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Jaguars picking a 'rotational' defensive end at No. 4 doesn't mean they won't play, a lot

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The debate on what the Jacksonville Jaguars should pick at No. 4 overall in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft usually ends up boiling down to two positions, runningback and defensive line. We'll get into runningback at another time, but one of the biggest arguments against picking another defensive lineman is that they'd be a depth/backup player. That statement on it's own is not incorrect, because I doubt anyone they pick at No. 4 would start over Calais Campbell, Abry Jones, Malik Jackson or Yannick Ngakoue (if they do, woo buddy).

Just labeling that player as a depth/backup comes with a certain negative connotation however, that's probably not as accurate as people think. While the person picked probably wouldn't end up starting and would likely play less than the other defensive lineman, they would still play a heck of a lot.

For instance last season, the Jaguars starters at the end position (which is likely what the Jags would pick in the draft) were Tyson Alualu/Jared Odrick and Yannick Ngakoue. You'd think they played the vast majority of the snaps right?

Not so fast.

Yannick Ngakoue started 15 games last season, but only played 65.6 percent of the defensive snaps (706 plays). His primary backup Dante Fowler, Jr.? He played 53 percent of the defensive snaps (570 plays). That's right. The primary backup to Ngakoue played over half the defensive snaps. If you combine the snaps for Odrick and Alualu, it's slightly more than Ngakoue played as the starter and had Odrick not been hurt most of the year it's likely the split would be close to the same.

On the inside, the team's best defensive lineman Malik Jackson only played a total of 66.6 percent of the snaps (717 plays). Jackson, Ngakoue and Fowler were the only defensive lineman to play more than 50 percent of the defensive snaps. The Jaguars newest signing, Calais Campbell, only played 77 percent of the snaps for the Arizona Cardinals on a three man front.

I'm not sure if you want Campbell playing that many snaps at his age, especially if you're wanting to use him at both defensive end and inside on passing downs. Adding another player, like Jonathan Allen or Solomon Thomas, to the defensive line makes the rest of the line that much better, because you have more rotation at more positions and keep guys more fresh. If you can find the balance where guys like Campbell, Jackson and Ngakoue are playing around 60-65 percent of the snaps with players like Fowler, Day, and someone like Allen/Thomas filling in the rest in 2017, you could have a heck of a defensive line.

Translation: The defensive line rotates, a lot. The more talented bodies you have the better. Just being a "backup" doesn't mean you'll hardly play.