JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are rapidly closing in on another top-five draft selection, which would extend their NFL record of consecutive years picking in the top five to six.
Theoretically, it should be hard to have a top-five draft pick in three consecutive seasons. Teams picking in the top five end up with potentially great players -- All-Pros or perennial Pro Bowlers -- and having multiple players like that on the roster generally means more victories.
That is, unless they're busts or the team makes the wrong selections. Like the Jaguars have done.
A big reason they are 2-9 heading into Sunday's home game against the Denver Broncos is that the Jaguars' top-five draft picks during this streak haven't panned out. If they had, maybe Jacksonville would be leading the AFC South instead of trying to avoid a sixth consecutive season of double-digit losses.
But how good could the Jaguars be if they had made different picks? Would they have won the division last season? Would they be competing for the No. 1 seed in the AFC this season? No way to know for sure, but it's certainly fun to think about -- which is why we're going back and re-draft to see how much better they could have been.
One caveat: In the re-draft, we're sticking with players taken in the top 10. It's easy to go back and say the Jaguars should have taken Russell Wilson, a third-round pick, with the fifth overall selection in 2012. Since the Jaguars had a top-10 pick we're going to limit our choices to players in that range.
One more thing: This is all in fun, so let's not take it too literally. Had the Jaguars taken different players then it's likely they wouldn't have had five consecutive top-five picks. They may not have picked in the top five beyond 2013, in fact. It's not a realistic re-drawing of history, but it's enjoyable to tinker with it.
The Jaguars drafted: WR Justin Blackmon (fifth overall)
They should have taken: LB Luke Kuechly (ninth by Carolina)
Other options: CB Morris Claiborne (sixth by Dallas) or QB Ryan Tannehill (eighth by Miami)
Kuechly would have been a much better option than Blackmon, who is still serving an indefinite suspension for multiple violations of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Kuechly has won NFL Defensive Player of the Year, made three Pro Bowls in his first five seasons and has missed only four games because of injury. He's a mainstay in the middle, which likely means Paul Posluszny would not be on the roster now. Kuechly has yet to turn 26 years old and has made two more Pro Bowl appearances than Posluszny, who turned 32 last month.
Claiborne and Tannehill have had up-and-down careers but Tannehill has still thrown 40 more touchdown passes than interceptions and hasn't missed a game in his career. He would have erased the disastrous Blaine Gabbert selection in 2011, though it's unreasonable to expect the Jaguars to take a quarterback in the first round in back-to-back seasons. Remember, GM Gene Smith chose Gabbert and Blackmon.
The Jaguars drafted: LT Luke Joeckel (second overall)
They should have taken: DE Ezekiel Ansah (fifth by Detroit)
Other options: OT Lane Johnson (fourth by Philadelphia) or G Chance Warmack (10th by Tennessee)
Joeckel, who was current GM Dave Caldwell's first draft pick, has not lived up to expectations. He was never more than an average player and was moved to left guard this season. He played well there in three starts before suffering a major knee injury that landed him on injured reserve. In Caldwell's defense, the 2013 draft overall is generally regarded as one of the worst of the past 10 to 15 years. But one of the stars has been Ansah, who had at least 7.5 sacks in each of his first three seasons. He had 14.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl last season.
Johnson has been very good when he has played with the Eagles, but he served a four-game PED suspension and is currently serving a 10-game PED suspension. The Titans' Warmack, who is on IR with a hand injury, missed only two games in his first three seasons.
The Jaguars drafted: QB Blake Bortles (third overall)
They should have taken: LB Khalil Mack (fifth by Oakland)
Bortles appeared to be the Jaguars' answer at quarterback after a record-breaking season in 2015 (franchise marks in TD passes and passing yards) but he has taken a step backward in 2016. His mechanics are a mess, his accuracy is all over the place, and he makes too many questionable decisions. He's also a turnover machine -- 57 (including fumbles) in 41 games. Even so, the Jaguars sticking with Bortles as the pick would be OK. He's only in his third season and there's plenty of time left for him to rebound and develop into a very good quarterback.
But there weren't many other options available at quarterback. Minnesota drafted Teddy Bridgewater with the last pick in the first round, and Oakland selected Derek Carr three spots ahead of where the Jaguars took receiver Marqise Lee. The Jaguars certainly could have made a move up for Carr, but they also could have stuck with Chad Henne as the starter or signed a free-agent quarterback, although the pickings that year were pretty slim (Mark Sanchez, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Kyle Orton were the best).
Mack got off to a slow start as a rookie but had a Pro Bowl season in 2015 with 15 sacks. He has nine sacks in 11 games this season and has become one of the better young pass rushers in the game. Imagine the Jaguars' potential linebacker group right now: Kuechly, Mack, Telvin Smith and Myles Jack.
Matthews has been a solid player for the Falcons and has missed just one game in his two-plus seasons. Evans surpassed 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons -- only the fourth player in NFL history to do that -- and he's tied for the NFL lead with 10 TD catches. He's clearly an elite receiver in his third season.
The Jaguars drafted: DE Dante Fowler Jr. (third overall)
They should have taken: WR Amari Cooper (fourth by Oakland)
Other options: DT Leonard Williams (sixth by NY Jets) or LB Vic Beasley (eighth by Atlanta)
Fowler missed his rookie season with a torn left ACL and has been outplayed by 2016 third-round pick Yannick Ngakoue. Fowler has had issues with on-field discipline and has been called out publicly by the coaches for immaturity issues. There's still time for him to develop into a very good pass rusher provided he continues to work on his fundamentals and gets more consistent.
Williams has been very good inside for the Jets and has six sacks and two forced fumbles in 11 games this season. Beasley had a slow start as a rookie but has 9.5 sacks in 11 games this season playing in the same defense the Jaguars use. Atlanta coach Dan Quinn replaced Bradley as Seattle's defensive coordinator when Bradley left the Seahawks to become the Jaguars' head coach.
The Jaguars drafted: CB Jalen Ramsey (fifth overall)
Who they should have taken: Ramsey
Ramsey has been everything the Jaguars hoped he'd be in coverage. He's physical, rangy and runs well, and the Jaguars have stuck him on the opponents' best receiver. He's able to play outside or inside and he should be a candidate for defensive rookie of the year. This was the best pick in Caldwell's tenure.
Conklin has been very good for the Titans. He didn't allow a sack until Week 11 and has been part of an offensive line that's a big reason why the Titans are third in the NFL in rushing (141.5 yards per game). Floyd has five sacks, second to Ngakoue among rookies this season.