Jaguars draft: Who should the Jags take with the top overall pick in 2022?

NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell poses with Jaguars fans during the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.Gw41772
NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell poses with Jaguars fans during the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.Gw41772 /

One of the perks of being the worst team in the NFL is getting the first overall pick in the NFL draft and there’s currently no worst team than the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will most likely land the selection in 2022. Now, getting the top selection is half the battle. You need to take the right player with it, the kind that will become a franchise cornerstone. On the other hand, picking the wrong one could set your team back for several years.

In 2022, the Jags will have their fair share of choices and the top three seem to be (in no particular order): Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal, and Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. It’s too early in the process to know who the Jaguars will take and two different mock drafts see them taking two different players.

Anthony Treash of Pro Football Focus projects the Jags will select Hutchinson. Right out of the gate, Treash addresses the elephant in the room, the defensive end’s “underwhelming” performance against Georgia in the College Football Playoffs. He notes the Bulldogs designed a game plan to minimize his impact and double-teamed him whenever possible. Having said that, Treash points out that he was the most dominant player in college football in 2021, posting a 94.5 PFF overall grade, the highest mark in the FBS.

Meanwhile, Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports thinks the Jaguars should take Neal precisely because of Hutchinson’s performance in the college playoffs. Wilson still sees the defensive end as the best prospect in this upcoming class but also believes that by taking Neal, Jacksonville would be “filling a huge need along the offensive line”.

Offense or defense? What should the Jaguars do with the top draft pick?

The Jaguars could use Hutchinson or Thibodeaux but building around Trevor Lawrence should be the Jags’ top priority this offseason. They need to ensure he has optimal protection upfront and more weapons on offense. Since drafting a wide receiver with the top overall pick doesn’t make much sense, choosing Neal might be the best course of action.

Left tackle Cam Robinson has played well in the second half of the 2021 season and has a strong case to remain in Jacksonville. If that’s what they decide to do, they could plug in Neal at right tackle, a position he played in college. Another alternative is to give offensive tackle Walker Little a look on the right side and have Neal line up at guard.

There’s a precedent for this approach, both former NFL offensive tackles Leonard Davis and Jonathan Ogden, played guard in their respective rookie years and moved outside in later seasons. The Jaguars could do something similar with Neal if they re-sign Robinson and move Little to right tackle. The Jags could then sign a wide receiver in free agency or take one with their second-round pick in 2022.

Hutchinson or Thibodeaux would give the Jaguars someone to pair with edge rusher Josh Allen but making sure Lawrence has a good supporting cast should be the team’s most important offseason goal, regardless of who the head coach (and the general manager) is.

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