The Jacksonville Jaguars have many needs coming into the NFL Draft. What they do in free agency may tip their hand as how they plan to fill those needs at key positions.
Last April, the Jacksonville Jaguars were on the clock with the 29th pick in the NFL Draft. Most members of the media who were at TIAA Bank Field thought the team would take Texas El Paso offensive lineman Will Hernandez or possibly quarterback Lamar Jackson of Louisville.
Neither one of them heard their name called. The Jaguars “shocked” fan base who were in attendance for the Draft Party by choosing Florida defensive lineman Taven Bryan. Hernandez had a decent season this year for the New York Giants. Jackson helped the Baltimore Ravens reach the playoffs.
Bryan is still learning to play the pro game.
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This year is a bit different as the needs on offense are greater and the defense, although ranked fifth overall in 2018, has some holes to fill and depth to be acquired. The organization is still in “win now” mode, but finding the right chess pieces is more important to erasing a 5-11 season this past season.
There are still three months until the Draft in Nashville, but the natives here in Jacksonville are a bit restless and have been since a seven-game winning streak eliminated this team from the playoffs. Changes are needed and they are needed fast.
Here is a look at the team’s four most pressing draft needs.
First Down: Quarterback – I am one of the few out there who think the team may not grab a quarterback in the first round. The Blake Bortles era is almost over here in Jacksonville.
Seeing as though this quarterback class may not be as deep as last year and the potential of the 2020 class is impressive (Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa, Jake Fromm, and Jacob Eason), the Jaguars may take a signal caller in Round 2 and sign a veteran to keep the position warm for their “next” franchise guy.
If he is there at No. 7, then the Jaguars should roll the dice on Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. Daniel Jones of Duke will get plenty of attention and could be a top 15 pick if the Jaguars decide to trade down.
Yes, that is an option.
I like Jones and Will Grier of West Virginia more than Haskins because they have more experience as a starter. The Jaguars and new offensive coordinator John DiFilippo might already have a plan in mind for April.
Second Down: Offensive Line – Where to start? Jaguars offensive linemen spent more time on the training table than they did on the field this season. And when they were healthy, they weren’t very good.
Much is needed here, possibly with a first round pick coming in the way of Greg Little of Ole Miss, Jonah Williams of Alabama or Cody Ford of Oklahoma.
Ford can play both guard and tackle. Little might be slightly ahead of Wiliams. If the team drafts a left tackle, it means they will move Cam Robinson to the right side, where he is a more natural fit. The team must also address depth at guard and decide if they want to keep Josh Wells, Chris Reed and Tyler Shatley as backups.
Third Down: Playmakers on offense – Besides Dede Westbrook, no wide receiver stood out. T.J. Yeldon was the team’s best offensive weapon the first half of 2018. Leonard Fournette was injured more than he played.
Yeldon will test free agency. Fournette’s future in Jacksonville remains shaky. Jacksonville needs better playmakers with speed to burn.
"As Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com wrote, “Marqise Lee returns from a knee injury, but Keelan Cole got benched and DJ Chark has a long way to go to be a consistent contributor (both have ball-security issues too). It could be a great draft for tight ends and receivers, and the Jaguars should make one of each a priority.”"
Look for the team to address this is fre agency and could use their two third round picks to find skill players on the outside and in the slot.
This is a unit in need of a true middle linebacker. The loss of Paul Posluszny was greater than many thought. While the two youngsters are fast and play decent in coverage, they are not the elite ‘backers we all thought they would be.
TJ Edwards of Wisconsin, Dante Booker of Ohio State and Cameron Smith of USC may all be available in the third round. It would not be too early for the Jaguars to add to their lack of depth at the position.
This is also a position the team may address in free agency. Jacksonville did get a steal in Leon Jacobs from Wisconsin last season. Jacobs was a seventh-round draft pick who won a starting spot in training camp.