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Avoiding the DEF Trend

In our experience, there have historically been two positions that suddenly take off like a rocket once the top ranked player goes off the board. The first two rounds will be cluttered with running backs, wide receivers, and the lone tight end in Rob Gronkowski, as they rightfully should be. The looming question on draft day is who in your league is going to nab the first quarterback and set off the panic trend? Once the first domino falls, you’ll see a sudden onslaugh of quarterbacks immediately go off the board. Right after Aaron Rodgers is gone, Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, and Andrew Luck will go right after. If you’re at the end of the third round, you could have gone from seeing the first ranked quarterback in the second round to the 7th or 8th in the third. This same trend happens with what we’re concerned with today, team defenses.

Team defense is often one of the most overlooked and passed over positions on our rosters. It’s only when we get a huge windfall do we realize how much value they hold. Squeezing 45 points out of the Arizona Cardinals defense in a single week last season really makes you appreciate what they can bring to the table. But as discussed with quarterbacks, someone in your league is going to jump earlier than the rest. The question becomes what do you do when the Seahawks are taken off the board and the flurry of defensive selections begins?

If you’re on the wrong end when the selections take off, what are you to do then? Do you follow suit and join the herd? Let’s say that the trend happened in the beginning of the 7th round and you don’t draft for another 11 picks. You’re sitting in your chair as Seattle, Arizona, Houston, New England, Kansas City, Denver, and Carolina are gone before you address your roster need. Do you jump off the bridge with the rest of the sheep and take the Rams or Bills or are you better off addressing depth on  your roster and wait on a team defense?

RnF would argue that once the top five or so sure thing, stud defenses are gone, you’d be better to pad your roster and target an under the radar defense that no one is talking about. This defense could cost you a much later pick and still provide the same kind of production that the Jets or Bills can. What unspoken defense are we implying? Why it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars of course.

Before submitting a request to have RnF brought to the loony bin, hear us out. We’ll provide ten reasons as to why you should consider waiting on Jacksonville if you miss out on the top five defenses. If these ten reasons don’t at least make you think about utilizing a wait and see approach, they you’re better off being the one who starts the wave by taking Seattle.

1) Malik Jackson– Obviously we are going to start this argument off with the $90 million man. Jackson is the latest former Bronco to hightail it for Florida for a huge payday, following in Julius Thomas‘ footsteps. Jackson should provide a huge upgrade on the defensive line as he’ll be able to collapse the pocket and make the opposing quarterback uncomfortable. Jackson will make everyone on the defense better.

2) Tyson Alualu– The talent is there or he wouldn’t have been taken 10th overall in the 2010 draft. However, the production has not followed the perceived talent. Well, now that he has Jackson playing next to him, the production could suddenly start stacking up. No one will benefit more than Alualu by the play of Jackson. Not only will he be able to learn from him during practice but he’ll see more room to move through when they are side by side. This will be the most talented defensive end pairing in Jacksonville since the days of John Henderson and Marcus Stroud.

3) Dante Fowler– One of the saddest turn of events in 2015 was the sudden injury to Fowler almost immediately after being selected 3rd overall. He was barely off the podium following his name being called before his season was over. If he can return completely healthy, he’ll join the other two members of the defensive line we just mentioned, but as the elite edge rusher that Jacksonville lacked in 2015. The pass rush this year will be day to last season’s night in comparison.

4) Paul Posluszny– There isn’t enough positive things one could say about the great middle linebacker. He finished the season with 133 tackles as he reestablished himself as one of the best IDP options in the league. Another fully healthy year should lead to a top-five IDP finish as he’s a true all-down, sideline to sideline backer.

5) Telvin Smith– Posluszny isn’t the only linebacker returning to the team that is an elite tackling defender. Smith was just as productive as Posluszny as he finished with 128 tackles of his own in 2015. The two offer one of the best 1-2 mid-field pairings in the NFL. Smith’s athleticism allows him to stop the run behind the line of scrimmage while also springing him loose on blitz packages.

6) Myles Jack– We can now see a defense that will be making noise with a brand new defensive line, two of the better linebackers in the league playing next to each other, and we now are able to pencil in Myles Jack on the outside. Jack will be counted on to not only stop the run but to be the opposite edge rusher to Dante Fowler. The obvious question is the one that will remain until he has proven otherwise. How healthy will he be? Jack is part of this calculated dice roll as this team’s ability weighs heavily on how productive he can be in year one. Many experts had him pegged as the top athlete in the draft while some threw around names like Ray Lewis and Willie McGinest so the gamble is worth it for Jacksonville with Jack and for us with Jacksonville.

7) Davon House– House is not an all-world talent at his position but he’s definitely well above average. He’s not Jacksonville’s version of Patrick Peterson or Richard Sherman but he did manage to set a team record with 23 passes defensed last year. His four interceptions are nothing to sneeze at either and really should be expected to improve given the new blood on the defense.

8) Prince Amukamara– Jacksonville’s defense will feature yet another former first round selection, as the ex-Giant went 19th overall in 2011. Amukamara won’t suddenly turn into a shutdown corner but he’s automatically an upgrade over anyone that lined up opposite of House last year. This may not be a top end pairing, but it’ll be solid and consistent at the very least.

9) Tashaun Gipson– Adding to the Jaguars suddenly revamped secondary is the former Cleveland Brown and newly paid $35.5 million safety. Throwing five years at the 25-year-old means that the front office is convinced that he can be their answer as the last line of defense for a long time coming. Our fingers are crossed that they’re right because Jacksonville has been killed over the top by the big play, long ball for what seems like forever.

10) Jalen Ramsey– The Crown Jewel of the Jaguars’ amazing offseason is having been lucky enough to land Ramsey. After the quarterbacks went of the board, we all just sat and wondered as to who would call the top defender’s name. Ramsey is a once in a decade talent that is already the early favorite to take home defensive rookie of the year honors. The jury is still out on whether he’ll spend his time at corner or safety, but either way the coaching staff will hopefully be smart enough to utilize him all over the field. Ramsey could mirror Tyrann Mathieu‘s role with the Arizona Cardinals.

There you have it. If these ten reasons don’t convince you to wait it out if you’ve missed on the big guns then fall in line and select the 8th ranked defense available. It’s just a very intriguing concept that it’s almost as though Jacksonville had three first round selections this year as Myles Jack, Dante Fowler, and Jalen Ramsey will be in the fold. There will be six new starters overall. After the top 6 or so defensive units are off the board, you’re really throwing darts hoping to hit on something anyway. Instead of chasing the Jets, at the very least consider the Jags.

About Patrick White

Have been with Sharks for seven years. Been printed and published. Have been copied by, faced off against, and beaten some of the fiercest competition and abbreviated outlets in football. If you read RnF and live by the old "If you're not first, you're last" mentality, you'll be just fine.