2020 NFL Draft: 5 Players Who Make Sense for Jaguars As 1st-Round Trade Down Targets
In a little over two weeks, the Jacksonville Jaguars will be presented with a number of decisions that will help shape the franchise's long-term path for years to come. What the Jaguars will decide to do with their two first-round picks has been a storyline all offseason long, and soon enough the answer will be known.
Since the Jaguars have seen their place in the top-10 in every mock draft this offseason due to owning the No. 9 and No. 20 picks, there hasn't been a lot of chatter about what the Jaguars would do if they moved back in the first round. Instead, it has been theorized about how the Jaguars could land Javon Kinlaw, Derrick Brown, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, or an offensive tackle at No. 9.
But what if the Jaguars do decide to make a deal in the first round to acquire more picks and move to a later pick in the round? What kind of options would be on the table that would make sense for the Jaguars to explore if they picked in the late teens instead of at No. 9?
We theorized the question and have identified five prospects who make sense for the Jaguars to select if they do decide to trade back from No. 9.
Florida CB C.J. Henderson
The top trade down target for the Jaguars should be Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson, who is perhaps the top cornerback in the class after Ohio State's Jeff Okudah. Henderson fits the Jaguars' physical benchmarks for the position in terms of height and arm length, and he had a terrific showing at the NFL Scouting Combine, running a 4.39 40-yard dash and recording a 37 1/2-inch vertical jump.
Combine Henderson's size and elite athletcism with a coverage style that fits the Jaguars physical cover 3 coverage scheme, and Henderson is one of the better fits for the Jaguars out of all first-round players. He would be an ideal pick at No. 20 due to the Jaguars' need for a playmaking cornerback on the outside across from D.J. Hayden and Tre Herndon. The Jaguars would likely be unable to land Herndon if they traded to a pick after the Atlanta Falcons (No. 16) or Dallas Cowboys (No. 17), so they would need to fall back to the mid-teens instead.
Alabama S Xavier McKinney
The top safety prospect in this year's class, Alabama safety Xavier McKinney isn't going to be a top-10 selection like Jamal Adams was in 2017, but he could make a similar splash for whichever defense he lands on. He had a poor showing at the combine (4.63 40-yard dash), but his game speed is much faster and his functional athleticism and quickness flashes over and over again, enabling him to perform a number of roles for the Crimson Tide defense in 2019.
Whether it is playing in the slot, as a box safety who can be a force player against the run, as a rangy deep safety in single-high alignments, blitzing from the secondary, or covering tight ends, McKinney has the traits to do it all for his defensive coordinator at the next level. The Jaguars got solid play out of Ronnie Harrison last season, but Jarrod Wilson is a player who could be reasonably upgraded. McKinney would give the Jaguars a playmaking player in the backend of the defense who defensive coordinator Todd Wash can use as a chesspiece wherever needed. McKinney could fall to the No. 20 pick, but the Cowboys or Miami Dolphins (No. 18) make sense as landing spots as well.
Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos
While Yannick Ngakoue is still technically on the Jaguars' roster, it would be a wise move for Jacksonville to seek out a contingency plan for Ngakoue's eventual departure. While the Jaguars likely hope they can rebuild their relationship with the fifth-year pass-rusher, who they placed the franchise tag on last month, it becomes less and less likely that Ngakoue plays for the Jaguars in 2020 as the offseason marches on. Ngakoue has simply made it clear that he is done playing for the franchise, and at this point, a trade seems inevitable.
This is where Yetur Gross-Matos, a 6-foot-5, 266-pound defensive end who looks like a prototypical 4-3 edge rusher. While Gross-Matos isn't technically refined at this point in his development, he has the quickness, strength, and length to get consistent pressure off of the edge once he develops. For the Jaguars, he could perform in the same role Josh Allen served in last year, playing behind Allen in the defensive line rotation and coming in on obvious passing downs to compliment Allen.
Houston OT Josh Jones
While most of the talk about offensive tackle prospects this offseason has been about Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton, Andrew Thomas, and Jedrick Wills, Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones is a legitimate first-round prospect in his own right. Jones shows terrific quickness and physicality on the blindside, and he dominated the competition at the 2020 Reese's Senior Bowl, establishing himself as one of the top players in all of Mobile.
The Jaguars are a serious candidate to take an offensive tackle at No. 9, so moving down the board and picking up more picks along with a long-term left tackle would make a lot of sense. Jones isn't as safe as Wirfs or Thomas, but he has enough potential to warrant a first-round pick and there is promise in his game that leads one to believe he could be a starting tackle from the jump. Cam Robinson is a top-tier run blocker but his pass blocking has left something to be desired, so a long, smooth, and athletic tackle like Jones who thrives in space could be appealing to the Jaguars.
Alabama WR Henry Ruggs III
Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs is maybe the most dangerous big-play threat in the entire 2020 draft class thanks to his elite speed and ability to turn any short pass into a long touchdown. He was never a volume receiver at Alabama and lacks ideal size, but due to his 4.27 40-yard dash time and 42-inch vertical jump, his top-tier athleticism, his draft stock is wildly unpredictable. He could be either the first wide receiver off the board, or the third or fourth instead.
Because of this, there is a chance the Jaguars could move down in the draft and take Ruggs if other teams prefer CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Denzel Mims, Tee Higgins, or Justin Jefferson. Ruggs would give the Jaguars a game-changing offensive weapon that new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden could use to stretch the field both vertically and horizontally. He would also force defenses to provide extra safety help to his side, which could open up more favorable situations for DJ Chark.