With the 2022 NFL Draft in the books, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and every other team, will turn their attention to Organized Team Activities. Similarly, scouts will soon start evaluating prospects for next year’s selection meeting and while it’s too early to tell how the Jags’ season will unfold, Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports thinks left tackle could be a need next year.
Trapasso recently drew up a way-too-early 2023 NFL mock draft and he envisions the Jags taking Miami left tackle Zion Nelson at No. 4. Regarding the pick, Trapasso believes the Miami standout has first-round traits and has flashed potential throughout his collegiate career.
"Nelson isn’t currently projected to go this high, but the first-round traits have flashed often in his Miami career. This pick assumes he takes a sizable step with his consistency in 2022."
A three-star recruit out of high school, Nelson went on to start 13 games at left tackle as a freshman but struggled, giving up 12 sacks, 22 quarterbacks, and four quarterback hits. He improved the following year, allowing just three sacks, four quarterback hits, and five hurries in 10 games (with seven starts). He got even better in 2021, surrendering three sacks in the first five games of the season but none in the last seven Moreover, he posted a Pro Football Focus grade of 90.8 in that span.
Nelson has the height and the arm length to play left tackle in the pros. He’s good in pass protection but has his work cut out as a run blocker. Furthermore, he might need to bulk up in the pros in order not to get pushed around.
Left tackle might not be a pressing need for the Jaguars in 2023.
The Jaguars had the chance to take one of the top two tackles, Alabama’s Evan Neal and North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu in the 2022 NFL Draft. However, they opted to give left tackle Cam Robinson a three-year deal worth $54 million and select Georgia offensive lineman Travon Walker at No. 1.
It will be a while before the Jags learn if their decision to pass on Neal and Ekwonu pays off but it looks like they liked Robinson’s improvement in 2021 and believe he will do a good job of protecting Trevor Lawrence’s blindside for the following three years.
On the other hand, the Jags might need a right tackle next in 2023, with incumbent Jawaan Taylor potentially becoming a free agent after this season’s end. Then again, Jacksonville could give 2021 second-round pick Walker Little a chance to earn the starting job and if he seized the opportunity, taking an offensive tackle in next year’s selection meeting might be unnecessary.
Something noteworthy about Trapasso’s mock draft is that he thinks the Jags are going to get another top-5 pick in 2023, which is not precisely a ringing endorsement. If Jacksonville ends up with another premium selection, it will be because all the additions they’ve made this offseason will not have paid off. This in turn would be cause for concern.
The thing about mock draft at this point of the year is that nobody knows how teams will fare. Look at the Cincinnati Bengals, who went from being one of the worst clubs in the league to playing in the Super Bowl in just one season. While it’s kind of hard to envision the Jaguars making that kind of leap, they should be significantly better than they were last season. Also, they might have a few roster holes in 2022 but left tackle doesn’t seem to be one of them.