Should the Jaguars Be Considered a Candidate to Take a Quarterback in the First Round?
Thanks to a barrage of draft picks at their disposal, the Jacksonville Jaguars have the potential to be one of the greatest wildcards in the entire league when next month's NFL Draft rolls around.
The Jaguars are set up with two picks in the first round (No. 9 and No. 20), seven picks in the first four rounds, and five picks in the final three rounds. With this amount of draft capital, the Jaguars could shake up the entire NFL draft with a big move at some point, leading to a veil of uncertainty around the team's draft plans.
Could this uncertainty include the Jaguars selecting a quarterback in the first round?
This has been a question pondered by analysts repeatedly since the 2019 season ended, but even more frequently since Nick Foles was traded to the Chicago Bears earlier this month in exchange for a fourth-round pick in April.
The Jaguars appear primed to start Gardner Minshew II for the 2020 season, but does it make sense for the Jaguars to consider an alternative to the second-year quarterback? We examine the pros and cons of the question to find the answer.
Why the Jaguars could consider a quarterback in the first round
With quarterbacks such as Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa and Jordan Love all expected to be drafted in the first round, and others such as Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason being dark horses to be drafted in the first 32 picks, the Jaguars could certainly have more than a few intriguing options if they decided to go the quarterback route.
Burrow will undoubtedly be selected by the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 1 overall, but the landing spots of the rest of the quarterback class are completely up in the air, which could potentially give the Jaguars a chance to select one of this year's top quarterbacks.
Tagovailoa could end up being the second quarterback drafted and find himself in the top-five, or his injury concerns could push him down the board and into the Jaguars' range at No. 9. Herbert could be drafted before Tagovailoa, or he could slip past the Los Angeles Chargers if they pursue a veteran quarterback like Cam Newton or Jameis Winston. Meanwhile, Love could go anywhere from the top-10 to the latter half of the first round.
With the Jaguars having two first-round picks to work with, they could take a quarterback with one pick while using the other to improve a roster that has an abundance of holes. If the Jaguars are infatuated with a specific passer, they have the flexibility to move up for a player if they feel the urge to do so.
Minshew was encouraging as a rookie, throwing 21 touchdowns and winning six games in 12 starts, though the Jaguars could hedge their bets on a potential upgrade. With head coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell needing to win in 2020 to keep their jobs past next season, they could be working under the mindset of a first-round pick offering more job security in the short- and long-term.
Minshew outperformed his sixth-round draft slot as a rookie, but there were also lulls in his performance throughout the season. The Jaguars are high on Minshew due to his competitiveness, playmaking ability, and work ethic, but they could be convinced that one of the rookie passers in this year's class could exceed his 7.0 yards per attempt.
While any rookie quarterback would, and should, be expected to start if the Jaguars take one, the passer could engage in a quarterback competition with Minshew and give the Jaguars a young, cost-controlled quarterback room with loads of potential talent.
Why the Jaguars should avoid drafting a quarterback in the first round
Due to the abundance of holes on the Jaguars' roster, they are better off diverting their first-round attention elsewhere. From a lack of consistent wide receivers, to shaky tight end depth, to question marks on the offensive line, the Jaguars are not currently an offensive structure that is set up to prop a rookie passer for success.
In fact, Minshew performing as well as he did as a rookie in the same structure is another argument against the Jaguars taking a quarterback in the first round. Minshew won more games than any other rookie quarterback last season while throwing only six interceptions. He outperformed Foles, which undoubtedly led to the eventual trade that sent Foles to the Bears.
Thanks to Minshew's performance last season, a performance which saw Marrone bench Foles in favor of the young signal-caller, the Jaguars could be all in on Minshew as the starting quarterback in 2020.
Marrone is a big fan of Minshew and his ability to create plays and rally the Jaguars' locker room, and he and Caldwell each already have experience with Minshew. This experience could give the Jaguars more confidence in Minshew as the starting quarterback in 2020 as opposed to starting a rookie the Jaguars have yet to work with.
There is also a realistic chance that if the Jaguars choose to take a quarterback at No. 9, it would be the third or fourth quarterback off the board. This obviously doesn't always result in a negative situation, with Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson each being outside of the top two quarterbacks in their class, but if the Jaguars want to upgrade over Minshew, they would likely prefer their top-ranked quarterback instead of the second, third, or fourth.
Minshew did enough in 2019 to earn the Jaguars' starting job in 2020, even if he deserves some competition to help push him moving forward. Minshew is talented enough of a passer to have optimism that he can take a second-year jump, so it is not similar to the situation the Jaguars were in with Blake Bortles in 2017 in which they had enough justification to consider a quarterback early on.
While it is understandable for some to consider the Jaguars a candidate to take a quarterback with one of their first two picks, it just doesn't make much sense for the Jaguars to take one considering the situations surrounding Caldwell and Marrone.
The Jaguars need to win in 2020, so the team's brass needs to ask themselves who gives them a better chance to do so. A second-year Minshew, who will go through his first full offseason in the NFL, or a rookie quarterback fresh out of college?
A rookie passer may make more sense for the Jaguars' long-term outlook, but Marrone and Caldwell need to be operating with a short-term mindset. Minshew should be given the keys to the offense in 2020, even if he isn't a lock to succeed. He gives the Jaguars a better chance to win than Herbert or Love, while Burrow won't be available and Tagovailoa has injury questions.
Jacksonville shouldn't operate under the assumption that they have found their franchise passer yet, but they should at least acknowledge that Minshew has the tools to be a more than capable starter who could take a big step as a signal-caller in 2020.