A year ago, the Jaguars surprised many NFL observers and fans by selecting Blake Bortles with the third overall pick. General manager David Caldwell reportedly withheld his strong interest in Bortles from his own staff until about a week before the draft, and at this time last year, it still seemed possible that the quarterback could slide to late in the first round.
One AFC personnel executive, who claims he identified Bortles as the Jags’ target prior to draft night last year, tells Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports that he believes Jacksonville is locked in on Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper this time around.
“I think the third spot could shock people [again],” the source said, discussing the Jaguars’ pick. “I think they like Cooper more than they are letting on. You hear things and they have been pretty good about what’s getting out there. It’s a lot like it was last year.”
The Jags, having selected two receivers early in last year’s draft, would seem to have greater needs at other positions. While Jacksonville certainly wants to give Bortles the weapons necessary to succeed, the team has Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, and Allen Hurns under contract, and landed Julius Thomas in free agency this offseason. A defensive playmaker such as Dante Fowler Jr. or Leonard Williams would seem to be a better fit.
Nonetheless, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk is also hearing increased chatter that Cooper could be the Jags’ pick at No. 3. As Florio points out, there’s an outside chance that the Alabama wideout goes as high as second overall to the Titans, but if he’s available at No. 3, the Jags may pounce.
While selecting Cooper would raise some eyebrows around the league, Caldwell said recently that the team needs one difference-making player rather than two solid contributors, and the young receiver fits that bill. That also helps explain why the Jags haven’t yet received any calls about trading down, according to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union (via Twitter).