Defensive line? Cornerback? What the Jaguars should do in the NFL draft

FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, file photo, Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown (5) lines up against Georgia during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Auburn, Ala. Brown has been a play making, blockbusting force for No. 16 Auburn heading into the Iron Bowl. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, file photo, Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown (5) lines up against Georgia during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Auburn, Ala. Brown has been a play making, blockbusting force for No. 16 Auburn heading into the Iron Bowl. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The first round of the NFL draft is Thursday night and the Jaguars have a pair of choices in the opening round and 12 overall. The News4Jax sports staff makes its mock draft selections.

Mark Brunell

What they should do, is go big. Whether that’s defensive line or offensive line, I think they need to get bigger.

On offense, that could be in a guard or a tackle. On defense, that could be a tackle or an end, but I think that’s where they start. I think with the ninth and the 20th (picks), I would like to see them go on the o-line and the d-line. Use those picks for those positions. Then after that, there’s so many holes. I mean, even in the first round you could make an argument for a receiver or a linebacker or somebody in the secondary. You can make an argument for getting somebody at every position, even at quarterback if that right quarterback is available for you.

Justin Barney

9: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

I have seen two mock drafts that have the Jaguars taking a quarterback with this pick. That’s a stretch. This roster was average when it began 2019 and we’ve seen everything that’s transpired since. It’s probably the league’s worst. The run defense was awful last year and Jacksonville dealt Calais Campbell and cut Marcell Dareus. Brown, a 6-5, 326-pound monster, helps bring some muscle back. If he’s on the board at 9, the Jaguars should pounce.

He’s not going to be a double digits sack guy, but Brown is going to be an interior force, something that Jacksonville’s last first-round interior defensive lineman, Taven Bryan, has not been.

Corner is another area of major importance. The starters there right now are likely Tre Herndon and free agent signee Rashaan Melvin. I don’t care what kind of optimist you are, that’s not an ideal situation. Herndon improved throughout the year and has potential. Melvin is on a one-year deal and is playing for the eighth different team in his career. Unless Jacksonville trades up for Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah, is this spot too high for whomever is the No. 2 corner in the draft is (Florida’s CJ Henderson, LSU’s Kristian Fulton, Alabama’s Trevon Diggs)? If Brown is off the board, which is possible, I think it could be Henderson here.

20. Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

Jacksonville needs corner help worse than I need a haircut at this point. Say Brown falls to the Jaguars and they fortify the defensive line with the ninth pick, then the run on corners materializes in the late teens and players like Henderson and Fulton come off the board. The Jaguars desperately need a corner and grab Diggs at No. 20 and hope that he’s a better first-round player than the last Alabama corner that they used a first-round pick on (Fernando Bryant in 1999).

Would Diggs be the best available player on the board at No. 20? Offensive line help is another possibility. And if my latter No. 9 scenario played out, they drafted Henderson early, and say, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw was still around at 20, then I think he’s the obvious pick in that situation. Defensive line and the secondary are the two biggest needs for this franchise now and I don’t think it’s close. I don’t think Jacksonville needs to reach to fill those spots, but I think a Brown at 9 and a Diggs at 20 would be grabbing two of the best available players who happen to fill two of the biggest holes on the roster.

Other players to consider on Days 2 and 3: I like Florida Atlantic tight end Harrison Bryant and Notre Dame tighe end Cole Kmet. Maybe free agent signee Tyler Eifert stays healthy and fortifies that black hole of a position, but I’m not sold on last year’s pick at tight end, Josh Oliver. Michigan center Cesar Ruiz on Day 2 is another one that jumps out. Both Jaguars coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell have said that the depth along the offensive line is significant this season and mentioned the center position as very good. Virginia corner Bryce Hall is a Day 2 candidate

Cole Pepper

9. Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

It’s all about how the rest of the draft plays out. Dave Caldwell says there are four players who are head and shoulders above the rest in the first round. Let’s assume that means LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, the Ohio State tandem of defensive end Chase Young and cornerback Jeff Okudah and probably Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons. If those four are off the board, and so are the other two quarterbacks, Alabama’s quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert, that leaves the following players available two picks before the Jaguars select: Brown, offensive tackles Tristan Wirfs from Iowa, Andrew Thomas of Georgia and Mekhi Becton from Louisville.

Then there are the wide receivers, Alabama’s duo of Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, however, the ninth pick might be a bit high for those players and recent history suggests that you can find an impact receiver in the second round (see Michael Thomas, JuJu Smith-Shuster, Cortland Sutton, and DJ Chark, for example).

So I think the Jaguars stay away from wide receiver at No. 9. Then there are two SEC defensive players who could be considered, Florida cornerback D.J. Henderson and South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. Both would fill needs for the Jaguars, but both could also potentially still be available when the Jaguars select with the 20th pick of the draft.

So back to our scenario. With two more picks to take off the board before the Jaguars’ selection, I suspect that Brown and one of the offensive linemen will be gone. Let’s say that Wirfs is selected. That leaves us with a player pool of Thomas, Becton, Henderson and Kinlaw, plus the wide receivers if we want to include them.

I wrote about three different mock draft simulations I ran with three different websites this week and the most conservative simulation presented this exact scenario. So I’m going with the same pick here. Andrew Thomas, a plug and play left tackle to push, or supplant, Cam Robinson and the most NFL ready of the tackles. Then what?

20. Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

Will Kinlaw or Henderson be available at No. 20? I would be surprised if Henderson fell that far. Cornerback is becoming a vital position in the modern NFL. And the Jaguars have gone from Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye as the starters to Tre Herndon and Rashaan Melvin in a matter of months. That’s not an improvement. They need a cornerback.

