The Jacksonville Jaguars made a number of surprising moves throughout the 2022 NFL Draft, even past the bold No. 1 selection of Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman and pass-rusher Travon Walker.
Among the most surprising of those selections was in the third round, with the Jaguars pulling the trigger on Wyoming linebacker Chad Muma at No. 70 overall.
"He was highly rated on our board for one. He fits the culture we’re trying to build. I don’t think we can ever have enough good linebackers," Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke said on Friday night.
But what do we make of the Jaguars' decision to invest such a high pick in Muma after making several other investments at linebacker? We break it down below.
Overloading on linebackers is far different from overloading on pass-rushers and defensive backs; Baalke better hope he is right
Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke quickly had to answer for his controversial selection of Muma on draft night. Muma is a talented player who many rightfully see as a steal from a value perspective, but the Jaguars already made two significant investments at linebacker in a three-year, $45 million deal with $28 million that Foyesade Oluokun signed in March and the trade up to No. 27 for Devin Lloyd. There are some instances where you can't ever have too many good players, such as along the offensive or defensive lines and in the secondary. But can the same really be said about the linebacker position?
This is the question the Jaguars will have to answer. While Baalke deferred to defensive coordinator Mike Cladwell on Muma's usage and ultimate role, Baalke has to have some kind of plan for Muma and the linebacker position to justify the pick. If the plan is to simply draft talented players and hope things shake out on their own, it is tough to see that happening at linebacker. No other position other than quarterback sees fewer players on a roster utilized for non-special teams reasons. The Jaguars won't be sitting Lloyd or Oluokun. Muma is a good player, but does Baalke have a plan? That remains to be seen.
As a pure talent, Muma is a steal at No. 70
Speaking specifically about talent in proportion to one's draft slot, Muma may be the best move the Jaguars made all weekend. Walker is a good prospect but nobody is calling him a steal at No. 1. Devin Lloyd is another good player and was actually drafted behind his expected draft slot, but the Jaguars did move up for him and used three picks to do so, so he isn't exactly value. And between Luke Fortner and Muma, Muma actually presents more value despite the Jaguars selecting Fortner first.
While there are legitimate and genuine questions about Muma's fit with the Jaguars due to their lack of linebacker need at No. 70, there shouldn't be any questions about the value Muma was. He was ranked No. 54 on The Athletic's consensus board. On my board, which consists of 170 players, Muma came in at No. 49. He was a second-round talent who the Jaguars somehow got a whole round later. Even if the fit isn't exactly clear, the fact that Muma is clearly more talented than his draft slot should offset some concerns.
Where will Muma play as a rookie?
This is the key question. Normally when a team takes a player in the first three rounds, they see him as either a starter or someone who will push to start. Considering how bad the Jaguars were last year, it is fair to assume any third-round rookie they take should be expected to make an impact right away. That isn't quite the case with Muma, however, as he has a clearer path to making a special teams impact as a rookie than on defense.
The best example we have for how much Muma might play is Kevin Minter, who served as Tampa's third linebacker for the last several seasons behind Devin White and Lavonte David. Minter started five games in 2021 but still played just 30% of the defensive snaps and collected 40 tackles. The year before, he played 9% of the snaps and recorded 15 tackles. This scheme simply runs on two inside linebackers being the heart of the unit, and unless Lloyd or Foyesade Oluokun aren't on the field, it is hard to see much of a role for Muma.
With that said, there are some scenarios where Muma can make an impact outside of filling in for an injured starter. The Jaguars could always move Lloyd down to the edge on passing downs and have Muma step in at linebacker thanks to his coverage ability. The Jaguars could also look to suffocate teams with three linebackers, having Lloyd on the edge due to his length and Muma at either weak side or middle linebacker. It would be for purely sub-package purposes, but it is better than no snaps.