The Jacksonville Jaguars knew entering the 2020 NFL Draft that they needed to upgrade the interior of their defensive line. It wasn't a question of if they would do it, but when.
Jacksonville's brass loved Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown. There is a strong chance that as much as the Jaguars needed a cornerback and were enamored with C.J. Henderson, they would have taken Brown at No. 9 overall if the Carolina Panthers didn't. A putrid run defense that allowed 23 rushing scores in 2019 and allowing multiple 200-yard rushing games would have nearly necessitated such a pick, even if the value of taking a nose tackle so early is questionable.
But, of course, the Jaguars never got a shot at Brown. Instead, they pivoted and used each of their first three picks on athletic talents who can contribute in the NFL's passing game in Henderson, pass-rusher K'Lavon Chaisson, and wide receiver Laviska Shenault.
But in the third round, the Jaguars finally pulled the trigger on finding a run-stuffing nose tackle who they could plug into the middle of their defensive line. With the No. 73 overall selection, they took Ohio State's DaVon Hamilton, whose story couldn't be more different than Browns.
While Brown starred for Auburn's defense for years and had his name in the top of draft discussions for the majority of 2019, Hamilton was a sleeper prospect who was a reserve for the majority of his first three years in college. But as a senior in 2019, Hamilton finally got his chance to start for an entire season, and he made the most of his opportunity.
Hamilton (6-foot-4, 320-pounds) recorded 28 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, and one fumble recovery in 2019. While the Jaguars had signed veterans in free agency such as Rodney Gunter and Al Woods to stop the run, they still needed a youthful presence for the long-term. They hope they found that in Hamilton.
“His production per snap was really good," general manager Dave Caldwell said after the Jaguars selected Hamilton. "Like Coach Marrone said, since we lost Marcell [Dareus] with his injury, we have been missing a big body. That is why we got Al Woods. Now we have a young version of Al – 6’4, 320. He is a guy that can hold the point [of attack]."
Hamilton joins other recent additions to the Jaguars' front seven to give them a dramatically different look than they had in 2019. The Jaguars were known only a few short years ago for dominant play along the front seven, but losses of players such as Malik Jackson, Calais Campbell, Telvin Smith, Dareus, and eventually Yannick Ngakoue has changed that. With Hamilton and the other new players now added to the group, the idea is for the depth to be vastly improved.
"We will have a nice rotation with those guys. DeVon, Abry [Jones], Taven [Bryan]. We wanted to get bigger up front and protect our linebackers and Joe [Schobert] and Myles [Jack]," Caldwell said. "Now we have K’Lavon Chassion. We feel good about the front seven. That was an area we wanted to improve and plus we got the corner on Day 1.”
The Jaguars are also of the belief that they drafted a player in Hamilton who still has a considerable amount of upside. His best football should be ahead of him since he started only one season for the Buckeyes, but he is also an above-average athlete for the position and has legitimate pass-rush potential.
"It is still the same theme – we need to stop the run. We understand that, and we feel that we have some good pass rushers with [K’Lavon] Chaisson being there in the first round. Now, helping out in the middle now with [DeVon] Hamilton," head coach Doug Marrone said Friday.
"We really feel good about him. He is a big guy. We think he is going to get a lot better even though he is really good right now. You can see him on the move. He has such great strength at the holding point. I think he is going to really help us on the inside."