Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has released his first seven-round mock draft after the end of the 2016 NFL regular season and the Jacksonville Jaguars are loading up on defense in the first four rounds.
Four impact defenders, interior offensive lineman depth, a wildcard at quarterback, and a seventh-round flier on a running back. Fine by me. Let’s get to Miller’s picks.
Round 1: DL Jonathan Allen, Alabama
Miller calls Jonathan Allen one of the “safest” players in the draft. He’s as versatile as he is intelligent — he can play a 4-3 defensive tackle, a 4-3 defensive end, or a 3-4 defensive end. And according to Miller, Allen “could be the best defender Nick Saban has put into the NFL at Alabama.”
With Myles Garrett gone to the Cleveland Browns with the No. 1 overall pick, I’m not opposed to grabbing Allen. Without Gus Bradley and Todd Wash to ruin him, he could be a guy who fills a lot of holes along this Jaguars defensive line.
As Miller points out, if the Jaguars turn into a 3-4 scheme (and that’s a big if) Malik Jackson and Jonathan Allen can be put at the 5-tech while Dante Fowler stands up off the edge. In a 4-3, Allen replaces Sen’Derrick Marks as Jackson’s pass-rushing partner from the inside.
Round 2: EDGE Carl Lawson, Auburn
Lawson is a borderline first-round prospect for someone who wants to take a chance on the talented edge rusher who is coming back from surgery. Getting him at the beginning of the second round is about where many predict he’ll fall.
Round 3: S Eddie Jackson, Alabama
He’s a versatile defensive back who has experience at both safety positions and at cornerback and was a member of the 2016 All-SEC Second Team. Hopefully he can be what James Sample was not — a guy who can push Johnathan Cyprien for the starting strong safety job.
Round 4: CB Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado
He led the nation with 21 pass breakups and had a pass defended in 11 of 12 games this year. A guy who will compete for a spot on the final 53-man roster.
Round 5: G Johnny Caspers, Stanford
Experience at guard and center for one of the nation’s best rushing teams. He’ll be good depth to have on an offensive line that needs to find a starting five and settle into a consistent lineup.
Round 6: QB Brady Gustafson, Montana
A 2016 All-Big Sky Conference Honorable Mention and nominee for the STATS FCS Walter Payton Award for the National Offensive Player of the Year. Gustafson is a training camp arm who would compete with Brandon Allen for the No. 3 quarterback spot, presuming that Blake Bortles and a veteran quarterback are at the top two spots.
Round 7: RB Jahad Thomas, Temple
A quick, speedy back who will go somewhere in the sixth or seventh round. He has kick return ability and is a red zone threat on the ground or in the air, catching six touchdowns last year for Temple.