JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There are still more than two months remaining until the NFL draft, so there’s plenty of time for things to change. But I’m becoming more and more convinced the Jaguars are going to take a pass-rusher, and not a quarterback, with the No. 3 overall selection.
What GM David Caldwell told CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco for a feature about Caldwell's second year on the job reinforces that belief.
Caldwell, who was in Indianapolis with Peyton Manning and Atlanta with Matt Ryan, knows the importance of finding a franchise quarterback, but he also knows players are rare. Just because someone is one of the top quarterbacks in the draft doesn’t mean he’s a franchise QB.
"In today's day and age, if you can't get Peyton Manning or Matt Ryan, and they might not be available for the next 10 or 15 years, then you have to adapt and build the roster and do what's best for the organization," Caldwell told Prisco. "And if a quarterback presents itself later in the draft, you take and develop him. Having a franchise guy makes the world a lot easier, though. It can erase a lot of mistakes you make. But if you force it, you can screw it up. I don't know if we're going to find that guy, but I hope we do."
That’s far from Caldwell saying the Jaguars aren’t taking a QB with the No. 3 pick, but it does show that he is willing to try another way to build a championship team: Assemble the other pieces on offense and defense and then add the quarterback that’s the best fit, whether that’s this season, 2015 or 2016.
That’s a much less risky approach than gambling that Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles are the next Ryan or Tom Brady. They could be, but they also could turn out to be the next Ryan Leaf. A player drafted in the top part of the first round needs to be an immediate impact player, and that’s what the Jaguars would get if they drafted Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack, two of the top pass-rushers in the draft.
Caldwell has just begun the evaluation process of the big three QBs and is going to meet with each at the NFL combine this week in Indianapolis. Those meetings, as well as what he sees on film and at pro days and workouts may change his mind. He could decide one of them is a franchise player.
But going defense -- especially if it’s Clowney -- is a much safer approach than gambling on one of those quarterbacks and missing. It’s likely to not be popular among a fan base that has been demanding a new quarterback for years, though.
"I'd rather get backlash from that than backlash from picking the wrong guy," Caldwell said.