In Part One of this series, I discussed who the Jaguars should target with the 24th pick overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. Again, if I was the Jaguars GM, my first priority would be to draft an edge rusher. I also discussed the second prioritized area in need of improvement, should the Jaguars decide (foolishly in my opinion) not to draft an edge rusher, which would be a cornerback. In Part Two I will address the third (nose tackle), fourth (free safety), and bonus (tight end) areas in need of improvement for the Jaguars, should they decide not to draft an edge rusher or cornerback, and what players will likely be targeted and available. Finally, I will post who I think the Jaguars will draft by area of need (edge rusher, cornerback, nose tackle, free safety, and tight end) with the 24th pick come April.
2023 NFL Draft: What the Jaguars Should and Will Do in the First Round, Part 2
Need 3: Nose Tackle
As mentioned earlier, the two components of the defense that need the most help are the first level (the defensive line) and the secondary. When looking at the second level (the linebackers), they actually performed pretty well, and therefore do not need an upgrade. The first level, aside from the edge rushers, do need an upgrade, including the nose tackle position. Roy Robertson-Harris just could not get the job done last year, and the defense would benefit from a player that would make an impact.
That said, when evaluating everything, nose tackle is third on the list of needs for the Jaguars. Should the Jaguars decide not to draft a player at one of their two priority needs, then upgrading the nose tackle position would be the next logical position to address. Seeing as no other team has a priority need at nose tackle, this could enable Jacksonville to get the top nose tackle prospect with the 24th pick of the 2023 NFL Draft.
1) Siaki Ika – Baylor
Ika is the top nose tackle prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft. At 6’3, 350 pounds, his height would be a huge advantage for batting down passes. At 350 pounds, he is a good size to penetrate the offensive line, as well as fill gaps. This move would also make sense not just because the Jaguars would have the top nose tackle prospect available to them, but also Ika is ranked as the 31st best prospect overall, regardless of any position, and very likely would be available at pick 24. Should they decide to take a nose tackle this will be the pick that they will and should make.
2) Keeanu Benton – Wisconsin
Playing devil’s advocate, let us imagine the Jaguars want to take a nose tackle and, somehow a team decides to take Ika, even though nobody really has a priority need for a nose tackle other than Jacksonville. Benton is an inch taller and 33 pounds lighter than Ika. Benton still has the height to bat down passes, but may not have as good of an ability as Ika to fill gaps, penetrate the line, and fight off blocks. Then again, he is the exact same weight and only two inches shorter than Hall of Famer Richard Seymour was when he was drafted. Benton is the 82nd best prospect overall regardless of position in the draft. If Ika is not available, I do not think the Jaguars should or will draft Benton. Seymour was an enigma that comes along maybe once every twenty years, and risking a first round pick to take a chance on Benton being the next Seymour is a gamble Jacksonville should not take, and should therefore look to fill a different need at pick 24. Also of note is with Benton being the 82nd best prospect in the draft overall, he is likely to be on the board in later rounds, and could get picked up by Jacksonville with one of their other eight picks.
Need 4: Safety
As has been stated, the secondary needs help if they are going to contend for a Super Bowl championship in the near future. While Rayshawn Jenkins is doing a respectable job at strong safety, the same cannot be said for free safety Andre Cisco. If Jacksonville were to bypass their top three needs on defense and decide to take a free safety, they must be cognizant of the fact that there are two teams, Tampa Bay and Seattle, who also have free safety as a top two priority need. It is also important to note, Seattle has to two in the first round, both prior to the Jaguars pick at 24 (5, 20).
1) Antonio Johnson – Texas A&M
The 6’3, 200 pound Johnson is a slightly taller than average free safety. Assuming he is bypassed by both Tampa and Seattle, and the Jaguars want to pick a free safety at pick 24, then he is their pick. Realistically, it is unlikely both of the two teams (Tampa or Seattle) pass up the their top two priority need for the 18th ranked prospect overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. It is likely, that while he would be a great fit in Jacksonville, he will not be available.
2) Jordan Battle – Alabama
By now, you know the drill. If Jordan Battle is available at pick 24… Of note, Battle is 6’1, 200 pounds, which makes him about an average sized free safety. Much like Johnson, he is not likely to fall to the 24th pick, as he will likely be drafted by either Seattle or Tampa. Battle is the 29th best prospect overall, and is not likely to be available to Jacksonville in later rounds. Suffice it to say, Battle will not be donning a Jaguars uniform in 2023.
