JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- First-round draft picks are supposed to be the foundation pieces in a franchise.
If not All-Pros and/or Pro Bowlers, they're at least supposed to develop into very good players who make impact plays and help teams win games. No team hits on every first-round pick, but the success rate when picking in the first round should certainly be better than 12.5 percent -- especially when more than half of those picks are in the top 10.
Tuesday's trade of defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., to the Los Angeles Rams is another example of the Jacksonville Jaguars' failures in that area. It's easy to focus on the first-round picks since owner Shad Khan decided to blow up the franchise and start all over again after the 2012 season, but it has been nearly 20 years since the Jaguars have had any run of success in the first round.
After the back-to-back selections of defensive tackles Marcus Stroud (2001) and John Henderson (2002), the Jaguars have drafted just two players in the first round that went on to make the Pro Bowl while a member of the franchise: tight end Marcedes Lewis, the 28th pick in 2006, and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the fifth pick in 2016.
Four of the 16 first-round picks since 2003 have been named to various publications, organizations, or website All-Pro teams, but Ramsey is the only player to be named to the Associated Press All-Pro team, which is the most widely recognized list and accepted as the semi-official All-Pro team for the NFL.
Fowler, the third overall pick in 2015, is the latest disappointment. He missed his rookie season because of a torn ACL and had four sacks in his second season before compiling eight in 2017. He had 14 sacks and 22 quarterback hits in 39 regular-season games and two sacks in three playoff games with the Jaguars.
He never became the dominant player the team hoped, and compounding that was his long list of off-field issues. The Jaguars knew he had maturity issues when they selected him, but their gamble that they'd be able to help him grow out of it failed.
The Jaguars will try to replace him with Lerentee McCray, who is a core special-teams player but has flashed in his small amount of defensive reps since joining the team last year, and 2017 third-round pick Dawuane Smoot. He played in every game last season as a reserve but has been a healthy scratch every week this season.
The Jaguars weren't going to re-sign Fowler after the 2018 season, so they at least get a third-round pick in 2019 and a fifth-round pick in 2020 in the trade. It's probably the best for which they could hope, but it's not the kind of value the fifth overall pick should bring.
But that's nothing new for a franchise that has floundered in the first round since executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin's final two first-round picks of Stroud and Henderson at the end of his first tenure with the team. Since then, it has been a long list of underachievers and busts mixed in with a few solid players -- and some flat-out awful picks.
Three of those players had alcohol or substance abuse problems (Reggie Williams, Matt Jones and Justin Blackmon), and four developed into solid players with the franchise (Byron Leftwich, Marcedes Lewis, Eugene Monroe and Tyson Alualu). Reggie Nelson went on to make the Pro Bowl with Oakland. Blake Bortles earned a second contract but has more turnovers than any player since he entered the NFL (90 in 70 games).
Luke Joeckel ended up moving to guard and missed 25 games with injuries. Leonard Fournette has missed nine of 24 games since he was drafted because of injuries. Taven Bryan has not done much in a backup role.
The misses span GMs: James "Shack" Harris, Gene Smith, Dave Caldwell and now Coughlin, who has final say over all football decisions.
Ramsey is by far the best player on the list, and he's already considered one of the NFL's best cornerbacks. That's the kind of impact player teams are supposed to get in the first round -- especially when picking in the top 10.
No team bats 1.000 in selecting first-round picks, and it's silly to expect that. But hitting .125 isn't good at all, and it's one of the reasons why the Jaguars have been one of the league's worst franchises over the past 16 years.