In a few short weeks, the wait will be over. The 2021 NFL Draft will be here and the Jacksonville Jaguars will kick off the spectacle for the first time in franchise history.
Following the worst season in franchise history and 15 consecutive losses, the Jaguars are looking to make a splash to turn around one of the NFL's more stagnant franchises. The Jaguars are equipped with 10 draft picks to fuel that turnaround, including the No. 1 overall pick.
But where do the Jaguars need to improve? Who needs to be replaced? To answer these questions and more, we are taking a look at what each Jaguars position group looks like entering the final month before the draft. Today, we look at one of the Jaguars' strongest positions: inside linebacker.
On the roster: Jamal Agnew, DJ Chark Jr., Phillip Dorsett, Terry Godwin, Josh Hammond, Collin Johnson, Jon'Vea Johnson, Marvin Jones Jr., Laviska Shenault Jr.
There are few positions on the Jaguars' roster as strong as the wide receiver room entering Thursday's draft. DJ Chark is a former Pro Bowler with an exciting skill set and the potential to see his production soar in 2021. Laviska Shenault is a former second-round pick who was one of the most sure-handed rookies in the NFL last season, a player who the Jaguars are counting on to make an impact in the passing game this season.
"But the one position that I’ve been pleased with and I actually—when I first started watching the Jaguars, DJ Chark [Jr.] and Laviska [Shenault Jr.] are two guys that I think you can build," Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer said on March 19.
"They’re young, I’ve spent a lot of time with them, they’ve been in to see me, they’re anxious, they’re ready to go. I hired an excellent receiver coach in Sanjay Lal. That position is going to be a huge part of our offense and we felt—we didn’t make a run or at least look at that whole, because there’s a lot of good players out there."
Collin Johnson is a talented outside receiver who flashed throughout the second half of last season, while Jamal Agnew, Phillip Dorsett, and Marvin Jones were three of the Jaguars' biggest offseason additions on that side of the ball. Ultimately there isn't a lot of room for additions to be made to the Jaguars' receiver group, with potentially only one spot being available for a rookie.
Offseason additions: Jamal Agnew, Phillip Dorsett, Marvin Jones, Jon'Vea Johnson
The Jaguars have added four wide receivers to the roster this offseason: they signed Jamal Agnew and Phillip Dorsett in free agency to provide speed to the offense, with Agnew doubling as a return man. They also signed former Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones, who excelled in Detroit under current Jaguars' offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
“Yeah, speed is something I’ve always believed in and Phillip Dorsett answers that question. His production, you can channel it—which I will channel it," Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer said following free agency. "But he’s blessed with incredible physical qualities, he catches the ball well, on top of the fact, he’s [got] great speed."
Dorsett and Agnew feature to be role players, but Jones is the biggest offseason addition the Jaguars have made in terms of offensive playmakers. He is a proven veteran with a long track record of production on the field and and as a leader off the field. He will be the elder of the wide receiver room and will also bring knowledge of the scheme following his time in Detroit.
"But once again, you start looking at the value which is a term that I’ve learned to really appreciate, value, the value player. And I think Marvin [Jones] is at an extremely high value for how we came across that," Meyer said.
"Of all the guys we signed, there were two—he’s one that my phone has blown up over the last few days from colleagues and friends that I’ve known that tell me about what kind of—not only player—but leader [that he is]. So, he’s got to be a leader in that room and Sanjay feels very strongly that he can do that. [He’s a] heck of a player, too. I mean, on video tape, I really love watching that guy play.”
Offseason subtractions: Keelan Cole, Chris Conley
While many in the Jaguars' fan base hoped Keelan Cole would be retained after a productive 2020 season as the team's starting slot receiver, the Jaguars opted to essentially replace him with Marvin Jones once his contract expired. The Jaguars will have to replace his 55 catches for 642 yards and five scores from a year ago, but that shouldn't prove to be an impossible task since Jones is a considerable upgrade. Cole is now with the New York Jets, who will also be drafting their own franchise quarterback at No. 2 overall.
Chris Conley was the most athletic receiver on the Jaguars' roster the last two seasons, but his inconsistent hands made him a long shot to remain on the roster once his contract expired. The Jaguars have more or less replaced his speed with the additions of Dorsett or Agnew. He will play the Jaguars twice next season following his signing with the Houston Texans.
Biggest question facing position before the draft: Who is going to play in the slot?
It is clear when looking at Jacksonville's wide receiver depth chart where the biggest question is entering draft week. The Jaguars have a number of talented receivers on the roster, but they don't have any true slot types.
DJ Chark is an X who could play inside at times but is more valuable outside. Laviksa Shenault could function as a power slot, but he could also increase his value on the outside. Marvin Jones can play any of the three receiver positions and it is likely either he or Shenault will open the season as Jacksonville's starting slot. Then there are players like Collin Johnson and Phillip Dorsett who are better fits outside, while Jamal Agnewis more of a gadget player than he is a true receiver.
Ultimately what the Jaguars don't have is a smaller, quick-footed slot type who can get quick separation underneath or against man coverage. They have athletic and versatile receivers, but a true slot receiver would give them a complete receiver room.
Draft prospects who fit: Elijah Moore, Rondale Moore, Kadarius Toney, Shi Smith, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Jaelon Darden, Tylan Wallace
One of the best receivers in the draft, the Jaguars would likely have to pick Elijah Moore at No. 25 overall if they wanted to acquire him -- if he even makes it that far. He is athletic, productive, and plays with an element of fearlessness despite his size.
Kadarius Toney and Rondale Moore are two slot types who excel after the catch and who Jaguars coach Urban Meyer should know well. Meyer saw Moore light up the No. 2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes when he was a true freshman in 2018, catching 12 passes for 170 yards and two scores in a 29-point win. Toney, meanwhile, has spent the last several seasons playing under one of Meyer's top students in Gators head coach Dan Mullen, and he also brings special teams value to the table.
Shi Smith, Jaelon Darden, and Tylan Wallace are all electric slot types to watch following the first two rounds. Wallace is the best of the three, but Darden presents the most intriguing athletic skill set.