After saying goodbye to Marcell Dareus and Calais Campbell, the Jaguars signed defensive tackles Al Woods and Rodney Gunter as replacements. Those are not improvements from the previous players. Kinlaw could be. If he’s there at 20, the Jaguars should take him. However, I think it’s more likely that he’ll be gone by the time the Jaguars’ second first-round pick arrives.

This could be an interesting spot if the Jaguars are convinced that they are trading Leonard Fournette. Three running backs could fit at the 20th pick, Georgia’s D’Andre Swift, Ohio State’s J.K Dobbins and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor. Wide receiver could also be in play here with LSU’s Justin Jefferson slotted in this area.

There will also be a big selection of defensive backs, both corners and safeties to choose from. If the Jaguars do not select Henderson at nine, I think that’s where they go with the 20th selection. LSU’s Kristan Fulton, TCU’s Jeff Gladney and Utah’s Jaylon Johnson could all go in the 20s.

For this pick, let’s have the Jaguars select Fulton, a man-coverage cornerback with a national championship ring.

Other players to watch for the Jaguars’ second round pick, No. 42: MIchigan center Cesar Ruiz, Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, Wisconsin defensive end Zach Baun, and Fresno State guard Netane Muti.

Jamal St. Cyr

9: Javon Kinlaw, DT South Carolina

The Jaguars are in a position where they need to score starters at multiple positions. Wide receiver and cornerback are two of the biggest needs on the roster. In my selection, I have the Jaguars passing on both positions. But hear me out. This year’s wide receiver class is the deepest group of draftable receivers in years.

Jerry Jeudy will be a stud in the NFL, but how big is the talent gap between Jeudy, Ceedee Lamb, Henry Ruggs and Justin Jefferson? It is not a big one. So for a team with so many holes using the No. 9 selection on a guy like Jeudy or Lamb would be, in my opinion, not the most efficient use of draft capital. As for cornerback, it is very likely that Jeff Okudah is off the board by the time the Jaguars pick.

If Okudah is available, then they should 100% select him. But since we’re being realistic, he will likely be gone by No. 9. If the Jaguars want to address their cornerback needs, it would likely be CJ Henderson. The former Florida Gators player has been the subject draft hype in recent weeks.

Henderson is a phenomenal cover man. The only major hole in his game could be his tackling. But is Henderson a can’t-miss prospect? No. There are also scenarios where a QB like Tua Tagovailoa could fall to the Jaguars at 9. If Tua is on the board, they should absolutely consider selecting him, but I think they would still decide against it.

There will also be at least one of the top tackles available, but each one has some sort of questions around them. And drafting a tackle would require moving Cam Robinson and restructuring the offensive line. Without knowing how the minicamp and training camp schedule will look this year, that could be tough to pull off. An alternate pick here is Alabama’s Jeudy.

That leads me to my selection, Javon Kinlaw. Kinlaw is 6-5 and 324 pounds. I am not personally a fan of selecting interior linemen this high in the draft because they traditionally don’t make an instant impact in the NFL. But the Jaguars need D-line help in a big way.

After losing Campbell and Dareus this offseason, who is going to argue against adding some bulk to the defensive line? No one. Kinlaw was able to dominate at times for South Carolina. But when the draft process started he was widely considered a late first-round pick by many until the Senior Bowl. Kinlaw showed up in Mobile, Alabama and impressed everyone during the week of practice. He’s not the draft’s top defensive tackle, that spot goes to Auburn’s Derrick Brown.

But Brown could end up being a top 5 pick. Kinlaw is not a bad fall back option. He will instantly improve the Jaguars run defense. He has the size and versatility to play in any system. And with his explosiveness, he will be able to collapse the pocket. Is Kinlaw my perfect storm pick? No.

I would love for every NFL GM’s internet connection to fail at the same time and Chase Young to fall to the Jaguars, but that just isn’t going to happen. Kinlaw will be a good addition to the Jaguars roster. And by all indications, he will be a good addition to the locker room, too.

20. Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

At No. 20, the Jaguars will look to fill another need. Receiver, cornerback and defensive end (if Yannick Ngakoue is traded) will be near the top of the list of positions considered. I have the Jaguars selecting Justin Jefferson. Minshew needs help on offense and Jefferson is that help.

He is 6-1 and 202 pounds with some of the best ball skills in this year’s draft class. Jefferson is sure-handed and if this was a normal wide receiver class, he would be selected much higher than 20. Adding him to the offense gives Minshew three solid pass catchers to work with in DJ Chark, Dede Westbrook and Jefferson. I also wouldn’t be opposed to double-dipping at wide receiver a little later in the draft. Jefferson, Chark, and Conley all have the ability to play inside and outside with the speed to take the top off of a defense. Jefferson edged out selecting cornerback Jeff Gladney for me because simply because I believe Jefferson has a higher talent level.

After passing on defensive back with their first two picks the Jaguars should focus on grabbing a cornerback and offensive line help on Day 2 of the draft. With 12 picks to work with, the Jaguars should be active in the trade market. It would not surprise me to see them draft a quarterback at some point during the process just to give Minshew some competition. My alternate pick at No. 20 was TCU’s Gladney.

Other targets on Days 2 and 3: LSU safety Grant Delpit, Florida State running back Cam Akers, Charlotte defensive end Alex Highsmith, Kentucky receiver Lynn Bowden, Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton and Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall.

About the Authors: