If the Jacksonville Jaguars want to bounce back in 2024, fixing the offensive line this offseason should be one of their top priorities. Simply, they cannot afford to leave Trevor Lawrence as exposed as they did last year. Analysts seem to realize as much, routinely projecting them to either take a tackle or a guard in this year's draft. Just recently, Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports had the Jags taking Alabama's JC Latham at No. 17.
Trapasso put together a first-round mock draft and had Latham going to the Jaguars arguing that it would help keep Lawrence protected.
"Latham would be a prudent selection for a Jaguars team that needs to get the most out of Trevor Lawrence."
Latham, a five-star recruit coming out of college, made 23 starts at right tackle for the Crimson Tide. At 6'6' and 360 pounds, he's got the size and quickness to fend off pass rushers and deliver down blocks in the running game.
Brandon Thorn of the Bleacher Report scouting department points out that the 2023 First-Team selection tends to dip his head when he makes contact and is prone to freeze his feet when facing stunts.
"He brings a tenacious, imposing mentality with the ability to deliver impact, body-blow finishes. Latham's aggressiveness does lead to some head-down whiffs against post-snap movement across his face."
But despite his flaws, Thorn gives Latham a first-round grade, noting that he's got to tools and skill set to become a Day 1 starter and potentially make the Pro Bowl within his rookie deal.
Drafting JC Latham would mean the Jaguars are giving the O-Line a makeover
If the Jaguars drafted JC Lathman or any other offensive tackle this year, it would probably mean they're making significant changes to the offensive line. They currently have a trio of offensive tackles under contract for 2024: Walker Little, Cam Robinson, and Anton Harrison. With Latham in the fold, they would most likely move on from Robinson.
Robinson is scheduled to count $21.7 million against the cap in 2024 but the Jags could free up $17.7 million with $3.5 million in dead money if they release him or trade him. When you take into account that they currently have around $11 million in space, releasing him seems like a reasonable course of action. That said, taking an offensive tackle in the first round would be a bit puzzling when you take into account that Little and Harrison can play on either side.
Harrison mostly played left tackle at Oklahoma but lined up on the right side in his rookie campaign. Although he struggled a bit early on, he got much better as the season progressed. Then again, general manager Trent Baalke doesn't rule out moving Harrison back to left tackle. If that's the route they take, they could plug Little at right tackle.
Little, a second-round pick in the 2021 draft, has performed well when called upon. While he's solely played left tackle for the Jaguars, he competed with Jawaan Taylor for the right tackle job in the 2022 offseason. If given the chance, he could start on either side. Unless the team's brass doesn't think he's a viable option or they plan to bump him inside (he lined up at left guard last season), it wouldn't make much sense to draft Latham in the first round.
Make no mistake, Latham is a fine prospect, one who has the tools to have an immediate impact in the NFL. However, he may be a luxury the Jacksonville Jaguars cannot afford when you take into account that they already have several options at offensive tackle in place. Also, they may have more pressing needs going into the draft.