Two weeks in to free agency and we now have an idea of the direction the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to go in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Running back, offensive Line, and defensive Line will be the three main positions the Jacksonville Jaguars will likely focus on in the 2017 NFL Draft’s early rounds. There are plenty of options at the positions and the Jags need to figure out what the team’s top priority is and then pull the trigger.
Those priorities could reveal a trimmed list looking something similar to what is discussed below. Here are the top three options the Jaguars will most likely consider at the fourth overall selection.
The 2016 Chuck Bednarik Award Winner completely disrupted opposing offenses, racking up 28.0 sacks and 44.5 tackles for a loss in his Alabama career – not to mention a 31-yard fumble recovered for a touchdown against Ole Miss.
Too many good defensive lineman are not a bad thing and executive vice president for football operations, Tom Coughlin is known for having his teams load up on them. In his first tenure with the Jaguars, Coughlin had dominant defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson and with the New York Giants he had Osi umenyiora, Michael Strahan, and Justin Tuck. Games are won in the trenches and if the Jaguars control the line of scrimmage on defense, not only will their defense improve, but it will help the entire team.
The Jaguars defensive line already consists of Malik Jackson and 2 young defensive ends in Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr. to go along with new free agent monster Calais Campbell. Allen can come in and instantly upgrade the D-Line. A D-line rotation of Malik Jackson, Abry Jones, Jonathan Allen, Calais Campbell, along with Ngakoue and Fowler, would make the Jaguars defensive line one of the most talented young defensive lines in the NFL.
Watching Solomon Thomas in the Sun Bowl against UNC on television is one of the most unforgettable games in recent collegiate history. In that game, the world saw a defensive lineman get in the backfield play after play, making the opposing offensive line look foolish and comical, invoking disbelieving laughter from those watching the game. At the time, Thomas was a relative unknown. Everyone knows his name now.
Solomon Thomas is a tremendously athletic defensive lineman from Stanford University who had 8.5 sacks and 14.0 tackles for loss in 2016. At the beginning of the draft process, he seemed like a mid to late first round selection, but with his outstanding combine and Bowl game, he has shot up draft boards. Myles Garret and Jonathan Allen looked like the sure fire top-two defensive linemen, maybe even players in this class, but Thomas has been put in the conversation. Like Allen, Thomas can come in and instantly upgrade a defensive line that already has a lot of talent.
If both Allen and Thomas are both available for the Jaguars, it could come down to whoever they feel more comfortable with. Jonathan Allen does have a consistent shoulder injury (arthritis), so this could push Thomas over the top.
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Ever since the Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor days, the Jaguars have struggled at the running back position. Toby Gerhart, Denard Robinson, T.J. Yeldon, and Chris Ivory were all backs that were signed or drafted with high expectations and failed to live up to them. Adding a game-changer like Leonard Fournette could make Jaguars fans and everyone around the league forget about all the other running backs that didn’t work out.
Fournette rushed for 3,830 yards and 40 touchdowns in his three-year career at Louisiana State University. Although weighing in at 240 pounds, Fournette wowed everyone when he ran 4.51 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. This shows his excellent mix of power, strength and speed.
The running game would improve with Fournette, but he also helps alleviate some pressure on and improve the passing game. The field would be more open for quarterback Blake Bortles to throw the ball, considering teams will have to gameplay to stop Fournette or at least take him into consideration. On a run, opponents would ideally put eight guys in the box and Bortles would have many more opportunities to put up big numbers like the 2015 season.