The Jacksonville Jaguars have allocated significant resources to their offense over the last two years, so it would make sense that they prioritize the defense in the 2023 NFL Draft. At No. 24, they will be in a position to take one of the top defensive backs in the process, including Texas A&M safety Antonio Johnson, who might potentially be an excellent fit in Jacksonville.
John Shipley of Sports Illustrated had the chance to talk to several football executives at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine and cites one who believes Johnson is the kind of player the jaguars are looking for.
“The Texas A&M safety (Antonio Johnson) seems like their type of guy. He is physical as anyone else in the draft. Not sure where he would play for them, but he is tough as nails. I bet they will probably be high on [Kalee] Ringo and Joey Porter’s son too”.
Shipley goes on to cite another scout who thinks the Jaguars could take an offensive player due to head coach Doug Pederson’s offensive background.
“Doug loved using two tight ends in Philly. Trust me, he killed us with it. I think he could see someone like Mayer or the Georgia tight end [Darnell Washington] fall and take them because they can block and compliment who they already have. We need a tight end and we have them circled as a team who we could be competing with”.
Although Johnson’s listed as safety, he lined up in the slot, safety, and linebacker at Texas A&M. He’s got superb tackling skills and can cover tight ends, which would make him an enticing option at No. 24. Although his lack of big plays — one interception in three seasons — could be a cause for concern, his athleticism, frame, and power make him one of the top safeties in the draft.
The Jacksonville Jaguars will emphasize flexibility in the 2023 NFL Draft
Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke appeared on Pro Football Talk Live and told host Mike Florio that he’s looking for versatile players. Although he didn’t refer to Johnson by name, he might as well be talking about Johnson.
“Everybody’s got the same number of guys, so how do you improve the numbers? Versatility, right? One-dimensional players tend to get pigeonholed a little bit, so I’m looking for guys that are versatile, looking for guys that really fit our system. But more importantly, really fit the culture we’re trying to build in Jacksonville.
The issue with drafting Johnson is putting him in a position to succeed in the NFL. Is he a safety? A slot cornerback? Boxing him into one position would be a mistake but any team that’s interested in drafting him needs to find where he can have the most impact.
Given that cornerback is Jacksonville’s top need this offseason, it’s not surprising to see them being linked to pretty much all cornerback prospects with a first or second-round grade. And if they want to indeed draft a cornerback with the 24th pick, getting one that can align at different spots makes sense. After all, they already have a pair of outside corners in Tyson Campbell and Darious Williams. They now need one that can play nickel and move outside if needed.
Having said that, Johnson’s profile also makes him an appealing choice at No. 24. With Rayshawn Jenkins and Andre Cisco entrenched as the starters, defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell could deploy a three-safety package or big nickel as some clubs called them. Furthermore, Andre Wingard, their No. 3 safety, is slated to become a free agent, and if he doesn’t return, Johnson could then take his place.
In the end, the Jacksonville Jaguars need to use their first-round pick on a player that can have an immediate impact. Johnson’s versatility makes him a trendy candidate to get the call at No. 24.