What The Jacksonville Jaguars Need in The Draft

Jacksonville stormed the AFC South in 2022 with 10 wins in their last eight games. A lot of the credit for that falls on the defense, especially the defensive front. Only four of those guys are still in Jacksonville though. The most important Jaguar Trevor Lawrence remains in Florida but one of his protectors Jawaan Taylor is now in Kansas City.

Jaguars on The Field But Church Mice in Free Agency

They’re just $5.2 million away from their salary cap already. Without renewing a lot of contracts, the Jaguars aren’t in a position to sign any big-ticket-free agents. They’ll have to refresh the roster with rookies instead, luckily, they have nine draft picks. There’s another welcome addition to the Jaguars roster this offseason too though.

The Prodigal Jaguar Returns

Calvin Ridley is going to actually be on the field for Jacksonville next season. That’s like adding a wide receiver in the first round of the draft. How exactly playing just one NFL game in 23 months will affect him is yet to be seen. It means that, barring injuries, they don’t need more receivers. If he can still separate from cornerbacks Trevor Lawrence will be glad to see him. 2021 Ridley would have been an excellent foil for Christian Kirk.  

Franchise tagging Evan Engram means one of Lawrence’s favorite targets from last season returns too. With Dan Arnold entering free agency they do need a blocking tight end though.  

Areas of Jaguar Weakness

Blocking is definitely something the Jaguars need to improve in the draft. Football Outsiders rated the Jaguars offensive line as the 29th best overall in 2022. Nobody had more runs stuffed than the Jaguars did last season.  

The Jaguars currently have 14 players on “futures” contracts. Only three of those players are offensive linemen though, two are centers and one is a tackle. Coy Cronk played just six snaps at tackle for the Jaguars offense but played 15 snaps on the special teams unit. Both centers, Darryl Williams and Jimmy Murray have spent time in Kansas City, but they’ve only played three NFL games between them. It seems highly unlikely they’ll become regular starters in Jacksonville. 

They are however in the fortunate position of not having to trade up to improve their skill positions. They do own nine picks, but only one on the first 55. Trent Baalke must so use the first selection wisely.

(Potential) Jaguar Spotting

Pro Football Focus has Anton Harrison from Oklahoma at 23 and Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones in the 25th spot on their 2023 big board. The Jaguars have the 24th pick in the first round. They also predict that Dewand Jones from Ohio State will be available to select at the end of the first round. So, the Jaguars should have options to bolster the protection ahead of Trever Lawrence. There are currently four guards on the Jaguars roster and PFF doesn’t envisage any interior linemen being selected in the first round. It seems likely Jacksonville will focus on a tackle in the first round unless one of the potential stars falls unexpectedly. 

There are only four defensive linemen on the Jaguars roster right now. In 2022 the defensive line was rated fifth best by Football Outsiders, but Arden Key has left for Tennessee. Three other members of that unit hit free agency too and it seems unlikely they will all return.

If Jacksonville uses their second-round pick on a defensive lineman Tankathon has USC product Tuli Tuipulotu at 56 on their big board and the Jaguars second pick in the draft is number 56 so they could be in luck. Tuipulotu is 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 290 lbs. and he comes with an NFL pedigree. His brother is an Eagle and 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga is his cousin. Draft Network described him as a very good third-down defender and that was an issue at times for the Jaguars. He’s not as big as Corey Peters, who is currently still a free agent but he’s similar in stature to Roy Robertson-Harris who started all 17 games in Jacksonville last season. 

Third Round Pick

The Jaguars third pick will be the 88th selection. Unless there’s a quarterback they like there they’ll probably use that to provide more depth on the defensive line. If they’re lucky they might be able to take Zacch Pickens from South Carolina 88th. He’s 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs around 305 lbs. Pickens is known for his ability to deconstruct run blocks and that’s something Jacksonville struggled with last season. 

The Rest

Jacksonville has two fourth-round picks, their own and the Buccaneers. They should be able to find a good blocking tight end around the 121st pick. Nebraska’s Travis Vokolek should be available and at 6 feet 6 inches and 260 lbs he slows down a few defenders. They have also received three draft picks in the final two rounds in trades. The front office may well decide to trade those for future picks or package them up for higher picks.

Main Photo: Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sports