Jaguars trade back twice before picking OT Anton Harrison

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 25: Left tackle Anton Harrison #71 of the Oklahoma Sooners lines up before a game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma won 16-13. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) (Brian Bahr, 2021 Brian Bahr)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A wild night in the NFL draft saw the Jaguars trade back twice in the first round before going offense on Thursday night, adding some muscle with Oklahoma tackle Anton Harrison.

It capped a whirlwind of an opening round for the Jaguars, who appeared to be in position to nab their choice of edge rushers or help in the secondary. But general manager Trent Baalke had Harrison in his sights and traded back not once, but twice.

“We felt we would still get one of the three guys we were targeting,” Baalke said. “Had an opportunity to move back again. Definitely ended up with a player that was rated very high on our board, a lot of value.”

Jacksonville moved down from its initial spot, first with the Giants, moving down one place to No. 25, and next to the Bills at No. 27. The Jaguars added picks No. 160 in the fifth round and 240 in the seventh from the Giants and pick No. 130 from the Bills. Those deals give Jacksonville significant resources to go up higher in the second round if they see a target on the board that intrigues them.

For Harrison, he said that he’s able to play tackle or guard for the Jaguars. And that versatility, especially in the wake of the issues with their tackles, is big.

“We really haven’t gotten into depth that much. I basically told them I can play wherever you put me at,” Harrison said. “So whatever position that Coach put me at, I’ll be able to exceed and excel at that position.”

WATCH: Press play below for Sports Anchor Jamal St. Cyr’s take on the pick

Plenty of talent with a first-round grade went undrafted in the first round that could be of interest to Jacksonville. Tight ends Michael Mayer and Luke Musgrave, cornerback Joey Porter Jr., guard O’Cyrus Torrence and safety Brian Branch are all on the board.

It was a scenario that didn’t seem realistic when the draft began, but became more and more likely with how the draft board shaped up. Baalke said before the draft that he had two or three players in mind for the first-round pick. When that selection rolled around, Jacksonville’s targets were still out there.

The board fell differently than many would have projected. The run on offensive tackles came and went by 14. And the Lions provided Jacksonville some help, too. Detroit pulled the surprise of the first round when it picked running back Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12 and linebacker Jack Campbell at No. 18. Those players were not considered first-round picks.

That left a slew of playmakers on the board for Jacksonville — tight end Mayer, and defenders Nolan Smith, Brian Branch, Joey Porter Jr. and Myles Murphy.

Murphy would later go 29th to the Bengals and Smith went 31st to the Eagles.

But Harrison, who will add some reinforcement with the suspension of Cam Robinson, filled a pressing need.

“Everything plays into the pick. But, again, I can’t stress enough, our board was set. We knew it was a pending situation for a while. But our board was set strictly on ability and the value of the player,” Baalke said. “Coach and I talked a lot about it, just trust the board. Let’s walk away from the first round with a player That we really like and covet, regardless of the position. There were multiple opportunities. If it was that big a deal, we would obviously have made that pick and not traded back. We feel really good about how the day went. We got a lot of picks to go here in day two and day three.”

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. Robinson is coming off a torn meniscus that ended his season and will be out an undetermined amount of time with his suspension. The potential for Jacksonville to move on from Robinson after this season also becomes a viable option with the addition of Harrison.

Picking in the 20s hasn’t been kind to Jacksonville.

Tight end Marcedes Lewis, taken 28th in the 2006 draft, 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.

Before Thursday night, the last time they picked in the 20s with their own selection came in 2018 when Jacksonville picked defensive tackle Taven Bryan 29th. His time in town was underwhelming and Bryan left as a free agent after his fourth season.

Jaguars selections in the 20s

Pick No.Position, Player (* acquired in trade)Year
20.LB K’Lavon Chaisson*2020
21.DL Renaldo Wynn1997
21.S Reggie Nelson2007
21.WR Matt Jones2005
25.S Donovin Darius1998
25.RB Travis Etienne*2021
26.CB Fernando Bryant1999
27.OL Anton Harrison2023
28.TE Marcedes Lewis2006
29.DL Taven Bryan2018
29.WR R. Jay Soward2000

“There’s a lot of consistency in his game,” Pederson said of Harrison. “You love everything about his length and athleticism, how he moves, his strength, all things as Trent mentioned that will fit us. We’re just excited for Anton and just getting in that offensive line room, getting around the other guys in that room, getting to work.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.