GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS FOR C.J. HENDERSON
The good news for Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson is he was selected with the ninth pick in the first round of Thursday night’s NFL Draft. That means C.J. is going to get a really nice signing bonus and contract that, if his money is handled right, will go a long way toward giving him a financial foundation for life. Any time you get that kind of head start in life it’s a very good thing.
The bad news is that he was taken by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes, it means he stays in the state of Florida and will start his pro career about 90 minutes from where he played college football. But, it also means he will be playing for the Jaguars, who have this habit of turning first round draft choices – and everyone else they draft – to (a) underperformers who fade off into the sunset or (b) guys with talent who can’t wait to go someplace where they can re-start their careers with an organization that has both coaching and a decent front office. It could be safely said that Jacksonville is a place where NFL careers go to die, all too many barely before they get off the ground.
Just take a look at every number one draft pick the Jaguars have made since 2010.
2010: The Jags made defensive tackle Tyson Alualu of California their choice with the 10th pick in the first round. Alualu spent seven years with the Jags and has spent the last two with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He made the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie team in 2010 and that was the highlight of his career. The Jags could have selected Jason Pierre-Paul out of South Florida, who went to the Giants with the 15th pick in the first round. All he’s done is make the Pro Bowl twice and sacked the QB 79.5 times in his career. Alualu has 21.5 sacks.
2011: In 2011, the Jags selected quarterback Blaine Gabbert out of Missouri with the 10th pick in the first round. It was a rotten year for quarterbacks. Cam Newton was the first pick in the first round and after that there was a serious drop in talent at the position. With the 11th pick in that year’s draft, the Houston Texans selected perennial all-pro J.J. Watt. In an unremarkable career that ended in 2018, Gabbert threw 48 touchdown passes and completed 47 passes to the guys wearing different colored uniforms than the one he was wearing.
2012: The Jags had the fifth pick in the 2012 draft and with it they selected wide receiver Justin Blackmon out of Texas Tech. Blackmon caught 64 passes in 2012 but in 2013 he was suspended four games for violating the NFL substance abuse policies and had groin surgery. He’s had continuous issues with alcohol and other banned substances since and hasn’t played in a game since 2012. Among the players the Jags could have had in the first round were Luke Kuechly, Stephon Gilmore, Fletcher Cox and Dre Kirkpatrick. If they were dead set on a wide receiver, Alshon Jeffery and T.Y. Hilton were available.
2013: With the second pick in 2013, the Jags went with Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel and gave him a $13.8 million signing bonus and a rookie contract worth $21.5 million. He played 50 games in an NFL career that was over by 2017. The Jags chose Joeckel over Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson (picked fourth), who has made the Pro Bowl three times and has started 92 games. Johnson is one of the NFL’s highest paid offensive linemen.
2014: The Jags picked UCF quarterback Blake Bortles with the third pick in the 2014 first round. This looked like a great pick when Bortles had a breakout second season in which he threw for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns while leading the Jags to the AFC championship game where they lost to the New England Patriots. He signed a three-year contract worth $54 million after that season and that’s when his career crashed and burned. He was benched after the 12th game in 2018 and spent 2019 as Jared Goff’s backup with the Los Angeles Rams. Among the quarterbacks the Jags passed on were Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgewater and Jimmy Garoppolo.
2015: Florida edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr. was taken with the third pick in the 2015 draft. He blew out a knee first day of mini-camp. He played well, but not great in 2016-17. Midway through 2018 he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams, who he helped make it to the Super Bowl. He had an 11.5-sack season in 2019 and was rewarded with a three-year deal worth $48 million to sign with the Atlanta Falcons.
2016: With the fifth pick in 2016, the Jags selected Florida State corner Jalen Ramsey who made three straight Pro Bowls (2017-19) and was a first team All-Pro in 2017. By 2018, Ramsey was demanding a trade and the Jags obliged him by sending him to the Los Angeles Rams during the 2019 season.
2017: Leonard Fournette was taken with the fourth pick in the 2017 draft. He went over 1,000 yards as a rookie in 2017, but played only half the Jags’ games in 2018 because of a serious hamstring injury. He bounced back in 2019 to run for 1,152 yards and catch 76 passes. The Jags have been trying to trade him
2018: Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan went to the Jags with the 29th pick in the first round in 2018. He got a four-year deal worth $10.2 million. In his two seasons, almost exclusively coming off the bench, Bryan has 53 tackles and three sacks.
2019: Jag fans are holding their breath about 2019 first round pick Josh Allen, taken seventh out of Kentucky where he had 17 sacks as a senior in 2018. Allen lived up to the hype as a rookie with 10.5 sacks and selection as a Pro Bowl Alternate. History says his career will either go south or else he’ll tire of the Jags front office and demand a trade.
OTHER FIRST ROUND STUFF
The Detroit Lions spent Thursday entertaining trade offers from the Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Chargers and others but elected to hold on to the third draft pick where they selected Ohio State corner Jeff Okudah. Picking Okudah wasn’t a dumb move, but they could have gotten another high draft pick and still landed Okudah if they had pulled the trigger on a trade. Okudah would have still been there at #5 or #6 if the Lions had traded with either the Dolphins or the Chargers. Miami wound up getting the QB it wanted in Tua Tagovailoa at #5 and the Chargers got the QB they wanted in Justin Herbert of Oregon at #6. My choice, if I had been in charge for the Lions, would have been Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, who went 7th to the Carolina Panthers.
Maybe the biggest surprise of the first round was the Las Vegas Raiders picking wide receiver Henry Ruggs II of Alabama over Jerry Jeudy (also Alabama) and CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma). Ruggs might be the fastest guy in the NFL but will he catch the football against better DBs?
I love the choice of Clyde Edwards-Helaire by the Kansas City Chiefs with the final pick in the first round. In that Andy Reid offense, he should be extraordinarily productive both as a runner and receiver. It’s just a guess on my part, but I think we will see a higher premium on backs who can get tough yards, catch the ball out of the backfield on something more than a dumpoff and protect quarterbacks from edge rushers. Those are things Edwards-Helaire excelled at. They are also things that Florida running back Lamical Perine excels at which is why I believe he will go late third or fourth round and not sixth like so many of the latest mocks had him going. I think Georgia’s D’Andre Swift will be among the first five picks in today’s second round.
Pete Prisco gave the Green Bay Packers a D- for their selection of Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in the first round.
Pay close attention today to the second round picks by the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Jake Fromm and Jacob Eason go early second. Fromm has a Brady-like intellect that will appeal to Bill Bellichick at New England. Eason is the big arm pocket passer that would be the ideal understudy to long-in-the-tooth Phillip Rivers at Indianapolis.
Any question about what is without question the best college football league in the conference were answered Thursday night when the SEC set an NFL Draft record with 14 first round picks. Six of the top 10 players selected were from the SEC. The Big Ten and Big 12 came in second, each with five players picked in the first round. LSU alone had five first rounders.
FROM ANDY STAPLES OF THE ATHLETIC ON RECRUITING
In answering a question about recruiting strategy at Clemson, Staples noted: “In the class of 2020, 106 players reported scholarship offers from Clemson according to an analysis by HeroSports. Among Power 5 schools, only Washington (79), Stanford (74) and Northwestern (70) offered fewer. Only a few schools swim in the same kind of talent pool as Clemson, but those schools have a different philosophy about scholarship offers. For the class of 2020, Georgia (267), Alabama (252) and Ohio State (106) had at least 100 more players reporting offers.
“This recruiting cycle isn’t much different. According to 247Sports, 68 class of 2021 players have reported Clemson offers. Meanwhile, 241 players have reported Alabama offers.”