Jaguars select Brian Thomas Jr. with No. 23 pick: Instant grade and analysis

• After trading down on Day 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft, the Jags select Brian Thomas Jr. with the 23rd overall pick.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars     Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU
17. Jacksonville Jaguars Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU / Scott Clause / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Jacksonville Jaguars could've taken several paths in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft. For a moment, it looked like they chose to stay put at No. 17 and take the best player available. They were on the clock and seemed ready to make the pick. However, it was announced that they traded down and would be picking at No. 23. They used that selection on LSU wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr.

Thomas Jr. is the fourth receiver off the board in the draft. His teammate, Malik Nabers was second when he went to the New York Giants at No. 6. Before him, the Arizona Cardinals took Marvin Harrison Jr. with the fourth overall pick. Rome Odunze was third at No. 9.

A four-star recruit out of high school, Thomas made 26 starts at LSU and left with 127 receptions for 1,897 yards with 13 touchdowns. He wasn't much of a factor in his first two seasons, but broke out in 2023, catching 68 passes for 1,177 yards with 17 touchdowns. His playmaking prowess earned him a Second-Team All-SEC designation last year.

Thomas must work on his release at the line of scrimmage. He also needs to hone his route running but also has plenty of things going in his favor. He ran the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in 4.33 seconds. Along with the speed to stretch the field, he has the size to come down with tough catches.

The Jags could've stayed put at No. 17 but they got pick No. 23, pick No. 167, a 2025 third-round pick, and a 2025 fourth-round pick from the Minnesota Vikings. When they were on the clock, only two defensive players had been selected. UCLA defensive lineman Laiatu Latu was the first one to go. He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts at No. 15.

It look liked the Jags were going to take a cornerback but instead traded down and chose Thomas.

The Jaguars get bang for their buck with Brian Thomas Jr.

Brian Thomas Jr. will join a wide receiver corps that includes Christian Kirk, Gabe Davis, and Zay Jones. He won't have the burden of being a No. 1 option right off the bat, and may instead get limited playing time early on unless the Jags trade Jones, who's seen as a potential trade target.

That strategy could help Thomas get acclimated to the NFL, and see a bigger workload once he grows comfortable.

All things considered, this is a solid pick when you take into account that the Jaguars didn't have to trade up and give up assets. Instead, they were able to get him even after moving back six spots. The former LSU Tiger wasn't in the top echelon of receiver prospects but was arguably the best one available at No. 23. That makes his selection a good one.

Grade: A-

What's next for the Jaguars after drafting Brian Thomas Jr.?

Having checked off a big box, the Jaguars can now take care of their remaining needs. Next is either cornerback or a pass rusher. When the Jags chose Brian Thomas Jr., only Quinyon Mitchell was gone, and he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles one pick prior.

The Detroit Lions then took Terrion Arnold at No. 24, but there will still be several enticing options in the second round. As of this writing, Kool-Aid McKinstry and Cooper DeJean are still available. One of them could still be on the board when the Jags are on the clock at pick No. 48.

Another option could be to bolster the pass rush rotation or take an interior defensive lineman. It's also worth noting that the team's brass has shown a penchant to move around, so trading up or down shouldn't be ruled out. For the time being, stay tuned for more Jaguars news and updates.

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