Jacksonville Jaguars fans all hold differing opinions as to who exactly the Jaguars should select during the 2017 NFL Draft. There is seemingly two popular train’s of thought that separates the fan base, in that the Jaguars should either draft a pass rusher with the 4th overall pick, or a running back.
In this mock draft, I’m going to address the Jaguars’ 1st round pick, as well as the rest of their draft, as if I was in general manager Dave Caldwell’s shoes: Who would I select to improve the Jaguars’ roster in the 2017 Draft?
1st round (4th overall): Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
Allen is a high floor defensive talent that can help lift Jacksonville’s pass rush to being one of the best in the league.
I claimed months ago in my initial Jonathan Allen scouting report that Allen “will get the Joey Bosa treatment pre-draft”, meaning that people will drop him down draft boards because they worry about his ceiling. If a player like Allen or Bosa is there for me to select, and I know they have such a high floor to match their college production, I’m not going to hesitate to draft them, and I think too many people are disregarding just how good Allen will be when he transitions to the NFL.
A 5 second 40 yard dash for a 286 lb lineman, who had put on 30 lbs in three years while changing positions, isn’t something that should scare you away from a prospect, so I don’t view that as an excuse for not liking Allen as a prospect.
Allen totaled 28 sacks and 44.5 tackles for loss in his four seasons at Alabama. Tom Coughlin’s teams have always been notorious for their pass rush, and having a defensive line with Jonathan Allen, Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, Malik Jackson, Abry Jones and Sheldon Day (plus, whatever the Jaguars can get out of Dante Fowler Jr.) consistently rotating and impacting the pass game, the Jaguars can be one of the best pass rushes in the NFL.
2nd round (35th overall): Dan Feeney, G, IU
The Jaguars need to address their offensive line, badly. In my opinion, the Jaguars can improve their run game and improve the team all-around by not drafting a running back early and rather add the defensive talent that Jonathan Allen provides and then drafting several more offensive linemen throughout the rest of the draft.
In which case, adding Dan Feeney in the second round to begin the process of drafting heavy OL is perfect. The two time first team All-American right guard is a mauler in the run game and also provides above-average pass protection. With the Jaguars being better off in pass protection than run-blocking last year, taking a player in Feeney that excels in run blocking but is only above average as a pass protector is O.K.
Selecting Feeney to play right guard in the Jaguars zone-blocking scheme is perfect, not only to solidify the right guard position, but it also allows A.J. Cann to move back to his natural college position of left guard and keeps Brandon Linder at center. While some people want Linder back at right guard, where he played his rookie season and three games of his 2015 season before injuring his shoulder, that would not be in Blake Bortles’ best interest. Bortles’ has had three opening day starting centers in his career, and losing the chemistry he has with Linder in drafting another center would only be more stress on Bortles: The last thing he needs as he tries to turn his career around.
3rd round (68th overall): Dalvin Tomlinson, NT, Alabama
I’ve seen no hype for a pick like this yet, so I’m here to start that hype. The Jaguars were in on the race for Dontari Poe, offering him a one year, ~$9 million contract to take over Roy Miller’s role in the run game at nose tackle. At first thought, the idea was confusing, as the team recently gave Abry Jones a four year, $16.5 million contract to play NT.
But, having that rotation of a strong run-defending nose tackle and a strong pass-rushing NT worked very well last year when Roy Miller was healthy, so targeting Poe was actually a great idea. However, considering the Jaguars didn’t land Poe, they still don’t have that strong run-defending NT on the roster. That’s where Dalvin Tomlinson steps in.
Tomlinson was a monster run defender, as well as a good pass rushing NT, at Alabama and is one of their most underrated prospects this year, due to them having such a great defense. He recorded 62 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and three sacks in 2016, and is being projected to be selected anywhere between the 2nd and 4th rounds in the 2017 NFL Draft. If he’s there at 68th overall, I personally believe the pick is a no-brainer, especially considering that, in this scenario, you’d be pairing Tomlinson with his college teammate in Jonathan Allen.
