Jacksonville fans are finding themselves in some uncharted territory, their franchise is not only relevant but they’re dominant. The Jaguars got to this point by being incredibly successful during the draft. All that success has caused many to forget some of their most woeful picks.
My first thought was to go with Blaine Gabbert, he was supposed to be the answer at quarterback. Obviously he wasn’t because a few years later they selected Blake Bortles 3rd overall. So I decided to go with another heartbreaking player, Justin Blackmon.
Blackmon was an absolute stud at the wide receiver position at Oklahoma State, winning the Biletnikoff multiple times while also being a two time All-American. He drew comparisons to Anquan Boldin and Terrell Owens and was considered a can’t miss prospect. But he came with some off field concerns, people had heard stories that he was an excessive drinker.
His drinking was rumored to be so bad that one franchise sent a scout to monitor how often he visited his favorite bar during a week’s time. Whatever that number turned out to be, it was enough for that team to completely remove him from their draft board. Regardless of this concern, Jacksonville selected him in the draft and he was promptly arrested in June for a DUI.
What makes Blackmon’s story so much more disappointing is how dominant he was during his small sample size. During his first year he put up 236 yards against the Texans. His rookie season would be his best as he notched 64 catches for 865 yards. During the off season he was suspended four games for substance abuse. After returning for a few games he was suspended again in November for another violation.
Instead of allowing him to return, the Jaguars GM said he wouldn’t play during the 2014 season. Two months later Blackmon was arrested for marijuana possession and checked into a rehabilitation facility. He applied for reinstatement for the 2015 season but was denied. In December he was again arrested for a DUI and began serving a probation sentence.
Jacksonville thought they’d be getting their franchise playmaker when they selected him, but instead they got a player haunted by substance abuse. When they chose him at 5th overall the following players were still available and no doubt would have yielded a better return; Luke Kuechly, Stephon Gilmore, Dontari Poe, Fletcher Cox, Melvin Ingram, Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Harrison Smith, Alshon Jeffery, and Bobby Wagner. Not to mention late round gems like T.Y. Hilton and Russell Wilson.
On the bright side, Jacksonville has been so bad for so long that they’ve gotten to pick in the top 10 selections for almost the last decade and a half. They’ve built such a strong roster that missing on those super stars barely hurts because they’ve got studs at almost all those positions. All ribbing aside it seems as though Jacksonville has gone above and beyond in being supportive for Blackmon during his continued struggles. That says a lot about the kind of atmosphere and philosophy they’ve created.