The Jacksonville Jaguars made several upgrades to their roster in free agency. However, they’re still several steps away from turning into a playoff contender. If they really want to turn the corner and have stability for years to come, they will need to hit on most of their selections in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Gil Brant of NFL Media recently put together a list of 10 teams that must ace their picks in this year’s draft and the Jags popped up at the top. From the get-go, the Hall-of-Fame analyst notes that every club must hit on their selections more often than not but it’s particularly important for the ones he mentions. He points out that Jacksonville will have the first overall pick in two years in a row and says that they need to make the most of this draft.
"If the Jags use every selection in their possession as of the time this was posted, they’ll have made the first overall pick twice in a row — and they’ll have drafted 12 players for the second time in three years. It’s hard to remember this group was in the AFC title game just five seasons ago. Since then, Jacksonville has gone through an extraordinary amount of turmoil. The presumptive franchise quarterback (Trevor Lawrence) is in place, and the roster includes some bright spots (Josh Allen, most notably), but this offseason’s influx of free agents (headlined by Brandon Scherff, Christian Kirk, Foye Oluokun and Foley Fatukasi) hints at just how urgently general manager Trent Baalke and new head coach Doug Pederson want to get this ship righted after the brief and disastrous tenure of Urban Meyer."
Brandt believes that expecting the Jaguars to compete at a high level in 2022 may not be realistic. But he goes on to say that they need to hurry up and rebuild while Trevor Lawrence is still in his rookie deal. Once the former Clemson Tiger signs his second contract, it will become more difficult to build a competing team for cap reasons.
The Jaguars need to start drafting well on a consistent basis.
Former Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell wasn’t very good at drafting. While he had a few hits (outside linebacker Josh Allen, linebacker Myles Jack), he seemed to be more interested in hoarding draft picks and cap space for future use. Unfortunately, he never got to see the fruit of work, as he was fired near the end of the 2020 season. Director of players personnel Trent Baalke took his place not long after and he did an adequate job in the 2021 draft.
Taking aside Trevor Lawrence, the Jaguars’ front office hit struck gold cornerback Tyson Campbell. Also, offensive tackle Walker Little and safety Andre Cisco showed promise as rookies. If running back Travis Etienne (the 25th overall pick), can make an impact in 2022, Jacksonville will have found four contributors in last year’s selection meeting.
If the Jaguars want to keep up with the rest of the AFC South and eventually get to the playoffs, they will need to have an even better draft than the one they had last year. That means hitting on their early picks and a few of their middle and late-round ones. Last year, the Jaguars took edge defender Jordan Smith in the fourth round, tight end Luke Farrell in the fifth, and Jalen in the sixth. Smith was a healthy scratch for most of the season, Farrell was nothing more than a backup, and Camp was released before the start of the season. If Baalke wants to prove that the Jaguars made the right decision when they stuck with him even though fans wanted to see him gone, he will need to get a better haul this year.
Prospects availability is always variable and all NFL teams have their fair share of misses. But if the Jaguars want to right the ship, they will need to get this draft right.