4th round (110th overall): James Connor, RB, Pittsburgh
I’m just not convinced that running back is that huge of a need for the Jaguars this year, and that 2017 will be a huge year for Chris Ivory. If he’s bad, the Jaguars can look to the 2018 RB class, headlined by Saquon Barkley of Penn State and Derrius Guice of Louisiana State.
However, with the Jaguars heavily addressing the “trenches” (defensive and offensive lines) in the first two days of the draft, they’re at a point where they can address skill positions. James Connor, the former Heisman candidate who missed his 2015 season with Hodgkin's lymphoma, but rebounded in 2016 in running for 1092 yards and 16 touchdowns on 216 carries (5.1 yards per carry) has been overshadowed by such a good running back class in this draft, but provides a ton of value in the 4th round as a bruising, powerful downhill running back. With his mentality after beating cancer and returning to football only to play so well, he’s a guy I want in my locker room if I’m a coach.
5th round (148th overall): Jermaine Eluemunor, G/T, Texas A&M
Another “trench” prospect, which is exactly what the Jaguars need to load up on. The big (6-4, 332 lbs), versatile offensive lineman started three games at right guard and nine at right tackle at Texas A&M last year.
Eluemunor is more of a pass blocker than run blocker, but as he came to America from London at age 14 and didn’t start playing football until high school, he has room to learn as he translates into the NFL and can be a key reserve/swing lineman for the Jaguars going forward. The Jaguars have consistently lacked solid offensive line depth in the past, but adding Eluemunor adds value to their OL reserves.
6th round (187th overall): Jonnu Smith, TE, FIU
The Jaguars signed Mychal Rivera from the Oakland Raiders to fill the void at starting tight end, but the Jaguars only have Ben Koyack and Neal Sterling as depth players at TE. While both are young and have shown flashes before, Koyack and Sterling combined for only 31 catches, 271 yards, and one touchdown last year, so to hold high expectations for both of them would be unrealistic.
Smith is an athletic tight end who is also a fairly good zone blocking tight end, standing at 6-3, 248 lbs. Smith had 42 catches, 506 yards, and four touchdowns in 2016, but he missed a game when his girlfriend poured boiling water on his head during an argument.
However, before the boiling water incident, Smith was on the midseason watch list for the John Mackey award as the best tight end in college. He’s projected to be a mid-Day 3 pick, so if he falls into the 6th round, he’d be a solid addition to the Jaguars tight end group.
7th round (222nd overall): Treston Decoud, CB, Oregon State
The Jaguars desperately need depth behind Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye at outside cornerback. I mean, there’s seriously no one behind them on the depth chart besides slot corners Aaron Colvin and Josh Johnson.
Decoud, cousin of the former Falcons safety Thomas Decoud, is a lengthy cornerback standing at 6-2 and has 33 inch arms. In 2016, he intercepted two passes and defended 10. However, he isn’t very athletic (4.62 second 40 yard dash, 31 inch vertical, 116 inch broad), and struggles in man coverage. In a zone scheme, Decoud is a perfect depth player, and he can be just that in Jacksonville.
7th round (240th overall): Damien Mama, G, USC
The Jaguars add their third offensive lineman of this draft and ride the potential of Mama with their final pick. The 6-3, 334 lb guard is a giant in terms of weight, but this is significantly lower than where he’s weighed in before: 400 lbs as a freshman.
Mama is a solid pass protector at USC and has picked up lateral speed in losing so much weight, but lacked consistency: He was in a battle for a starting position to start the 2016 season and split time until finally winning his job back a couple games in.
Mama is a low risk, high reward player in the 7th round and would be yet another much needed depth player the Jaguars can add to the offensive line.
So, if I was GM, I’d beef up the Jaguars offensive and defensive lines before adding skill players, taking five lineman in total — three in the first three rounds — with a running back, a tight end, and a cornerback as well. How would you address improving the Jaguars’ roster if you were in Dave Caldwell’s shoes?