JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The NFL draft is quickly approaching and the Jaguars are in a pretty good spot. The Jaguars have not made very many moves this offseason but are still a team primed for a playoff run. The Jaguars could use a nickel back, to improve the pass rush, and bolstering the offensive line is never bad. Justin Barney and Jamal St. Cyr make our selections for the Jaguars in this week’s NFL draft.
(Jamal St. Cyr) 24. Brian Branch S Alabama
RUN THE PICK IN! With Branch on the board, 24 is a no-brainer. Branch fits the biggest need on the Jaguars defense — a slot defender. Branch’s ability to cover and tackle would be all Mike Caldwell needs to be more creative with his sets and give the defense more flexibility. Branch is an extremely smart player who may not have tested as well as some other players, but he is just a good football player. The best part about Branch is he is also a really safe pick. Even if he never turns into an elite-level slot player it is tough to believe that a player with his knowledge and ability won’t at least be a solid player in the league.
Brian Branch clocked a closing speed of 6.4 yards/sec on this tackle for loss. Good burst, range, and spacial awareness. #ReelAnalytics pic.twitter.com/e0SMsvYh3c— Reel Analytics (@RAanalytics) April 19, 2023
(Justin Barney) 24. CB Deonte Banks, Maryland
My three positions of great need for the Jaguars are pass rush help, tight end and cornerback. In this mock, Banks is available and the Jaguars pounce to grab their new nickel corner. He’s rated as one of the top five corners in the draft. Banks had a solid redshirt junior season, with 38 tackles and nine passes defensed, both career highs. He wasn’t a big time ballhawk, but Tyson Campbell wasn’t either when the Jaguars drafted him. Other players I liked with this pick were edge players Lukas Van Ness, Tyree Wilson and Nolan Smith, but all three were gone in the mock simulator I ran.
(Jamal St. Cyr) 56. Matthew Bergeron OT Syracuse
Time to bolster the offensive line. The thought process here is very similar to two years ago when they drafted Walker Little. Adding Bergeron makes sense. He has played both offensive tackle spots and some think he could also play guard. Adding Bergeron gives the Jaguars a new swing tackle and a player to compete with Little for the right tackle job. If the team decides to move on from Cam Robinson in the future because of his contract then they have Bergeron ready to take over opposite of Little, whether that be left or right.
Impressive foot quickness from Syracuse OT Matthew Bergeron. Easily able to match Missouri DE Isaiah McGuire up the outside track and remains patient enough to stall the counter back inside. Really impressive. pic.twitter.com/VhcLSPDSKE— Ryan Roberts (@RiseNDraft) February 1, 2023
(Justin Barney) 56. Edge Derick Hall, Auburn
Jacksonville is in dire need of pass rush help. They get it in Hall, who had 7 sacks last season with the Tigers and 12 tackles for loss. The Jaguars have a looming decision to make with Josh Allen, and Hall could learn and grow in his rookie season and then potentially replace Allen if he’s not brought back.
(Jamal St. Cyr) 88. TE Sam LaPorta, Iowa
From a depth standpoint, tight end is arguably the weakest position on the Jaguars roster. After Evan Engram, there isn’t much there. Adding tight end depth at some point in the draft is a must. LaPorta is an interesting option. He was a high-volume pass catcher at Iowa and a yards after the catch monster. While I would have loved to have added a more dominant run blocker like Darnell Washington earlier in the draft, the value just wasn’t there.
(Justin Barney) 88. TE Sam LaPorta, Iowa
I am on board with the pick here. I’d been a proponent of a high draft pick at tight end, even suggesting Michael Mayer in the first round. But the depth of this position in this year’s draft is excellent. LaPorta may be off the board by this pick, but I like it as a package with Engram. I also like Florida defensive tackle Gervon Dexter, Army edge Andre Carter II and Wisconsin defensive tackle Keeanu Benton in this range.
by my count, iowa te sam laporta broke 136 tackles on this play #Analytics pic.twitter.com/nNxvVHu94i— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) April 15, 2023
(Jamal St. Cyr) 121. Edge Byron Young, Tennessee
I came in wanting to find a way for the Jaguars to bolster the pass rush earlier in the draft than this but the board just never fell correctly for that to happen. Young is an interesting player. He is a perfect culture fit for the Jaguars. Young loves football and you can see that on the field just by watching how he plays. He had 7 sacks last season for Tennessee and is an explosive athlete. The reason he is still available at this point in the draft is that his game is still raw and he will be 25 years old when he enters the league. As a rookie, he can compete for pass rush snaps and help to fill part of the role Arden Key filled on the defense a year ago.
