Loooong time reader schnifin provides the Jacksonville Jaguars' selection at #25. schnifin was one of BTSC's original readers and commentors, and I've appreciated the training camp photos and reports, plus all the other loyalty and help he's show over the past 3 years. Thanks, brother. Next up? The loaded San Diego Chargers, represented by TheMostViolentTeam.
Steelers fans are familiar with the Jags after having lost to them both in the regular season and in the playoffs. At the beginning of last year they decided to cut Byron Leftwitch in favor of David Garrard. We all know that worked out quite well for them and they subsequently locked up Garrard this offseason with a long term deal. They also acquired Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson to give Garrard some targets to go along with the stellar RB tandem of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jaguars come into 2008 with a clear need along the defensive and to a lesser extent the offensive line. In alot of ways their draft needs and potential picks mirror that of the Steelers. They lost Marcus Stroud in the trade to get Jerry Porter and also lost Bobby McCray and Grady Jackson to free agency. Paul Spicer is now 32 years old while Reggie Hayward has not been the same since tearing his Achilles' tendon in 2006. Stroud is the biggest loss and Kentwan Balmer could fill that spot nicely but alas the Steelers have already picked him and there are no other DTs worthy of a first round pick. So although they were effective in pressuring Ben last year they will be looking looking at pass rushing defensive ends. However if one of the left tackle prospects like Albert or Otah were to drop they would have to take a serious look at solidifying that position. Of the DE prospects left on the board the Jaguars will select Phillip Merling DE from Clemson.
Merling was overshadowed at Clemson by Gaines Adams, the Bucs 4th overall pick last year. But this past year he stepped out, leading the team in tackles for loss and sacks on his way to earning the team's Rock solid award. Merling is a strong, quick defensive end with long arms and a motor that never stops. According to NFL Draft countdown he also has the versatility to fill different positions in different schemes, a characteristic any team would love. While Scout.com sums it up by calling Merling "more complete than Gaines Adams".
The big if with Merling is his health. He missed the combine because of sports hernia surgery, so until he's on the field there will be a question of whether he is healthy or not. Of course that also means he's more likely to fall down to the 26 spot, similar to the way Heath Miller fell to the end of the first round for the Steelers. If he's not healthy another DE with health issues, Quentin Groves might make a good pick for the Jags.
In conclusion I think Merling will help inject youth and talent into an aging and depleted defensive front for the Jaguars and they will hope he can pan out into a Justin Tuck type pass rusher.
For a very thorough overview of Merling checkout Big Cat country's prospect review .
#1 - Miami Dolphins, Darren Mcfadden
#2 - St. Louis Rams, Chris Long
#3 - Atlanta Falcons, Sedrick Ellis
#4 - Oakland Raiders, Vernon Gholston
#5 - Kansas City Chiefs, Jake Long
#6 - New York Jets, Glen Dorsey
#7 - New England Patriots, Dominique Rodger-Cromartie
#8 - Baltimore Ravens, Jerod Mayo
#9 - Cincinnati Bengals, Keith Rivers
#10 - New Orleans Saints, Aqib Talib
#11 - Buffalo Bills, Malcom Kelly
#12 - Denver Broncos, Ryan Clady
#13 - Carolina Panthers, Chris Williams
#14 - Chicago Bears, Brandon Albert
#15 - Detroit Lions, Leodis McKelvin
#16 - Arizona Cardinals, Jeff Otah
#17 - Minnesota Vikings, Derrick Harvey
#18 - Houston Texans, Rashard Mendenhall
#19 - Philadelphia Eagles, Jonathan Stewart
#20 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Limas Sweed
#21 - Washington Redskins, Mike Jenkins
#22 - Dallas Cowboys, Felix Jones
#23 - Pittsburgh, Kentwan Balmer
#24 - Tennessee, Devin Thomas
#25 - Seattle, Kenny Phillips