Jaguars may be better off drafting a pass rusher first overall in 2022
It’s still too early to know what the Jacksonville Jaguars plan to do with the first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on who will be their choice. You can ask three analysts and you will get three different responses. This is evident when you look through most mock drafts. But based on all the options the Jags will have when they’re on the clock, they may be better off drafting a pass rusher first overall.
Brandon Thorn of the Bleacher Report Scouting Department thinks Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal will be the pick. They believe the Jaguars must make sure Trevor Lawrence is protected and don’t think the mammoth offensive tackle would be a reach. In fact, Thorn describes him as “exceptionally smooth and agile for someone who’s 350 pounds“. Moreover, he points out that he has all the traits you want at the position, “size length, athletic ability, and the versatility to play on either side”.
On the other hand, Rucker Haringey of FanSided sees Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson as the right choice at number one because he believes Jacksonville “can’t afford to miss out on a high-level player“. However, Haringey isn’t the one who thinks the Jaguars should take the Michigan native with the top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus also thinks the Jags should choose the former Michigan Wolverine. Here’s what he had to say about Hutchinson.
"This one ain’t changing until I hear differently. The Jaguars simply need to chalk up a win after taking multiple first-round Ls in recent years. There’s no safer pick than Hutchinson, the highest-graded defender in college football last year."
It may be easier for the Jaguars to fortify their O-Line in free agency.
Oregon Kayvon Thibodeau hasn’t popped up at No. 1 in a mock draft recently, but that doesn’t mean that taking him is off the table for the Jaguars. In fact, it may be easier for them to fortify their offensive line in free agency and use the top pick on either Thibodeaux or Hutchinson.
Left tackle Cam Robinson is slated to become a free agent and he played well in the second half of the 2022 NFL Draft. Re-signing him makes sense as long as his salary demands aren’t too steep. If he’s willing to accept $14 million per year, the Jags should bring him back and move Walker Little to the right tackle. They could also ink Quinton Spain in the open market and have him compete with Ben Bartch for the right guard job. Similarly, re-signing left guard Andrew Norwell and interior offensive lineman Tyler Shatley shouldn’t be cost-prohibitive.
On the other hand, signing someone like Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Harold Landry or Arizona Cardinals edge rusher Chandler Jones might be more expensive, so taking a pass rusher first overall in the draft could make more sense from a financial standpoint. In fact, the Jaguars could trade down a few spots and still land someone like Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis.
Keep in mind these are hypothetical scenarios and some make more sense than others. But it’s up to the Jaguars to explore all of them and find the one in which they will end up with as many playmakers as possible. Addressing the offensive line in free agency could be one way to achieve that.