Maybe the Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t quite go the Philadelphia 76ers’ route of trying to build a contender, but they certainly did a bang-up job of collecting all the top-five picks they could thanks to their constant futility. And at least the 76ers were able to select two all-stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Jacksonville, on the other hand, tried to win and still couldn’t select the right players to rise its franchise from the basement of the NFL. 

The Jaguars don’t have much to sell since the end of the Jack Del Rio era (2011). Six top-five picks resulted in a 38-90 record (second worst in the NFL) with just one winning season. Jacksonville’s roster looked bright when it finished 10-6 and made that surprising run to the AFC Championship Game, but the franchise failed to replicate that success over the next two seasons with just 11 wins and a series of moves that leads to another process that Jacksonville hopes will rebuild the franchise. 

So how did the Jaguars get to this point? How did this franchise not capitalize on all the high draft picks they collected for being one of the worst teams in football over the last several years? Let’s take a look at what happened to those six top-five picks and where the Jaguars’ 2017 AFC Championship game roster went. 

Draft picks

Justin Blackmon (No. 5 pick, 2012): Blackmon had a promising first season in Jacksonville, leading all rookies in receiving yards (865), while tying for first in receptions (64) and recording five touchdowns. He played just four games for the remainder of his career after a series of arrests and an indefinite suspension by the league for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. 

Luke Joeckel (No. 2 pick, 2013): Joeckel was the worst of the three tackles selected amongst the top four picks (Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson were the others) in that 2013 draft, giving up eight sacks in 2014 — his first full season at left tackle. Joeckel eventually moved to left guard before leaving Jacksonville after the 2016 season and retired from football after spending the 2017 campaign with Seattle. 

Blake Bortles (No. 3 pick, 2014): Bortles was supposed to be the franchise quarterback of the Jaguars, but he set the franchise back for years to come. Of the 39 quarterbacks who have had over 1,000 pass attempts since 2014, Bortles is 38th with an 80.5 passer rating. Of those 39 quarterbacks, Bortles is 35th with just 6.7 yards per attempt. He threw double-digit interceptions in each of his five seasons as a starter (led the NFL with 18 in 2015) and his 13 interceptions returned for touchdowns led the league. And to think Bortles was less than 10 minutes away from taking the Jaguars to the Super Bowl and that he has never thrown an interception in two postseason games. He’s currently a free agent. 

Dante Fowler (No. 3 pick, 2015): Fowler had some unfortunate luck in his first season with Jacksonville, tearing his ACL in rookie minicamp — a sign of things to come. Fowler started just one game in Jacksonville, racking up 14 sacks and 22 quarterback hits 39 games. Jacksonville traded Fowler to the Los Angeles Rams for a 2019 third-round pick and 2020 fifth-round pick at the trade deadline in 2018, where he racked up 13.5 sacks (11 last season) in just 24 games. Fowler signed a three-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons this past offseason. 

Jalen Ramsey (No. 5 pick, 2016): Ramsey became one of the best cornerbacks in football with Jacksonville, making two Pro Bowls and was a First Team All-Pro selection in just his first two years in the league. Ramsey, wanting to be the game’s highest paid cornerback, had a verbal altercation with head coach Doug Marrone in Week 2 of the 2019 season and requested a trade shortly after. He was dealt to the Rams for two first-round picks (2020, 2021) and a fourth-round pick in 2021. 

Leonard Fournette (No. 4 pick, 2017): The Jaguars chose a running back in the top five when conventional wisdom said they shouldn’t. Because of their commitment to Bortles, they passed on Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes and settled on getting him help at the skill positions. Fournette has averaged just 3.95 yards per carry since entering the league, 13th out of 17 running backs with over 500 carries. Fournette does have the seventh most rushing yards in the league (2,631) since he was drafted and finished sixth in the league with 1,674 yards from scrimmage last season — and has two 1,000-yard seasons. His 76 catches in 2019 were fifth most amongst running backs. The Jaguars waived Fournette Monday. 

Who’s left from the AFC Championship Game Roster

The Jaguars have just 12 players from that roster that went to the AFC Championship Game just 31 months ago, a team that held a 10-point lead against the New England Patriots with nine minutes to play. The players remaining from that team are 

Westbrook, O’Shaughnessy, Cann, Linder, and Robinson are projected to start on offense while Jones, Jack, and Wilson will start on defense and Lambo led the league in field goal percentage last season. 

Fifteen of the 22 starters on the Jaguars from the AFC title game are no longer on the roster. The Jaguars instead are looking at another top five pick in the draft along with another first-round pick, two second-round picks and 11 total in 2021. The only constant in the Jaguars front office over the past eight years is general manager Dave Caldwell, which needs to change if Jacksonville wants to actually build a contender. 

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