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The Jacksonville Jaguars have a massive identity change coming, with Urban Meyer becoming the new head coach and a certain best-quarterback-prospect-since-Peyton-Manning being the likely first overall pick in the draft. That’s the easy part of the offseason to predict and with the Jaguars having 11 picks and an estimated $61 million in cap space after cuts and re-signs, there’s much more difficult portions of the offseason to predict.
The benefit of getting your quarterback is being able to re-direct your attention from getting a quarterback to surrounding them with talent and protection.
The Jaguars have a quietly solid offensive line and the performance of Cam Robinson this year should earn him an extension. While Robinson and Jawaan Taylor look to lock down the tackle positions long-term, Andrew Norwell and Brandon Linder are reliable starters on the inside, which shall provide stable protection.
With a wide receiving corps well equipped for run-after-catch opportunities (and a head coach coming from a reliable west coast offense college), there isn’t much need to vastly improve on the weapons on the outside unless there’s tremendous value available.
Where the Jaguars could definitely use an upgrade is all across their defense. That’s where most of these picks will come from.
There’s a lot of improvement coming to this defense, especially after so much talent left the Jaguars in the last few years. A team that once had Yannick Ngakoue, Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye, Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson and Myles Jack has since been reduced to Jack, Joe Schobert, Josh Allen, and K’Lavon Chaisson (in a rotational role).
With a well-rounded offense and a ghost of a defense, this mock draft leaves some fairly easy strategy to attack it with.
Round 1, Pick 1: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
This pick is beyond obvious, it’s the best-pick-available married with the biggest need. The Jaguars need the quarterback for the future and there’s no better option in a long time than Trevor Lawrence. Send him to Jacksonville, coach him up a little and let the man play. He’ll do the rest.
Round 1, Pick 25 (from Rams): Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse
Last year, the Jaguars took cornerback CJ Henderson in the first round. Henderson played well enough for optimism, as he had a humble victory (for a rookie) in his first bout with Packers receiver Devante Adams, one of the best receivers in the league. Henderson was an athletic cornerback who turned out all right and here they take another corner of a similar type. Melifonwu is a sneaky first round cornerback but the talent and athleticism is there. Don’t be surprised - or disappointed - when Melifonwu is one of the first corners taken in the draft.
Round 2, Pick 33: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
The consensus interior defensive lineman in what is a weaker defensive line class, Barmore is an excellent fit. The defense needs a pass-rushing defensive tackle after adding a few options for nose tackle. Barmore is a bigger-bodied three-technique with a lot of pass-rushing potential and a player who can work to slow the run game down on the inside while also offering that much-needed interior pass-rush for the Jaguars.
Round 2, Pick 45: Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
A need that most teams don’t really prioritize, the Jaguars need a tight end. With a gang of smaller west coast, run-after-catch wide receivers on the field, Lawrence could really use a reliable tight end with receiving abilities as well. He can help maximize Lawrence’s passing game by matching up against linebackers and holding them accountable, as well as the sneaky underneath and short-range wide receivers who can make something happen with the ball in their hands.
Imagine DJ Chark going deep, Freiermuth hitting a middle-ranged route and having Laviska Shenault running an underneath drag to create problems for the defense. Add in a slot receiver like Keelan Cole running a slant into the shallow range of the field and running back James Robinson working the flat zone and the defense could find itself out-leveraged in a number of ways.
The role of an offensive coordinator is to create chaos for the defense and the only position that really lacks in offering a threat for the Jaguars is tight end. Freiermuth solves that.
Round 3, Pick 65: Victor Dimukeje, DE, Duke
The Jaguars have Josh Allen on one side of the defensive line and K’Lavon Chaisson on the other side. Or do they? Chaisson only really played on obvious passing downs and carved out a role as a rotational pass-rusher but not much of a run-defender. The Jaguars need a player who can fill the role of pass-rusher and run-defender.
In a weaker edge-rusher class, Dimukeje is one of the best day two edges on the board. There isn’t much more to ask of from the Duke product, as he doesn’t project to have game-breaking athleticism to take his play to the next level but does project to offer quality defensive line play. Dimukeje should plug this hole, rather than create a strength. He offers a young, reliable option to rotate in and defend the run, while also having fine pass-rushing skills.
Put Dimukeje into the rotation and Chaisson becomes an expensive luxury player, rather than a player with a carved-out role, and shore up the other side of the defensive line.
Round 4, Pick 97: Richie Grant, DB, UCF
After cornerback and most of the defensive line, the Jaguars’ most glaring defensive need left is the free safety position. Grant offers a player who the Jaguars can take a swing at who is used to playing the centerfielder deep safety position.
The Jaguars made use of the services of multiple safeties in 2020 but Grant can step in and compete for the starting role, or at least prove that he’s worth being part of the rotation. At worst, he can play special teams.
Round 4, Pick 121: Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State
Last offseason, the Jaguars struck gold with undrafted free agent James Robinson. What’s the best way to maximize a good running back? Get another.
Hill offers receiving ability out of the backfield and some added juice in short-yardage situations. Hill can offer a lot to an offense but most importantly, he offers versatility and the opportunity to competently replace Robinson whenever necessary. He has the juice and the type of agility you want in a running back.
Round 5, Pick 129: Trey Hill, IOL, Georgia
With aging, reliable vets on the inside of the offensive line, there is room to grow and develop future replacements. Hill can be a developmental guard or center, or at worst, a depth piece on a unit that struggled through some injuries this year.
Round 5, Pick 156: Deommodore Lenior, CB, Oregon
The Jaguars have Henderson, Sidney Jones and now Melifonwu at cornerback. Jones isn’t a completely reliable coverage corner yet, and even if he turns into one, the Jaguars aren’t loaded with slot corners. Lenior projects to the NFL as a guy who can play on the outside, in the slot, and at safety. His versatility makes him extremely valuable and the Jaguars could use as much young talent along the defense as possible.
Lenior gives the Jaguars a multi-positioned player, increasing his value to them significantly.
Round 7, Pick 193: Kobe Jones, DE, Mississippi
After the Tropical Bowl, Jones saw his draft stock rise a bit after his measurables came in. A stout run defender and a solid pass rusher, Jones is a safe seventh-round pick with upside. At his floor, he can be used in goal-line sets. His ceiling would incorporate some development in rushing the passer. If he is able to be a better pash-rusher, then his value here increases.
Round 7, Pick 214: Mustafa Johnson, IDL, Colorado
Johnson has an interesting projection at the next level. He has the potential to play the three-technique, five-technique and even more of an edge-rushing role at the seven or nine technique. Wherever he plays, his versatility—or at least, the potential for his versatility—creates value for a team to want to pick him.
The Jaguars have issues all across their defensive line. This late in the draft, every player selected is chosen with a risk or specific role in mind. Johnson can be a hybrid: he is a risk in that he may not be able to play any position at the next level! He also has the potential to be used, taught, or cross-trained to play more than one position for a team that needs as much help as possible along the defensive line.
With virtually no studs left in the draft at this point, the Jaguars can take Johnson and see what they can make of him, if anything.