JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The NFL draft is a week away and the COVID-19 pandemic has turned it in to an interesting one for the Jaguars and teams around the league.
The franchise held its pre-draft luncheon virtually on Thursday morning, covering quite a bit of ground on topics from making trades, to Gardner Minshew, to disgruntled defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. The NFL draft is April 23-25.
It’s going to look quite a bit different.
With mock drafts popping up throughout the process, a few recently have suggested the Jaguars could be poised to select a quarterback with one of their two first-round picks.
Is Minshew, last year’s sixth-round pick who won six games as a starter, the guy at quarterback for the Jaguars?
“Right now, if we went to play, Gardner Minshew’s our guy and I’m excited about that,” coach Doug Marrone said. “But do I want competition for him? Absolutely. You want competition for everyone, though. You know, I don’t want to make it where you know I’m answering this question and Marrone’s not as confident or Marrone wants competition just for the quarterback. I want competition for everyone.”
In Mel Kiper’s four mock drafts for ESPN, he’s gone defense-heavy, putting six defensive choices in Jacksonville’s eight selections in those. South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw has been mocked to the Jaguars twice in those.
ESPN’s Todd McShay recently had Jacksonville drafting Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert at No. 9. Others have had Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa going to the Jaguars.
Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said that the team has four prospects that it has identified that are too good to pass up, similar to when Jalen Ramsey fell to them in 2016 and Josh Allen dropped to them last year.
Another interesting topic: How will the virtual draft work?
The Jaguars’ war room will now be on a Microsoft Teams call, with an additional line attached to the league via a WebEx.
Caldwell said that the virtual draft causes him a bit of concern in terms of potential trades. He said that the Jaguars have had preliminary talks with teams about moves in the first round, both in terms of moving up and back, and the 10-minute time limit in that round affords Jacksonville time to maneuver.
In Rounds 3-7, however, teams have just five minutes to make selections.
“I think right now that's probably the one thing that gives me a little bit of angst of how that process is going to go on,” Caldwell said. “I feel good about being able to exercise and trade in the first round with the time limit. I think as you get into the third and fourth and the later rounds where the time is shorter, it's going to be interesting to see if I can use my left hand as well as I can use my right hand in terms of making calls making trades and trying to figure out the value of that.
“There are still some logistics and our IT people are setting up our remote draft room tomorrow, so I'll have a better feel of, of how that process is going to play out. But there is that that's probably the one thing where I have a little bit of concern about is, is exercising a trade in the later rounds.”
Caldwell deferred questions about Ngakoue, who has been publicly campaigning for a trade this offseason. Ngakoue went on ESPN last week and all but skewered the franchise, saying that he wanted to play for a team that had a winning culture.
“I don't really have a whole lot of news on that outside of we’re a week away from the draft and, you know, we’ve exercised the franchise tender he's yet to sign it, and other than that, I don't have a whole lot to add and out of respect for him and his team and our team I think it's best to just when I have news for you guys, to let you guys know where we're at.”
An area of interest for the Jaguars in the later rounds — the offensive line.
“This is a very good offensive line class, especially early, but I also think there are players throughout the draft that you can get in the mid rounds unlike year’s past,” Caldwell said.