Jaguars address defense with 2nd-, 3rd-round picks
After two days and three selections, the Jacksonville Jaguars are showing a draft pattern.
They're looking for durable players with plenty of experience.
"Obviously we want production and a history of production," general manager Dave Caldwell said. "We want a history of play time and reliable. We keep preaching the same thing and we're keeping to our theme here."
A day after drafting Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel with the second overall pick, the rebuilding Jaguars addressed the other side of the ball by picking Florida International safety Johnathan Cyprien in the second round and then adding Connecticut cornerback Dwayne Gratz in the third. All three players were three-year starters in college.
Although some expected the Jaguars to take a quarterback on Day 2, Caldwell made it clear that was never an option.
"We had greater needs at other positions," he said, adding that this appears to be a weak QB class.
There was depth on defense, which is where Jacksonville focused Friday.
Cyprien was the 33rd overall pick, the first player taken in the second round.
"This is a guy that's extremely passionate about football, loves the game, a fit for us," Caldwell said. "He's been tough, he's been reliable, he's been consistent. He's a little bit of a late bloomer, went to Florida International, but has gotten better over his career and is going to continue to get better here at the National Football League."
Caldwell said three teams, including the New York Jets, inquired about moving into Jacksonville's spot Friday.
"We told teams we feel really good there, but if we're going to do something, it'd have to be something that would really knock our socks off," Caldwell said.
Instead, the Jaguars opted to stay put and chose a player expected to start right away on a defense that ranked 30th in the league last season.
The 6-foot, 217-pound Cyprien will start opposite Dwight Lowery, replacing last year's starter, Dawan Landry.
After releasing Landry last month, the Jaguars were left without a strong safety on the roster. Coach Gus Bradley even mentioned that fact at least three times earlier this week.
So it was no surprise that the Jaguars used their second-rounder to fill a gaping hole.
"Coming into any program, I know there's going to be competition, and I'm ready to go in there and compete," Cyprien said. "I don't think anything's going to be given to me. If I come into a starting position, I'll just be really happy about that and I'll embrace that totally."
Cyprien started 45 games in four years at FIU, finishing his college career with 365 tackles, six forced fumbles and seven interceptions.
He considers himself a late-bloomer, one reason he only had two scholarship offers coming out of high school. He chose FIU over Western Michigan, opting to stay closer to his North Miami Beach home.
He blossomed with the Golden Panthers, where he developed into the Sun Belt Conference's defensive player of the year as a senior. He had 93 tackles and four interceptions in 2012.
"Tough, physical, aggressive, really good athlete," Caldwell said. "We just felt like this is a guy that's going to bring a different element to our defense in terms of his toughness and his relentlessness."
Cyprien really stood out at the Senior Bowl, his first chance to perform in front of all 32 NFL teams. It was clear he was a hard-hitter and a vocal leader.
"He's got a passion for the game," Bradley said. "He is very animated. He just enjoys it. He loves to play the game. I think he's going to add to what we have here and the attitude that we're looking for."
Jacksonville added another potential starter with Gratz, the 64th overall selection.
The 5-foot-11 Gratz started 39 games at UConn, finishing with 189 tackles, 30 pass breakups and eight interceptions.
He will compete for a starting job on a team that parted ways with its top three cornerbacks from last season - Derek Cox, Aaron Ross and Rashean Mathis. The Jaguars wanted to revamp the position with aggressive, pressing cornerbacks who often get left in one-on-one coverage.
"Me and the coaching staff connected on a level that was incomparable to any other team that I met with, and I love what they do and what they're trying to do with their defense - be physical," Gratz said. "That's something that I can bring to the table."
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