2020 NFL Draft: Other Teams Aided the Jaguars' Drafting of a Stud First-Rounder in 2019. Can It Happen Again?
A lot of things happen in the leadup to the time an NFL team is on the clock to make their first-round selection during the NFL draft. Players get drafted to surprising destinations, trades occur under the cloak of secrecy, and more.
Nearly every draft, such occurrences cause players to fall a few picks further than they should have. When this inevitably happens, it is to the benefit of the team the player had fallen too -- they entered April thinking they had no chance at a certain player, only for him to fall right into their laps.
One of the most recent examples of this is was the 2019 NFL Draft, when the Jacksonville Jaguars, picking at seventh overall, somehow landed University of Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen. Most pundits had long predicted Allen to be drafted before the Jaguars were on the clock – whether to the New York Jets at third overall, the Oakland Raiders at fourth overall, or the New York Giants at sixth overall.
But for various reasons, that wasn't how it played out.
"As it was coming down, there were a number of picks in front of us where we thought he would go," Jaguars executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin said after drafting Allen. "When he fell to us, he was a superior football player – and too good a player to possibly pass up."
Allen only went on to lead all rookies in sacks with 10.5, which also set a Jaguars' rookie sack record (surpassing the eight sacks Yannick Ngakoue recorded in 2016). He was also named to the Pro Bowl, a reflection of how impressive his rookie year, which also featured 11 tackles for loss and two fumbles.
The Jaguars obviously deserve credit for pulling the trigger on Allen over players such as offensive tackle Jonah Williams or tight end T.J. Hockenson, but how did Allen even fall that fall?
In an article in The Athletic this week that focused on a redo of the 2019 draft, Jets reporter Conner Hughes said the Jets passed on Allen in favor of defensive lineman Quinnen Wiliams because of a peculiar reason.
"Then-GM Mike Maccagan went with Williams, as he and the Jets questioned just much Allen 'loved' football," Hughes wrote.
Allen's desire and competitiveness were on full display throughout the entirety of the 2019 season, but nonetheless the Jets' assessment of Allen benefitted the Jaguars.
In the very next pick the Oakland Raiders, a team that Allen was frequently mocked to, opted to pass on Allen for a different defensive end Clelin Ferrell. Oakland did this because how the team judged Allen's with the Raiders' defense, head coach Jon Gruden explained months later.
"He really was (close). He was a big part of our thought process there," Gruden said.
"We are a 4-3 defensive team and we really had no pure defensive ends on our team. And we wanted to take Josh because of his obvious pass-rushing ability, but we needed a six-technique -- a guy that could play on first down. Not that Josh can't, but we needed what we felt was a pure 4-3 defensive end."
Tampa Bay passed on Allen with the fifth overall pick, electing to take linebacker Devin White instead. Then the New York Giants elected to take quarterback Daniel Jones at sixth overall, the final domino the Jaguars needed to fall.
Allen unquestionably had a better rookie season than any of the four players picked prior, and the Jaguars will be reaping the benefits of these events for years. At the end of the day, all it took was a bit of luck and some help from the other teams.
This situation is worth keeping in mind for the 2020 draft season. When there is a mock that drafts a certain player to a later pick, maybe don't discount it right away because it can never be known what could happen in picks beforehand.
Perhaps a Josh Allen situation could repeat itself for the Jaguars in 2020, giving Jacksonville the chance to select players like Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah or Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons. At this point, it is too early in the process and too many surprises are still waiting to play themselves out to know for sure.
But as Josh Allen's draft night proved, there could always be a chance.