JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars selected guys nicknamed “Shoelace” and “Ace” on the final day of the NFL draft.
They might just provide a little extra pace for Jacksonville’s special teams.
The Jaguars chose South Carolina receiver Tracy “Ace” Sanders in the fourth round Saturday, then added former Michigan quarterback Denard “Shoelace” Robinson a round later.
Jacksonville traded down three spots before drafting the 5-foot-7 Sanders with the 101st pick and landed the 5-foot-10 Robinson with the 135th selection. Sanders will get an immediate shot at being the team’s punt returner. Robinson will work at running back and slot receiver, but could have his biggest impact as the team’s kickoff returner.
“We got weapons for days!!” Sanders posted on his Twitter page after Robinson was picked.
New general manager Dave Caldwell said it was clear during a three-day minicamp last week that the team lacked overall speed.
These two guys could remedy that right away.
Robinson started 37 games at Michigan, including 35 at quarterback, and set the NCAA record for career rushing yards (4,495) by a quarterback. He agreed to move to receiver, running back or even cornerback before the draft.
“Whatever it takes to get on the field,” Robinson said. “I’m an offensive weapon.”
Robinson completed 57 percent of his passes for 6,250 yards, with 49 touchdowns and 39 interceptions, in four years at Michigan. Nicknamed “Shoelace” because he plays with his laces untied, Robinson added 42 touchdowns on the ground. He also caught three passes and returned two punts.
His standout career ended with some uncertainty, though. Robinson sustained nerve damage in his right elbow late in his senior season, missed two games and then returned to the lineup as a running back, quarterback and receiver.
He struggled at his new positions at the NFL combine, showing little precision as a route runner and dropping about half the passes thrown his way. He also botched several punts.
“A lot of people have put me at different positions,” he said. “Now it’s time to go to work.”
Sanders, meanwhile, has been polishing his skills as a punt returner for years.
Although he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds at the NFL combine — considered slow for a speedster — he was productive at South Carolina. He returned 53 punts for an average of 11.2 yards and scored three touchdowns in three seasons. He averaged 15.3 yards a punt return and scored two TDs last season.
“I’m not an east and west runner on punt returns,” said Sanders, who got his nickname at birth. “I get the yards that’s needed and I really just try to flip the field and give the offense better field position. I’ll go at it relentlessly with no fear and just try to make a play.”
He also has skill at wideout, where he caught 99 passes for 1,230 yards and 13 scores in college.
“A lot of people have not really gotten time to see me really excel as a slot receiver, but I know my ability and everything,” he said. “With the right coaching and the right system, I can really excel as a slot receiver as well as a punt returner.”
Sanders considered returning to school for his senior season, but changed his mind on the final day juniors could declare for the draft.
“I was actually leaving Bradenton, driving back up to South Carolina to go to school, and I was just thinking the whole trip on all of the information I got back,” he said. “The only thing I could change from my draft spot by next year would be my size, and I’m not going to get any taller, so there was no point in going back and putting more wear and tear on my body before the draft next year and to be the same spot.”
The Jaguars added three defensive backs in the final two rounds.
A day after drafting Florida International safety Johnathan Cyprien in the second round and Connecticut cornerback Dwayne Gratz in the third, Jacksonville grabbed Florida safety Josh Evans in the sixth, New Mexico State cornerback Jeremy Harris in the seventh (No. 208) and Appalachian State cornerback Demetrius McCray in the seventh (No. 210).
Jacksonville is trying to replace most of its secondary from last season. The team parted ways with its top four cornerbacks — Derek Cox, Rashean Mathis, Aaron Ross and Will Middleton — as well as strong safety Dawan Landry. The only returning starter is Dwight Lowery.
Regardless, much of attention surrounding the Jaguars on Saturday centered on Robinson and Sanders.
“I think the world of those guys,” Evans said. “It’s going to be an honor to play with them. They’re both quick guys and very athletic, so they’re going to bring a lot to the team as well.”