SEC leaders in pressures/game in 2022:— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 12, 2022
1. Byron Young, Tennessee (4.80)
2. BJ Ojulari, LSU (4.75)
t3. Will Anderson, Alabama (4.33)
t3. Derick Hall, Auburn (4.33)
With his athletic twitch and motor, Young continues to rise. 📈📈📈 pic.twitter.com/avPY3np5Ze
(Justin Barney) 121. DT Byron Young, Alabama
Same name, different player. While my colleague mocks the edge from Tennessee to the Jaguars, I’m going with the tackle from the Crimson Tide. He had 7.5 career sacks and forced a fumble. He’ll need to get bigger (6-3, 295) but Young would add some excellent depth to the defensive front.
(Jamal St. Cyr) 127. OG McClendon Curtis, Chattanooga
Double dipping on OL here. Curtis played snaps all over the offensive line in college. In the NFL he will play guard or right tackle. Versatile players like Curtis are always good to have on the offensive line. As a senior, Curtis did not give up any sacks. It has been reported that the Jaguars have interest in Curtis and it makes sense. Adding him to the OL group would really create some competition. Trent Baalke said that he wasn’t sure if Ben Bartch would be ready to start training camp. Not having Bartch could cause some depth issues on the interior of the line. Adding Curtis would help solve that problem.
McClendon Curtis (@McclendonCurti1) is going to be one of the best interior OL in the 2023 #NFLDraft. He is very tough, physical, and mean.. But at the same time, he also has outstanding reach ability, which will allow him to excel in multiple NFL Schemes. pic.twitter.com/UGLf79nWjP— Sanjit T. (@Sanjit__T) February 14, 2023
(Justin Barney) 127. OG Emil Ekiyor Jr., Alabama
Back-to-back Alabama players for me. The Jaguars should be set at the tackle positions, but they need to beef up on the interior, especially with Ben Bartch’s uncertain status after a dislocated knee. Ekiyor was a three-year starter at right guard and allowed just one sack last season.
(Jamal St. Cyr) 185. WR Ronnie Bell, Michigan
Bell is a perfect cultural fit for the Jaguars. This is a guy that love to compete. Bell had a good college career doing a little bit of everything for the Wolverines. He has good size, can play the ball well in the air and is a good route runner. Bell adds depth to an already deep wide receiver room.
Great adjustment on the ball by Ronnie Bell!! pic.twitter.com/E9qsVaTtiC— Full-Time Dame 💰 (@DP_NFL) February 1, 2023
(Justin Barney) 185. OT Warren McClendon, Georgia
The former Brunswick High star is a big body (6-4, 305) and could become a swing tackle in his transition to the NFL. It never hurts to have that depth, and it’s a position Jacksonville needs to address.
(Jamal St. Cyr) 202. DT Dante Stills, West Virginia
At this point in the draft, boards can be all over the place. Now it is time to start betting on traits. Still had 24.5 sacks in college so he was doing something right. He also set the WVU all-time record for tackles for loss. This guy has lived in the backfield. He is a bit undersized (6-3, 286 pounds) but as some upside as an interior pass rusher.
West Virginia’s Dante Stills takes advantage of the guard over setting and beats him with an inside club-swim at the #ShrineBowl.— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) January 29, 2023
Stills had two really nice rep in one-on-one pass pro. Fluidity as a pass rusher is impressive. pic.twitter.com/xGA1OFAREN
(Justin Barney) 202. DT Scott Matlock, Boise State
A 6-4, 300-pound tackle, the Jaguars are preparing for the future with this pick. He had 49 tackles and 6 tackles for loss as a senior.
(Jamal St. Cyr) 208. WR Elijah Higgins Stanford
Higgins is listed as a wide receiver but he will be drafted as a tight end. Higgins is a very similar size to Evan Engram. He made the switch some at the Senior Bowl in Mobile this year. As with any position switch, there will be growing pains. This is a developmental swing. If Higgins transitions he has the tools to be a pass-catching mismatch at tight end eventually.
(Justin Barney) 208. WR Justin Shorter, Florida
Big target (6-4, 229) will add some depth and he could see a role on special teams as a rookie. He’s not exceptionally fast (4.55 in the 40) but his size is tough to look past.
Stanford WR Elijah Higgins (JR)— Kevin (@Daboys_22) March 12, 2022
2021: 44 REC 502 YDS 4 TD
(Jamal St. Cyr) 226. Edge Jose Ramirez, Eastern Michigan
This one is another swing at a highly productive collegiate player. Ramirez had 31.5 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks in the last two seasons. The numbers alone show he has a knack for getting into the backfield. He did it at EMU so there are some questions about the quality of the competition. But taking a swing on a productive player with good size and athleticism in the seventh round seems like a no-brainer.
EMU EDGE Jose Ramirez was disruptive during Shrine week. Executes a dip/rip to pressure to strip sack the QB pic.twitter.com/iOECQyoaec— Billy M (@BillyM_91) February 3, 2023
(Justin Barney) 226. RB Kenny McIntosh, Georgia
A lower mileage back this deep in the draft could help spell Travis Etienne. He’s bigger (6-0, 204) than Etienne and can catch the ball, too (43 catches, 504 yards, 2 TDs) last season.