The Jacksonville Jaguars need to bolster the center position in the offseason. Incumbent Luke Fortner was expected to make strides in 2023 but regressed instead. There's a chance he will eventually put it all together but the Jags can no longer wait for him. They need to find a replacement in the offseason and one name they should keep an eye on is Jackson Powers-Johnson, who's projected to go in the first round.
Powers-Johnson is seemingly the best center prospect heading into the draft. He's currently practicing for the Reese's Senior Bowl and demonstrating why he should go early in the first round, perhaps not in the top 10 but most definitely in the teens' range. Here's a sample of what the former Oregon Duck is capable of doing.
The clip above shows that Jackson-Johnson has the quickness and power to play center at the NFL level. The Bleacher Report scouting report also pointed out that his ability to recover when he got beat stood up on the first day of Senior Bowl practice.
"On one rep, the rusher was able to gain access to his inside edge that drew some cheers from the defensive linemen before Powers-Johnson stuck the rusher with his inside hand, redirected and torqued him on his back, quickly quieting the crowd.
On another rep at right guard, he showed patience in his set against Ohio State's Michael Hall Jr. to not give him his hands before latching on, anchoring and ending the rep quickly."
What's impressive is that Powers-Johnson hasn't yet reached his ceiling, having just played the position one season. The fact that he's willing to line up at guard will do nothing but boost his stock. A four-star recruit coming out of college, the Utah native played defensive tackle before switching to center in college. He made 13 starts last year and earned unanimous All-American honors.
Brandon Thorn of the B/R scouting department points out that Powers-Johnson has an upright playing style and his hand placement leaves his chest exposed. However, he thinks those issues can be corrected with coaching, and gives him a late first-round/early second grade.
Sederick Van Pran (Alabama) and Christain Haynes (UConn) have also garnered attention throughout the draft process and should be on Day 1 or 2 of the draft. That said, Jackson-Johnson is in a class of his own, making the most of his chance in Senior Bowl practice to show why he will be the first center drafted in 2024.
Jackson Powers-Johnson would be a massive upgrade for the Jaguars at center
Center should be at the top of the Jaguars' biggest hole to fill. Working in their favor is that there are several paths they can take to take care of it. Given that it's not a premium position they can wait until the second or third to address it. That said, Jackson Powers-Johnson may be too good to pass up.
At No. 17, Jacksonville could be in a position to take an edge rusher prospect such as Chop Robinson or Dallas Turner. If they want to go the receiver route, Rome Odunze and Keon Coleman should then become realistic options. Meanwhile, they can wait until Day 2 to target either Van Pran or Haynes. That's something the front office will have to discuss because as good as Turner or Coleman could be, Powers-Johnson is arguably the best center prospect in years.
The one thing the Jaguars cannot afford is going with Luke Fornter as the starting center for another season. Trent Baalke may say what he wants but the team must make sure Trevor Lawrence gets better protection in 2024. Powers-Jonson could most definitely help.