The Jaguars surprised numerous observers when they drafted quarterback Blake Bortles with the third overall pick last year; they added wide receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson in the second round. "I think the third spot could shock people (again)," the personnel man told Yahoo Sports. "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 Jaguars weren't closely aligned with Bortles last year, then made him the first quarterback off the board. Bortles predictably struggled as a rookie, performing behind a leaky line and without much of a rushing attack. In addition, three of the Jaguars' top four receivers were rookies; undrafted free agent Allen Hurns was second on the team with 51 receptions, while Robinson had 48 and Lee 37. The leading receiver was Cecil Shorts, who left for Houston via free agency.
"Which of their receivers has the potential to be elite at his position and how many of them were healthy?" the personnel exec told Yahoo. " ... Maybe Cooper is the best player in the draft. If that's the case, you make two positions better with that pick -- and one of the positions you're improving (quarterback) is the most important in the game."
From that standpoint, picking Cooper does make some sense: He can become a No. 1 receiver and would help rev up the passing attack. But each of the Jaguars' first four picks last year were offensive players, and you have to figure defense-minded coach Gus Bradley wouldn't mind more talent on that side of the ball.
With quarterbacks potentially being the first two picks in the draft, the Jaguars could have their pick of defensive players, and USC's Leonard Williams (who went to high school in Daytona Beach, about 90 miles south of Jacksonville) certainly would upgrade the talent level on the Jaguars' defensive line. Jacksonville also would have its pick of edge rushers, and you figure Florida's Dante Fowler Jr. (or whomever the Jaguars have as their top edge rusher) could step in and immediately be the team's best pass rusher.
Jacksonville has to find an instant-impact defender in this draft, and that likelihood obviously lessens if the Jaguars don't pick that guy at No. 3. In addition, let's say Cooper is the third pick. The Jaguars still have to find an offensive lineman (or two), and upgrading the talent level at running back (currently, the top three guys appear to be Toby Gerhart, Denard Robinson and Bernard Pierce) is a must, as well. The line has to improve: If there is a mediocre running game and no time for Bortles to throw, the Jaguars could have Jerry Rice and Randy Moss lined up outside and it wouldn't matter.
The Jaguars picking Cooper No. 3 also would cause a bunch of receiver-needy teams a lot of angst. There appears to be a three-man top tier of receivers, with Cooper, West Virginia's Kevin White and Louisville's DeVante Parker. If the Jaguars do go with Cooper, chances increase exponentially that a perceived second-tier receiver goes much earlier than expected. Conversely, if no defensive player is off the board in the top three, teams that covet Williams and/or need an edge rusher will be ecstatic.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.