The 2020 NFL Draft wasn’t a good one for the Jacksonville Jaguars and it’s fair to say that the decision to take Florida cornerback CJ Henderson ninth overall didn’t work out. And you know that because he’s no longer on the roster, having been traded to the Carolina Panthers last year. If the Jags had the chance to do it all over, they would probably select someone else, which is precisely what they do in a recent redo.
Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report reimagined the 2020 draft and he had the Jaguars taking offensive tackle Andrew Thomas, who originally went to the New York Giants, at No. 4. Ballentine notes that Jacksonville might not have needed to apply the franchise tag on Cam Robinson in consecutive years if they had chosen Thomas.
"The decision to franchise-tag Cam Robinson (twice!) is an interesting one. He had a PFF grade of 61.7 with five sacks allowed in 2020 before they tagged him the first time. He then followed it up with a 67.4 grade with one sack allowed in 2021. In other words, Robinson has been average at best but is getting paid like one of the top tackles in the league. The Jaguars could prevent that situation here while ensuring that quarterback Trevor Lawrence has adequate protection."
Ballentine points out that Thomas experienced a learning curve as a rookie, giving up 10 sacks and posting an overall Pro Football Focus overall grade of 62.4. However, the Georgia product improve considerably last season, allowing just two sacks and earning a PFF overall grade of 78.9. While Tristan Wirfs, whom the Tampa Buccaneers took at No. 13, is the best offensive tackle of the class, Thomas still hasn’t reached his full potential and would have been a solid addition to the Jaguars’ trenches.
Drafting Andrew Thomas would have had a butterfly effect for the Jaguars.
CJ Henderson showed promise in 2020 but a groin injury cut his rookie season short. He then missed a good chunk of training camp for several reasons and struggled to catch up. By Week 3, the Jaguars’ brass had seen enough and traded him to the Panthers for tight end Dan Arnold and a third-round selection. Jacksonville didn’t probably have that outcome in mind when they drafted the Florida product but that’s how things played out.
In hindsight, there are many prospects the Jags could have taken. Thomas would have been gone by No. 9 but the Jags could have taken someone like wide receiver Justin Jefferson or even running back Jonathan Taylor.
If Thomas had been available at No. 9, like was in Ballentine’s draft redo, the Jags might not have applied the franchise tag on Robinson and would have probably not selected offensive lineman Walker Little 45th overall in 2021, paving the way for tight end Pat Freiermuth. Also, the team’s brass might have allocated the money they spent on tagging Robinson to a big-name free agent.
Looking at the production the Jaguars have gotten from their 2020 class, it’s easy to see why they fired general manager David Caldwell but it’s worth noting that most of the drafts he oversaw also had a low success rate. While selecting Thomas may not have saved his job, Jacksonville’s offensive line would likely be in better shape.