JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The NFL draft begins Thursday night in Philadelphia and the Jaguars have the fourth pick in the first round. This is the first draft for the Jaguars since Tom Coughlin took over as the executive vice president of football operations. There are five candidates the Jaguars are most likely to chose from with their first round pick.
Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas
Thomas was a productive leader for the Cardinal. At 6'3", 273 pounds, Thomas earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2016 when he led the team with 62 tackles, 15 for loss, and eight sacks. It is rare that a defensive end leads his teams in tackles, which speaks to Thomas' high energy. As a team captain, he has the kind of background that Coughlin favors. When he was the head coach of the Jaguars, Coughlin spent nearly every draft choice in the 2000 draft on players who had been team captains. Some have concerns about his slightly less than ideal size for the defensive end spot in the 4-3 defense, but he is heavier and about the same height as Osi Umenyiora, who played defensive end for Coughlin in New York.
Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen
Allen was one of several standout players on Alabama's top-ranked defense in 2016. At 6'3", 286 pounds, he has the bulk to play on inside on third down as well. Allen led the Crimson Tide with 10.5 sacks and won both the Chuck Bednarik and Bronco Nagurski awards. As a junior, he totaled 12 sacks, second best in the SEC. He finished his career with 28 sacks. If there are concerns with Allen they have to do with the fact that he played with so much talent on the Alabama defense that teams didn't always scheme to stop him. He has also had surgery on both shoulders, which could scare off teams looking for an injury free player in the top five
LSU running back Leonard Fournette
Fournette was the number one high school player in the country as a senior. He was one of the, if not, the best running back in college his entire career at LSU. At 6'0" 235 pounds, Fournette is both a power back and has breakaway potential (he ran 4.51 at the combine, good for a player of his size). After leading the SEC in all-purpose yards as a freshman, Fournette rushed for 1,953 yards as a sophomore. Injuries interrupted his junior year as an ankle injury limiting his playing time to just seven games. He sat out LSU's bowl game to prepare for the draft. It's unusual to use a top-five pick on a running back in the modern NFL, but Fournette may be worth it, if teams are confident that the pesky ankle injuries are an aberration.
Alabama tight end O.J. Howard
Only twice in NFL draft history has a tight end been drafted in the top 5, both at No. 5. The Broncos took named Riley Odoms in 1972 and the Bears selected a fiery kid from Pittsburgh back in 1961 by the name of Mike Ditka. If the Jaguars chose Alabama's O.J. Howard, the 6'6", 251-pound tight end, he would be the highest-drafted tight end in history. On the biggest stage, he played at his best. In the national championship game after the 2015 season, Howard caught five passes for 208 yards. The following year, he caught four passes for 106 yards in the national title game. Even though he played in a predominantly run-oriented offense at Alabama, Howard caught just seven touchdown passes in his four-year career. As a senior, he caught 45 passes for 595 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. In a perfect world, the Jaguars would be able to trade back, pick up extra draft picks and still land a player of Howard's quality.
LSU safety Jamal Adams
Safety would not seem to be a position high on the Jaguars list of needs. In the past two off-seasons, the Jaguars have signed Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church to play safety. That being said, Adams is an elite athlete at the position. Adams is known for his propensity to be around the ball and has received high marks as a leader of the LSU defense. Over his last two seasons in college, he had five interceptions and two fumble recoveries. As the son of a former NFL running back, Adams shows the awareness you would expect from a player who knows the game. He was not charged with a penalty in 2016. Safety is rarely picked in the top five, and that could scare off some teams, including the Jaguars. Only six safeties have been drafted in the top 5 in NFL history, but those who were drafted that high have tended to make a big impact. The last safety drafted in the top five was the Chiefs Eric Berry.