3) Chris Smith II – Georgia
Here we go again, I can hear it already: “What does this guy have against those of a shorter stature?!” I just do not like seeing 6’0-plus wide receivers being defended by sub-6’0 corners and safeties. Some might say, “What about Earl Thomas?” To which I would say, “How many Earl Thomas’s have there been?” Anyway, no knock on Chris Smith personally, but at 5’11 and 190 pounds, it is likely he would be available at pick 24,and the chances the Jaguars pick him is also very likely, should they target a free safety in the first round. Assuming the Jaguars do not have any hang-ups about Smith’s height, he would likely be their pick 24… but…
4) J.L. Skinner – Boise State
If I had any input and the Jaguars asked me who I would pick at 24 (assuming they wanted to take a free safety), I would be drafting J.L. Skinner. For a free safety, Skinner is ginormous. At 6’4, 220 pounds, he has the height and body size to match up with today’s NFL receivers. He would likely be available at pick 24 as he is the 46th best prospect overall. If I am the GM of the Jaguars, and it is established along with input from other team personnel, that we want to draft a free safety, then J.L. Skinner is who I am picking with the 24th pick.
Bonus: Tight End
For Jacksonville to get to the Super Bowl, the offense is pretty much intact and the defense is where help is needed the most. However, some people will point out that Evan Engram is a free agent and that Jacksonville needs a tight end. What I would say is that the Jaguars front office should re-sign Evan Engram. I say this not only from an on-field standpoint, but off the field as well. Engram played a huge role in Jacksonville’s success last year. He clearly has built a relationship and a rapport with Trevor Lawrence, and drafting a new face to replace him would not be beneficial to the cohesiveness the Jaguars offense had last year. But should they decide not to re-sign Evan Engram, then they may attempt to draft a tight end.
1) Michael Mayer – Notre Dame
Should the Jaguars surprise everybody, not sign Engram, and draft a replacement, Michael Mayer could be that replacement. I say “could” with emphasis, because the 6’5, 251 pound tight end is also the 17th best prospect overall in the draft. Three other teams have tight end in their top two position needs. Detroit, who again has two first round picks (6, 18), prior to the Jaguars pick, have tight end as their main priority. Additionally, Green Bay and New England have tight end as their second priority position of need. It is likely Mayer winds up either a Lion or a Packer, or potentially a Patriot (though Belichick likes to draft players from small schools that no one has ever heard of, who go on to successful careers in the NFL). Assuming the Lions or Packers do not decide to address their tight end needs, and New England does their typical thing of grabbing a lesser-known prospect, and Jacksonville is unable to re-sign Engram, and decide (against their better judgement) to pick an offensive player with their first pick in the draft, then that pick should be Mayer, but it is not likely.
2) Luke Musgrave – Oregon State
If I were Jacksonville’s GM and I was unable to re-sign Engram, and I ignored my needs on defense, and got lucky enough for Green Bay, Detroit, and New England to bypass picking a tight end in the first round, Luke Musgrave would be the tight end that I would pick. At 6’6 and 252 pounds, he would be an easy target for the 6’6 Trevor Lawrence to throw to on almost every play. An inch taller than Mayer, Musgrave is the 37th best prospect in the draft. But being realistic, with three teams ahead of Jacksonville who have a need for a tight end, Musgrave will only be a visitor to Duval and not a resident.
3) Dalton Kincaid – Utah
A decent-sized tight end at 6’4, 245 pounds, Kincaid could be an option at tight end at pick 24, more likely to be available than Mayer or Musgrave. I personally do not think he lasts until pick 24; that is just my gut feeling. Kincaid is the 69th best prospect overall, and could be someone who Jacksonville could acquire in later rounds should they not re-sign Engram and he is still available.
4) Sam LaPorta – Iowa
By now you know some of my thoughts are not based on science or on performance and my rationale for the following, is no exception. The pick the Jaguars should make assuming they do not re-sign Engram and go against their better judgment of drafting a defensive player in the first round, should be Sam LaPorta. Why, you might ask? Look at where he went to college. The University of Iowa has produced some of the NFL’s top tight ends as of late: George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant, and Dallas Clark, just to name drop some. While an average build at 6’4 and 249 pounds, if the legacy of the University of Iowa tight ends is any indication for success in the NFL, then Jacksonville should pick LaPorta, with the 24th pick, as he will likely be available more so than the prior three tight ends, mentioned.
I have discussed who the Jaguars should and could draft with pick 24. Below you will find my predictions for who I think the Jaguars will draft with the 24th pick in sequential order, based on need and likelihood of availability at pick 24. With 68 days to go until the 2023 NFL Draft, a lot of things could happen, including trades, free agent signings, et cetera. We will continue to explore other topics related to player acquisition for the Jaguars, as we take off on the road to the 2023 NFL Season.
Who the Jaguars will draft with pick 24:
- Tyree Wilson – Edge, Texas Tech
- Christian Gonzalez – Cornerback, Oregon
- Siaki Ika – Nose Tackle, Baylor
- J.L. Skinner – Safety, Boise State
- Sam LaPorta – Tight End, Iowa
Main Photo: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports