Jacksonville Jaguars replenish the pass rush in Too-Early 2024 NFL Mock Draft
The 2023 NFL Draft is in the books and while you'll hear analysis and takeaways from the picks every team made, scouts are already getting ready to evaluate next year's batch of prospects. While it might be too early to anticipate which prospects will be available, Matt Holder of Bleacher Report believes the Jacksonville Jaguars will target LSU defensive lineman Maason Smith in the first round.
Holder put together a too-early 2024 NFL Mock Draft and has the Jags going with Smith at No. 27, noting that outside linebackers Josh Allen and K'Lavon Chaisson have a good chance of hitting the open market next year. Holder goes on to say that the LSU standout has the potential to be a good pro even though he missed most of the 2022 season after tearing an ACL in the opener. Here's the skinny on Maason.
"They also could help on the interior spots of their defensive line, which is what makes LSU's Maason Smith a great fit. He primarily lined up as an edge during his freshman season while weighing over 290 pounds. that size should give Smith some positional versatility in the NFL. However, Smith is pretty much a pure projection at this point, as he tore the ACL in his left knee during the first game of the 2022 campaign. But the former 5-star recruit and the No. 20 prospect in his recruit class, per 247Sports' composite rankings, has the potential to be a good pro."
Chaisson has been a non-factor over the last three seasons, appearing in 40 games with 11 starts and registering just three sacks in that span. The Texas native could finally put it all together in 2023 but there's an equal chance he'll be gone next offseason. On the other hand, Allen's future in Jacksonville is a bit more tricky. He's entering the last year of his contract year and it's uncertain (from an outside perspective) if he's part of the team's long-term future.
Although Allen hasn't put up elite numbers, he's the team's best pass rusher, and losing him in free agency would create a need at outside linebacker. Maybe the Jags and the former Kentucky Wildcat can strike a contract that benefits both but if he becomes a free agent in 2024, the team's brass will then need to look for his potential replacement in the draft.
The Jacksonville Jaguars might need to revamp their pass rush next season
A lot can change from here now to next season. Holder has the Jags picking at No. 27 but what if they get over the hump and get a lower pick? Conversely, the AFC South just got a bit tougher and may not be able to win as many games as projected after the conclusion of the 2022 season.
Similarly, there's a chance other prospects will rise up on draft boards. Smith could have a breakout season but he could also come crashing down. At this point, it's a toss-up. Having said that, pass rush may indeed be a need for the Jaguars next year.
The Jaguars could strike a deal with Allen and sophomore Travon Walker could make a leap in Year 2. But if the former leaves and the latter doesn't improve as much as expected, fortifying the front seven will be one of the team's top priorities.
On the other hand, the Jags allocated several picks in this year's draft to the front seven, and some of them could end up earning feature roles on the defense. Yasir Abdulla (Round 5) from Louisville is a pass rusher with lots of upside. Tyler Lacey is also expected to become an important piece of their defensive front rotation and if both pan out in 2023, there may not be a need to bolster their pass rush.
The bottom line is that the Jacksonville Jaguars may have different needs next year. Then again, that shouldn't stop them from scouting Maason Smith, who could turn out to be one of the hottest players in college football in 2023.