Based on the moves the Jacksonville Jaguars made in free agency, it looks like they will be taking a pass rusher, probably Aidan Hutchinson or Travon Walker, with the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. However, nothing is set in stone and there’s a chance (a slight one) they go offense instead. At least that’s the path one coach thinks the Jags will take at No. 1.
Matt Lombardo of FanSided recently asked several executives and coaches around the NFL to weigh in on what they believe the Jaguars will do with the top selection, and while many see them taking Hutchinson or Walker, one AFC offensive coach says they will go offense:
"They could easily go pass-rusher, but it’s the worst kept secret that Doug Pederson wants to go offense with that pick. The problem is, I’m not sure there’s a No. 1 overall offensive tackle in this class, let alone one worth the No. 1 overall pick."
Similarly, an NFL agent thinks there isn’t much separation between the top edge rushers in this year’s drafts and argues that Jacksonville is better off taking North Carolina State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu at No. 1 and plug him wherever he fits best.
Should the Jaguars take the offensive route at No. 1 in the draft?
The Jaguars could definitely take an offensive tackle, Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu with the top selection but possible isn’t probable. The AFC coach mentions that Pederson wants to go offense but it’s general manager Trent Baalke the one who will ultimately make the call. Pederson and Baalke seem to be getting along well and they will most likely compromise at No. 1 but that doesn’t mean Pederson will get his wish. After all, Baalke may have already set his sights on Travon Walker.
Now, does it really make sense for the Jaguars to take an offensive lineman at No. 1? Perhaps and it definitely deserves consideration but the Jaguars have already applied the franchise tag on left tackle Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor (or maybe Walker Little) will start at right tackle in 2022. Unless the team’s brass rescinds the tag or trades Robinson — either scenario is unlikely at this point — Neal or Ekwonu would have to line up at left guard, with Brandon Scherff firmly entrenched at right guard.
Now, plugging an offensive tackle at guard isn’t unheard of. The Arizona Cardinals and the Baltimore Ravens did it with Leonard Davis (second overall, 2001) and Johnathan Ogden (fourth overall, 1996), respectively. The Jags could take a similar approach with either Ekwomu or Neal, both of who have exterior playing inside, but they would still need to draft a pass rusher, and the wide between the top 3 and the rest of the 2022 class is wide, so it may not be the best course of action.
Then, there’s the Robinson conundrum. If the Alabama product and the Jaguars strike a long-term deal, the coaching staff would probably have to keep Neal or Ekwonu at guard beyond their rookie years and you don’t want to invest the top pick in the draft in a guard. Also, would it be wise for Jacksonville to pass on Hutchinson or Walker to take an offensive lineman?
The Jaguars still have a couple of weeks to decide how they will use the first overall pick but based on the available options and the comments by the AFC coach, going offense shouldn’t be ruled out yet, even if they may be better off selecting a pass rusher.