Dangerous assumption No. 3: The Jaguars will draft for need.
Numerous mock drafts have the Jags taking some combination of edge rusher, wide receiver, offensive line, and linebacker (or occasionally tight end) in the first three rounds. That makes sense if you are drafting for needs right now. But, Doug Pederson’s arrival presents a potentially significant shift in team-building philosophy. Good organizations prioritize talent over need in the draft, and use free agency to plug holes and the draft to build for the future. Recent comments from Pederson support the notion that the Jags are subscribing to that philosophy.
"“The decisions to bring guys like Cam back are to protect your quarterback. It has nothing to do with the draft, and we want that offensive line to be solidified. We want guys up there that have been around. Cam is a big part of that and is gonna be a big part of that, so we were excited to, obviously, retain him. But, as it pertains to the draft, that’s kind of its own separate deal right now.”"
Additionally, Trent Baalke showed last year a willingness to prioritize talent over need with the selection of Travis Etienne. With then-rookie sensation James Robinson returning, running back was not a perceived need. Yet, the Jaguars wanted Etienne’s explosiveness, so they took him. Fast forward a year and Robinson is coming off a major injury. While it may have been a head-scratcher at the time, the decision to prioritize talent over need with Etienne may pay off in September.
Teams that prioritize talent over need don’t only use the draft to build next year’s team. They use the draft to build the following year’s team and beyond. So, while the talent at the top of this year’s draft happens to align with team needs, beyond the first round could be a different story.
That might be no more apparent than at number 33 overall, where many Jaguars fans are expecting the best wide receiver on the board to have his name called on behalf of the Jaguars. But, the Jaguars may feel their immediate needs have been met at wide receiver. Perhaps they see value in a later round wide receiver. Or, they may simply see a cornerback they feel has more talent. And while the selection of corner at the top of the second round could send Jaguars fans into a tailspin, what happens if Shaquille Griffin underperforms in 2022 and they decide to get out of his contract? They’ll be glad they prioritized talent over need. They may end up not taking a wide receiver at all.
So, use caution when making assumptions about what the Jaguars will do in the upcoming months. It could set you up for disappointment.