Jaguars' next QB won't matter if they can't find pass-catchers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- All the attention surrounding running back Leonard Fournette's future and the quarterback situation has heavily overshadowed another major problem the Jacksonville Jaguars face this offseason.

The team lacks playmakers.

Though it will be vital for the Jaguars to address those first two issues, adding receivers and a tight end who can create problems for a defense will be just as important as Jacksonville hopes to rebound from its 5-11 record of 2018 and aims to become a factor in the AFC South and a playoff team again.

The good news is that the upcoming draft is loaded with talent at both positions.

Since Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell wrapped up their Jaguars careers in 2005 and 2001, respectively, the franchise has struggled to find dominant receivers. Second-year players Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns each topped 1,000 yards in 2015, but neither was able to reach that level again. Robinson's play slipped in 2016, he tore his ACL and missed all but three plays of the 2017 season and he left via free agency. Hurns was hampered by injuries the following two seasons, and the team cut him in March 2018 rather than pay him $10 million.

The 2018 season started badly when top receiver Marqise Lee suffered a severe knee injury during a preseason game against Atlanta. Second-year player Keelan Cole, an undrafted rookie who led the Jaguars with 748 receiving yards in 2017, regressed. He was eventually benched after dropping five passes and losing two fumbles in October. He also finished tied for second in the NFL with seven drops and had by far the fewest targets of the nine players who had six or more. He had a drop percentage of 10.1 percent, second only to Minnesota's Laquon Treadwell, who led the NFL with 11.3 percent.

The Jaguars drafted DJ Chark out of LSU in the second round and said they had a first-round grade on him. He had ball-security issues as well, though, committing a critical drop and a fumble. Chark made more of an impact as a gunner on special teams.

Second-year player Dede Westbrook eventually became the team's best receiver and playmaker, but he caught more than five passes in a game just three times.

Jaguars wide receivers caught only nine touchdown passes (tied with Baltimore's receivers for 29th in the NFL) and averaged just 12.4 yards per catch (22nd). The group had a league-high seven fumbles and also dropped 16 passes.

Production has been even worse at tight end. A player at that position has caught more than 50 passes in a season just four times in franchise history, and no tight end has ever caught more than 58 passes. Jaguars tight ends have a total of 102 catches over the past two seasons, which ranks 31st (Miami's tight ends are last with 95). The group caught 59 passes this past season, but their per-catch average of 8.98 yards ranked last.

Jaguars pass-catchers (receivers, tight ends and running backs) combined to drop 27 passes this past season, second only Indianapolis (29).

So, help is clearly needed, and this is a good time to be searching for playmakers at those positions. The 2019 draft is regarded as a very good one at both positions -- especially at receiver, where the top of the class is loaded with big, physical players.

Ole Miss' D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown and DeMarkus Lodge, NC State's Kelvin Harmon, Georgia's Riley Ridley, Arizona State's N'Keal Harry, West Virginia's David Sills and Stanford's JJ Arcega-Whiteside are all 6-foot-2 or taller and projected to be drafted in the first three rounds.

The tight end class also is pretty deep. Iowa's Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, Alabama's Irv Smith Jr., UCLA's Caleb Wilson and Texas A&M's Jace Sternberger are projected to be drafted in the first three rounds.

Whether the Jaguars land a rookie quarterback or a veteran such as Joe Flacco, Eli Manning or Nick Foles, they must upgrade their playmakers. They are in a good position to do so -- and ignoring the need would be a massive mistake.