What Are the Best Draft Classes in Jaguars History? Honorable Mention & No. 5
Just a few months ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars completed one of the most important drafts in the franchise's history, which dates back to 1995. While we won't know for several seasons just how successful the draft was, there is no denying its magnitude.
With 12 picks (most in a single draft since the team's inception), two first-round selections, and an uncertain road ahead, the choices the Jaguars made in April will be impacting the franchise for years to come. For a look at just how crucial a successful draft can be to building a winning team, the Jaguars can simply look at their own past.
While the Jaguars may be known by some as one of the league's most inept teams when it comes to draft history due to a string of high-profile misses (Blaine Gabbert, Justin Blackmon, Dante Fowler Jr., for example), the team has still had its moments where it absolutely crushed its rookie selections.
Which draft classes since 1995 have stood out the most when compared to the rest of the field? We took a look at each Jaguars draft class to find the answer, narrowing it down to the five best draft classes and one that bears mentioning in a similar breath.
Note: The 2018, 2019 and 2020 draft classes were not included for consideration due to the fact that not enough time has gone by to give us a full picture of the success, or lack thereof, of the classes.
We have picked one class as the one that just lands outside the top-five, but a few others could have been argued. The 2014 draft class saw the team select top-flight players such as Allen Robinson, Brandon Linder and Telvin Smith, but a miss at No. 3 overall in Blake Bortles and the departures of Robinson and Smith hurt its long-term ranking. 2001 was another strong draft with Marcus Stroud and Marcus Williams, the first two picks, going on to become long-term starters with the team.
But only one draft earned the spot of honorable mention, and it is in large part because of how it helped push the Jaguars to the 2017 AFC Championship.
Top honorable mention: 2016
- Round 1, No. 5 overall: CB Jalen Ramsey
- Round 2, No. 36 overall: LB Myles Jack
- Round 3, No. 69: DE Yannick Ngakoue
- Round 4, No. 103: DT Sheldon Day
- Round 6, No, 181: DE Tyrone Holmes
- Round 6, No. 201: QB Brandon Allen
- Round 6, No. 226: DL Jonathan Woodard
Flashback to the end of the 2018 season, and this draft class was well on its way to earning consideration for the top-five best classes in team history thanks to the first three picks, each of whom was once considered a key building block to the future of the defense.
Since then, however, things have gone a bit off the rails. Sheldon Day, Tyrone Holmes, Brandon Allen and Jonathan Woodard never produced much for the Jaguars so the entire reputation of this class relied on the contributions of Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue. For a few years, this appeared to be a positive thing for the Jaguars as Ramsey and Ngakoue earned Pro Bowl appearances (and an All-Pro team honor in Ramsey's case) and Jack looked like one of the league's next impact linebackers. The trio was a massive part of the Jaguars' elite defense in 2017, and it appeared as if they would be the core pieces to the unit's future.
But now, only Jack and Ngakoue remain and there is a strong chance Ngakoue doesn't even play another down for the team following a public attempt to divorce them. Ramsey was an elite cornerback during his entire tenure with the Jaguars, but his messy departure from the team knocks this class down a peg due to the long-term loss of Ramsey, even if the Jaguars did get two first-round picks in return. Jack, meanwhile, has been moved to weak side linebacker after struggling at middle linebacker, and Ngakoue has made it clear he no longer wants to play for the Jaguars despite a four-year stretch that saw him climb to No. 2 in the franchise's career sack list.
This classes' short-term impact was inarguably impressive, its long-term impact has been shattered due to the team's deteriorated relationships with the two best players from the class.
No. 5 draft class: 2004
- Round 1, No. 9: WR Reggie Williams
- Round 2, No, 39: LB Daryl Smith
- Round 2, No. 55: RB/FB Greg Jones
- Round 3, No. 86: LB Jorge Cordova
- Round 4, No. 118: DT Anthony Maddox
- Round 4, No. 120: WR Ernest Wilford
- Round 5, No. 137: K Josh Scobee
- Round 5, No. 150: DB Chris Thompson
- Round 5, No. 159: OT Sean Bubin
- Round 7, No. 249: DE Bobby McCray
While this class didn't have a strong first-round pick in Reggie Williams, who was solid but never productive enough to justify being picked No. 9 overall, it is still a strong class from top to bottom thanks to its depth and a few undersung heroes of the franchise's history.
Daryl Smith is one of the best, if not simply the best, linebackers in team history, making him a steal in the second round. The franchise's all-time leader in tackles (per the team's 2019 media guide), Smith spent nine seasons in Jacksonville and recorded 21.5 sacks, 57 tackles for loss, six interceptions, eight forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries, all while being one of the longest-tenured players in team history with 126 games played.
Greg Jones is still remembered in Jacksonville today for being one of the best fullbacks of his entire generation, as the former FSU running back provided toughness and ferocity to the team's backfield. Jones spent eight years with the team and recorded 13 touchdowns (10 rushing, three receiving) and his versatility as a runner, receiver and blocker made him a key piece to some of the best squads in franchise history.
While never a superstar, Ernest Wilford was a solid mid-round selection for Jaguars thanks to his size and strength and at the catch point. Wilford spent six years with the Jaguars in two separate stints and caught 153 receptions for 2,120 yards and 15 touchdowns, including eight receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown in three playoff games.
Seventh-round defensive end Bobby McCray is one of the best seventh-round picks in franchise history and is No. 9 on the team's all-time sacks list. In four seasons with the team, McCray appeared in 61 games (starting 29) and recorded 22 sacks, 27 tackles for loss and eight forced fumbles.
Finally, one can't forget Josh Scobee, the best specialist in franchise history. One of the league's most impactful kickers during his tenure in Jacksonville, Scobee holds numerous records, including the record for most points scored in team history with 1,022. In his 11 years in Jacksonville, the team legend was 235/291 on field goals (80.8%) and missed just five extra points in 322 attempts, giving him a 98.4% success rate.
All in all, the Jaguars got arguably the best linebacker, fullback and kickers in team history in this class, along with two late-round picks who produced in several seasons during a few key playoff runs. That is a good class no matter which way you look at it, and it has only improved with age.