All offseason long, the Jacksonville Jaguars have been pegged as a team that needs to make big upgrades to its cornerback position. What was once a strength of the team has turned into a weakness thanks to trades that shipped Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye out of Jacksonville for draft picks.
But do the Jaguars feel the same way most mock drafters do?
Head coach Doug Marrone pointed out the obvious on March 31 when he stated during a video conference with local media that he believes the team still needs cornerback depth on the outside, but the Jaguars continue to appear higher on their current group of corners than everyone else on the outside is.
The Jaguars' cornerback group is currently headlined by third-year corner Tre Herdon (led team in intercepts and pass breakups in 2019) and D.J. Hayden (was the team's most consistent defensive back in 2019). It also features Parry Nickerson, who signed with the Jaguars during the 2019 season and started in Week 17, and veteran corner Rashaan Melvin, who the Jaguars signed to a one-year deal in March.
While this is far from a star-studded group, and clearly lacks a No. 2 outside cornerback opposite of Herndon, Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell made a point to appreciate the positives of the group on Thursday. Namely, the versatility the four players have.
"Between Tre, Rashaan, Perry Nickerson, who we felt really came on late last year, and D.J., we feel like we have four guys there, and three of the four guys can play inside at the nickel spot too," Caldwell said.
The Jaguars' initial plan at cornerback, of course, involved former Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard. The Jaguars agreed to terms of a contract with Dennard in March, but a few weeks later the deal fell apart and the team announced Dennard would not be signing with the Jaguars.
“When we went into free agency, we were really targeting Darqueze Dennard and Rashaan Melvin," Caldwell said.
"Darqueze was a guy that we went after first because we did know that he had some inside ability that if we ever needed it, we could use it, even though we have Tre Herndon and D.J. (Hayden) there that can play that spot. We felt like it would be good to have a guy that was versatile like that. When we kind of felt like that the Darqueze deal wasn’t going to happen, that’s when we said, let’s secure ourselves and get Rashaan, and that’s what we did."
The Jaguars' need at cornerback is still obvious, but it appears they are at least comfortable with their current group of cornerbacks if they had to line up and play a game today. Is this misguided confidence? Likely so, even though Herndon and Hayden had good seasons last year.
While the Jaguars are high on their current stable of cornerbacks and the versatility they bring, it would still be quite a shock to see Jacksonville not use one of its first three selections on a cornerback, whether it be at No. 9, 20, or 42.