After months of speculation, mock drafts and rumors, we’ll finally see how the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft shakes out tonight.
I’m not even going to pretend that I know which order the prospects will go in. Instead, I’ll make five predictions regarding the Jacksonville Jaguars’ draft in the next three days. Some of them subtle, some may be considered bold, but in no particular order, here are my thoughts:
1. The quarterback talk at No. 4 overall is a smokescreen
The rumors that the Jaguars are highly interested in Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson with the No. 4 overall pick are ramping up. It’s not shocking due to their incumbent starter being, well, Blake Bortles. But why, all of the sudden, are the Jaguars leaking their interests, after keeping things so close to the chest throughout the process? Up until now they’ve kept a tight lid on any draft plans. I’m having a hard time connecting the dots.
My guess is they’re looking to entice quarterback-needy teams to jump ahead of them, so that a guy high on Jacksonville’s board — perhaps a Solomon Thomas or Jonathan Allen — is assured to fall to them. Or they’re looking to simply gain more draft capital by trading down from No. 4 and need a team to bite. Alfie published a piece with the same line of thinking this morning.
Keep in mind, after 20 seasons as a head coach, Tom Coughlin has drafted one quarterback ever in the first round (Phillip Rivers) and just seven quarterbacks total. Perhaps that’s due to the longevity of Eli Manning and Mark Brunell, but his reported “love” for Watson doesn’t match his drafting trends for quarterbacks.
2. Running back will be addressed early, but not in the first round
The most popular mock draft pick for the Jaguars is LSU running back Leonard Fournette. However, when you truly analyze it, Fournette is not a great fit for the Jaguars. Some reasons being a weak offensive line, Fournette’s apparent ineptitude of being able to run out of the shotgun, and the fact that the Jaguars already have a ton of guaranteed money tied up at the position in Chris Ivory. While Fournette is an extremely talented player, he may be set up for failure in Jacksonville.
More late draft rumors seem to suggest that Dalvin Cook, Florida State’s star running back, could completely fall out of the first round due to off-the-field and injury concerns. If the Jaguars can get first round value with their second round pick, it would be worth waiting around to find out because the draft class is quite deep at running back.
Joe Mixon has also been linked to the Jaguars in the second round. Alvin Kamara is still out there. Why address such a deep position with the No. 4 overall pick?
3. The Jaguars will draft a cornerback by the third round
Fans have argued that the Jaguars don’t need to address the cornerback position in the draft. With A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey outside, and Aaron Colvin as a solid nickel, why waste a draft pick?
However, there is very little depth behind those three players. Additionally, Colvin is in the last year of his contract, and if he tests the free agent market next year, he’s going to find a decent payday.
Behind Colvin on the depth chart is Josh Johnson, Doran Grant, Akeem Davis and the newly acquired Tracy Howard. Between the four of them, they have three career starts — which all came from Howard.
4. The Jaguars will use four picks on linemen
Jacksonville needs to upgrade both the offensive line and the defensive pass rush, which recorded only 33 sacks last season. While the pass rush got a boost from free agent signing Calasis Campbell, the Jaguars cannot reject the idea of adding another consistent player to the rotation.
This is a deep class for defensive ends, with CBSSports.com having five players with a first round grade, and an additional four with a second round grade. Personally, I think it would be foolish to pass on Allen or Thomas if one is available and the Jaguars do not trade down.
The offensive line is one of Jacksonville’s biggest question marks. The team can afford to upgrade at either guard position, and Branden Albert is a 32-year-old left tackle that hasn’t played a complete season since 2011. While this class is considered weak at the top, I think there are several late Day 2 or Day 3 players who can make an impact. Prospects like Nico Siragusa, Danny Isidora or Adam Bisnowaty could be mid-round gems in this class.
Coughlin has spent a first round pick on eight linemen in his time as a head coach —five on defense and three on offense. He knows the value of building through the trenches.
5. The Jaguars will trade out of the No. 4 pick
The Jaguars have little history of trading down in the first round — with just one instance in 2008 — but the top of the draft doesn’t match up perfectly with Jacksonville’s needs.
As I alluded to earlier, Jacksonville seems to be trying to entice teams to trade up. Tight end is another need for the Jaguars, and with O.J. Howard projected to go somewhere in the top-15, moving down to grab him makes sense. Or if Jacksonville trades out of the top-15, Cam Robinson is another likely target as he has visited the Jaguars.
While history and trends say otherwise, this year seems to be Jacksonville’s best opportunity to trade down, if the team can find an interested party. Jacksonville stated it is open to a trade down at the pre-draft press conference.
While my predictions may never come to fruition, there is once thing we can always be certain of — we’ll all be dazed and confused by around midnight.