteps is longer than their list of accomplishments in April.
As a result, it is hardly a surprise to see the Jaguars land on a list no team wants to see itself on.
Pro Football Focus recently took a look at the best and worst drafting teams in the first round since 2010 and the Jaguars were expectedly near the very bottom. While the Jaguars found solid contributors in that span, Gene Smith and Dave Caldwell routinely had major misses in the first round.
PFF used Wins Above Replacement (WAR) to determine the value of each team's first-round selections since 2010. Ultimately, their model ended up with the Jaguars being better first-round drafters than only three other teams: The Seattle Seahawks, the Detroit Lions, and the Las Vegas Raiders.
Jacksonville finished at No. 29 overall, in large part because the vast majority of their first-round picks have been busts. Tyson Alualu (2010), Blaine Gabbert (2011), Justin Blackmon (2012), Luke Joeckel (2013), Blake Bortles (2014), Dante Fowler Jr., (2015), Leonard Fournette (2017), and Taven Bryan is a bad, bad group. The only player on there who is above average is Alualu, and he had his best seasons away from Jacksonville.
"The worst list could be even longer if I wanted to be a jerk, but let’s give Blake Bortles and Leonard Fournette some credit for at least riding the Jags’ dominant 2017 defense to an AFC Championship appearance. You could also say Justin Blackmon was a bust even though the absolutely dominant receiver didn’t miss at Oklahoma State and averaged an asinine 103.8 yards per contest in his final four-game campaign," PFF said.
"There’s still time for the organization’s last three first-round defensive linemen to evolve into difference-making talents, but the clock is certainly ticking. Here’s to hoping Trevor Lawrence gets things turned around in a big way."
Likely the only thing saving the Jaguars from becoming No. 32 or No. 31 on this list is the fact that they drafted Jalen Ramsey at No. 5 overall in 2016. But if Ramsey was the Jaguars' only good first-round pick in that span (the jury is still out on first-rounders from last two seasons), then that is troubling.
Ramsey is the best cornerback in football, was a first-team All-Pro, and had multiple Pro Bowl seasons in Jacksonville, but the Jaguars also failed to keep him past his rookie contract; in fact, he was traded before his rookie deal ever expired. 3 full seasons and a handful of games in 2019 is all the Jaguars got from Ramsey, who now has helped turn the Rams into one of the best secondaries in the NFL.
Ramsey was a stellar pick, but he was also an easy pick. And considering the Jaguars failed to sustain a positive relationship with Ramsey and eventually were forced to trade him for the No. 20 and No. 25 overall picks in 2020 and 2021, it is hard to give them much credit for even that pick.
Ultimately, the Jaguars have been as bad as they are due to poor drafting through all seven rounds, but especially the first round. The Jaguars have other issues, but failing to land quality players in the draft's first round is a recipe for disaster that few teams are able to power through on a consistent basis.
If the Jaguars are going to rebound in the coming seasons, they will need a much better hit rate in Round 1. That can begin this year when they select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 overall, but they will have to hope he pans out dramatically better than virtually every other first-round pick they have had in recent memory.