JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Doug Pederson threw out the first pitch at the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp game Tuesday evening and he also threw out some thoughts on the draft and building a winning culture.
Speaking after his ceremonial first pitch, Pederson said the Jaguars are still working to finalize their draft plans as the first round approaches a week from Thursday.
“It is just really kind of going back through the board and just evaluating everything and making sure we’ve got every stone turned over and doing a deep dive on everybody,” Pederson said. “And just really making sure that you know, the guys that we add to our roster, the guys that we want. And that’s really the next step, leading up to the draft.”
The Jaguars hold the first pick in the draft for the second straight year. Last season, they drafted quarterback Trevor Lawrence. This year, they could go with a pass rusher or an offensive lineman with the top pick.
Four names have been most commonly associated with the Jaguars in the draft process. Offensive tackles Evan Neal of Alabama, and North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu along with two defensive ends, Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Georgia’s Travon Walker. Whoever the Jaguars select, barring a trade, will join a list of first-overall picks that includes players from future Hall of Famers like John Elway and Peyton Manning to historic busts like Steve Emtman, and JaMarcus Russell. The Jaguars would rather have someone closer to the former list than the latter.
“You’ve got the pick of the litter, I guess,” Pederson said. “It’s exciting to be in that position, obviously, and ultimately, we don’t ever want to pick number one again. But we got one more shot at it this year. And then we’ve got to do what’s right for the team.”
Part of that is rebuilding a culture that has experienced non-winning seasons for 13 of the past 14 years. Since the Jaguars made the playoffs in 2017, the team has won 15 games and lost 50. That’s a .231 winning percentage. That’s not good enough in any sport in any era. Pederson knows it has to change.
“From the day I was hired, to meet some of the guys, to last week when the players are in and they that’s what they want,” Pederson said. “Think about going back to high school and college, a lot of them have won a lot of football games. And that’s something that is obviously easier said than done. But the fact that they’re here, and they’re putting in the time with their teammates, sends a great message to the organization.”
The first step of the turnaround was the hiring of Pederson, followed by the staff of experienced NFL coaches he hired as his assistants. Then, the Jaguars spent in free agency. In fact, they spent more guaranteed money than any team had ever spent in NFL free agency. The draft is the next step in the turnaround.
“You want to make the right decision for the organization, and really a player, that can be an impact for you right away,” Pederson said. “That’s kind of the next phase here in the next eight to 10 days, to really solidify that and make sure that that’s right by the organization.”