JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars are nearly on the clock. And it’ll be later than fans here are used to.
That’s a good thing.
For just the second time in the past 15 years, the Jaguars are picking outside of the top 20 in the NFL draft. That means fans at the sold out Duuuval draft party at Daily’s Place will have to wait quite a bit longer than they’re accustomed to cheer (or jeer) Jacksonville’s draft choice.
Last season’s out-of-nowhere run to the AFC South title and divisional playoffs accelerated Jacksonville’s rebuild. One the rewards of that success is picking lower in the draft. And that’s a great problem to have.
“We love, obviously, picking later in the first round, not first, like we did the last couple years,” said coach Doug Pederson. “There’s going to be some good players there at 24, and we’re excited about that, but again, we’re in that positon, too, where we’re always looking to add talent, to add depth, add competition, from a coaching perspective, and we’re excited about that.”
In Jacksonville’s draft history, the Jaguars have definitely given fans more reason to jeer. But times may be changing. Jacksonville picked Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall in 2021, headlining a very good class that also included Travis Etienne, Tyson Campbell, Walker Little and Andre Cisco. The questions are still out for last year’s first-round picks (Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd), but Jacksonville knew the transition for those two would be measured in years and not games.
The NFL draft starts at 8 p.m. and Jacksonville holds an unfamiliar position. Picking at No. 24, the Jaguars feel like they’ll land a quality player. General manager Trent Baalke said that the Jaguars have two or three players in their sights who they feel should be there at 24.
Picking high in the draft has become synonymous with Jacksonville. So, too, has underwhelming production from those choices. But picking in the 20s has been unkind to the franchise, too.
Tight end Marcedes Lewis, taken 28th in the 2006 draft, would qualify as the best Jacksonville selection in the 20s. Lewis is the only one of the eight picks of its own in the 20s (not selections acquired in a trade) who has posted a Pro Bowl season with the Jaguars.
Jaguars selections in the 20s
|Pick No.||Position, Player (* acquired in trade)||Year|
|20.||LB K’Lavon Chaisson*||2020|
|21.||DL Renaldo Wynn||1997|
|21.||S Reggie Nelson||2007|
|21.||WR Matt Jones||2005|
|25.||S Donovin Darius||1998|
|25.||RB Travis Etienne*||2021|
|26.||CB Fernando Bryant||1999|
|28.||TE Marcedes Lewis||2006|
|29.||DL Taven Bryan||2018|
|29.||WR R. Jay Soward||2000|
The needs at 24
So, what are Jacksonville’s needs with the 24th pick?
Depends on where your thinking lies. Mocks have tended to focus on several areas for Jacksonville. Depth on the offensive line; help in the secondary; pass rush and tight end.
Pederson and Baalke said they feel good about the current tight end room, a group that includes Gerrit Prince, Luke Farrell and, eventually, Evan Engram. Engram has yet to sign his franchise tag. Farrell has four career catches. Prince was a practice squad player last year. So tight end is a spot that could stand to be addressed in a draft that is considered historically deep for tight ends.
The team re-signed slot cornerback Tre Herndon, but adding a player who can play inside is high on the offseason list. Jacksonville tried to use Darious Williams there last year, but eventually moved him to outside, opposite Tyson Campbell. Williams and Campbell are very good outside corners. An elite inside player is a need, especially as the league continues to see an increase in passing.
Pass rush is a big need. Jacksonville lost Arden Key in free agency and Dawuane Smoot is unsigned and coming off of a torn Achilles. Edge Josh Allen remains Jacksonville’s best pass rush option, but he’s entering his fifth-year option season and has yet to show that he can be a consistent force on the edge. Disappointing former first-round pick K’Lavon Chaisson is entering his fourth season and has all of 60 tackles and three sacks in his career. If the loss to the Chiefs in the playoffs highlighted anything, it was that Jacksonville needs to address its inconsistent pass rush.
The offensive line is another priority. Jacksonville lost starting right tackle Jawaan Taylor to Kansas City in free agency. Left guard Ben Bartch dislocated his kneecap last year and is unlikely to be ready for training camp. Cam Robinson is coming off a torn meniscus that ended his season. That would seem to indicate the need for some reinforcements along the line, be it at tackle or guard.
In tracking mock drafts through the offseason in the Jaguars mock draft tracker, the results from the last two weeks tilt towards defense. In 14 mocks, a defender was sent to the Jaguars in 10 of those. Clemson edge Myles Murphy and Alabama safety Brian Branch went to Jacksonville three times apiece in those mocks. Tight end (Dalton Kincaid twice and Michael Mayer) were the pick in another three mocks.
In our News4JAGs mock draft of players we’d like to see the Jaguars take, Jamal St. Cyr had Jacksonville getting Branch and Justin Barney had them taking Maryland corner Deonte Banks. In our combined full first-round mock of all 31 selections, we had Jacksonville selecting Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence.
Outside of the No. 24 pick, Jacksonville has eight other selections:
Round 2 (56).
Round 3 (88).
Round 4 (121 and 127).
Round 6 (185, 202, 208).
Round 7 (226).
The draft party
The Duuuval draft party at Daily’s Place is officially sold out. Gates open at 6 p.m. with the event starting at 7. Fans should keep an eye on the weather. Storms are expected in the area between 7 and 9 p.m. on Thursday.
WJXT will present the News4JAGs 2023 draft special at 7 p.m. Our coverage continues at 8 p.m. on News4JAX+ and News4JAX.com. Television coverage of the draft can be found on ABC, ESPN and the NFL Network.
The last time …
The Jaguars picked in the 20s was a whiff. Jacksonville took a flier on Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan in 2018 with pick No. 29. Bryan was considered a raw project at the time and did nothing to prove that predraft notion wrong. He finished his Jaguars career with 5.5 sacks, a forced fumble and 86 tackles. He signed with the Browns as a free agent last year.
The other draft days
Rounds 2 and 3 will be held on Friday, with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. Rounds 4 through 7 will be held on Saturday beginning at noon.
The book on Baalke
In his two drafts with the Jaguars, Baalke has used first-round selections on LB Travon Walker and QB Trevor Lawrence, both taken first overall. With picks acquired in a trade, Baalke took LB Devin Lloyd (27th) and RB Travis Etienne (25th). He has had eight picks in the first round in Jacksonville and San Francisco, Baalke has used seven on defensive players.
Of the 76 draft selections Baalke has made in his career, 12 have been on the defensive line (10 edge players, two interior linemen).
Follow News4JAX during the draft
Stay connected on social media with News4JAX at Daily’s Place. For updates, follow @JanaAngelTV, @ColePepper, @JustinBarneyTV and @JStCyrTV on Twitter throughout the draft.